WITH students’ unions begining to lobby in city colleges and university campuses once again indulging in “political” acts, the campus buzz these days is if students’ politics in Mumbai is the new lease of life?
Following the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and arrest of JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar witnessed, students from an array of institutes and students’ unions across the city had gathered not only to protest but promote themselves.
According to experts and faculty at various institutes, the series of protests was the most political of activities in recent years.
The last “political” act in the University of Mumbai was when Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray got author Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such A Long Journey struck off the curriculum.
While row over Vemula’s death and Kanhaiya’s arrest prompted many unions to come out openly promoting their ideologies supporting or protesting the issues, the unions are now taking head on with the state government and institute administration to get their issues addressed and make way for themselves on the campus.
This year, for the first time after years, the ABVP held its national conference in Mumbai.
The reason for these new political activities and the recent lobbying on the campuses is also because of the state government’s proposal to revive students elections on the college and university campus after a long gap of over two decades.
Students elections in Maharashtra were banned in 1992 after NSUI candidate Owen D’Souza was murdered during a class representatives’ elections. D’souza who was student of Ismail Yusuf college at Jogeshwari, had gone to check the polling process at the Jitendra Chauhan Law College in Vile Parle, where he was attacked and killed.
Since then, students elections were banned.
The ban — which disallows even posters, pamphlets and banners — was enforced by amending the Universities Act of 1974.
“In 1992, elections moved from college gates to libraries. Students are now selected according to their academic performance. Students politics are the need of the hour now with so many new academic policies coming in and old ones changing. I think gradually, the students politics is getting alive again. Student unions are busy preparing themselves, it’s time the state education department and governor of Maharashtra must now take a firm stand on reviving students election,” said Manoj Tekade from Prahar Vidhyarthi Sanghatna.
“Students’ movement has begun already on campuses across the city. At ABVP, we have started students’ movement at college level by encouraging city college leaders and representatives to come forward and take up local issues and fight for it. We had even started a helpdesk on Mumbai University campus. However, citing that why only ABVP was given preference, other students union got it withdrawn. But we will not step back now that the movement has begun,” Aniket Ovhal, Mumbai Secretary of ABVP said.
For many student leaders, the elections are a ticket to state and national politics. Politicians like Education Minister Vinod Tawde, Mohan Rawale, Narendra Verma, Nitin Gadkari, Gurudas Kamat, Manikrao Thackre and Raj Thackeray began their careers asstudent leaders.
“We had already called for a meeting with students’ unions last year in July. The meeting was attended by representatives of Yuva Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena, National Students Union of India, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Students Federation of India, North-East Students Association and others. We urged them to share their views on the proposed amendments to the Maharashtra Universities Act of 1992. We are looking at reviving students elections, but without violence and malpractices,” Tawde said.