With Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announcing students’ union elections in the state universities and colleges after 34 years, Fairoz Khan, the president of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), interacted with the members in Panjab University on Wednesday. The leader, who has been campaigning for electoral reforms in students’ union elections for the past eight months, hailed it as a bold decision. “I don’t think a better decision has been taken in a long time. I hope this decision is implemented properly in Punjab and we are hopeful that the state will produce able student leaders,” said Khan.
Khan added that the Centre has actively tried to suppress student activism, giving the example of the ban on students’ polls in Chhattisgarh. “The ABVP gets its cadre from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, but other parties get it from students’ elections. I am a product of a students’ election too. We will take our fight and state policies to all the Punjab universities and colleges,” he said. Though Captain said the elections will be held in 2019, Khan hinted that they were eager to hold the students’ union elections in Punjab sooner.
“The polls could happen earlier, maybe around the same time as PU in September. But, plans will take time as we don’t want to go too fast as an organisation. We agree on the polls, but there shouldn’t be violence and academics shouldn’t get disturbed,” he said, adding that if preparations were not good, they could be delayed too. About “Inquilab” campaign of the NSUI, he said they were focusing on four major issues: students’ rights commission, students’ courts, unemployment and reducing the age of MPs and MLAs to 25.
“We are also focusing on a healthy atmosphere during students’ elections as there seems to be so much violence. We want to take the polls online so that there’s more voting, but the ECI should ensure that the elections are not rigged,” he added. Khan talked about how new talent will emerge from Punjab as PU was more traditional when it came to activism as well as students’ leaders. In PU, the NSUI, which is the student wing of the Congress, had won three out of the four posts in Panjab University Campus Students’ Council in 2017. But, he said the government must not interfere with the students’ elections in Punjab. Many have said the NSUI won in PU with “blessings” from the Congress.
Khan disagreed. “The central government has tried to interfere repeatedly. Look at how Modi spoke to students a day before Delhi University elections. Is that not a violation of the code of conduct. I think the Congress leadership is mature and understands student activism. I will protest and oppose even if the Congress government interferes in the students’ elections.” He added that in PU, all the leaders got together and fought as a team when even the media was saying they will not win the varsity polls.
Talking about the tough ideological fight on the PU campus in the last two to three years, Khan said there was no danger of that happening in Punjab. “The Left is same as the RSS. Even in Kerala this time, they hurled stones at our team and killed one of our student leaders. Wherever there’s ABVP or Left, there’s violence on campus. The PU students are mature and that’s why they didn’t vote for them,” he added.
On autonomy given to 62 universities and colleges, Khan said that the government is privatising education. “It’s education for few. They think that if all youths get educated, they will start asking questions. Where will the universities get money from. Take autonomy and start your own courses, it’s a big joke. We require 10 lakh jobs every week, but where are those jobs,” he asked. He added that 50 per cent of the population was students and the government has made a mockery of them.
About the prevailing challenges, Khan said, “Punjab leaders should understand that elections aren’t for power and violence. It’s to explore your potential and serve the student community. That will be our challenge to make it happen on ground level.”