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What differentiates democracy from any other form of political representation is that, in it, the opposition stands similar, if not equal, chance to win the elections. In the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) election results today, the main opposition National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) – backed by congress party – bagged the two topmost post of President and Vice-President, indicating the swing in the voters preferences and, of course, hope in democracy.
DUSU elections are quintessentially elections contested by major political parties but fought by students at the university level. An election that throws the possibility of further agitations and directions in student’s politics and movement in the university.
The kind of opprobrium the word politics has acquired that people take it as an admixture of cynicism, skepticism and mistrust. Student politics, being no exception to such politics and quite susceptible to violence, has also acquired much of distrust in the civil society. At the Ramjas College event early this year, for example, we witnessed the murky side of DUSU politics, where RSS-BJP backed Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) were up in arms against the students and teachers who had organized the conference on protest movements.
The violence during the event left one university teacher fighting for his life. In this background, therefore, the Ramjas College election had become significant. In this election the students at Ramjas College rejected the politics of violence and hate. This marks a turning point in DUSU elections.
The election results at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in the recent past, is also significant in two ways. One, that the Left combine and Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) managed to garner more than two third of votes, and both groups against ABVP politics, the tumult and the series of crisis university witnessed since the appointment of incumbent vice-chancellor did have an impact on voters’ behavior. The students at JNU rejected the politics of aggression and tank-nationalism of the right wing.
Second, the university, where discourse culture must thrive, and therefore anything and everything must be discussed in and out of the universe bereft of violence, emphatically grounded it in electoral politics.
The election results of both universities, DU and JNU, is also significant keeping in mind the afflictive despondency and frustration bogging the general students. They certainly want to resist and protest and speak truth to power. Student politics and movement has its own history. A large number of students participated in the freedom movement at various stages and also launched agitations against university, college authorities and government.
The student’s movement is significant as they not only protest against the misuse of rules, regulations and laws by the authorities, but also their protest are political, economic, moral and educational. They also protest about the immediate issues affecting them as students. Their protests are also one way of letting-off steam from the strong traditional controls of family, caste and religion over their behavior. They participate in collective action ‘to do something about their pathetic condition’.
The articulation and aggregation of such interests often takes and ideological and political shape. We have seen students of JNU fighting issues of national importance such as privatization or nationalism. In DU, however, the issues are rather micro and local.
But this year DU students have become more politicized, thanks to Ramjas event, and therefore, the ideological battle got sharpened. The political public space in the universities are getting increasingly contentious. At DU the left backed AISA is increasingly making its presence felt at all the levels of discourse in the university space.
Do we see hope in students politics? The simple and straight answer is yes. They are primarily taking all essential steps in the form of non-institutionalised collective political action that strive for political and/or social change.
Students movements are the least studied among all social movements. We hardly have the data of the identities of students participating in different agitations. We are deficient in our understanding of the processes of growth of the protest, and the way in which it moves on and draws in students previously nonchalant to such protests. Nonetheless, we are sure that the kind of student leaders we have is the kind of future leaders we have for the nation.