Amritpal Singh, a Dalit youth from Ghorewaha village in Hoshiarpur who was the Students for Society presidential candidate for the Panjab University students’ council elections held on Wednesday, gave a tough fight to the winning candidate and finished third.
The Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU) won the elections this year, snapping the five-year losing streak.
The Students for Society fielded only one candidate, Amritpal Singh, in the elections. Though Amritpal lost the elections, after the good performance of his organisation in the elections, he has become a subject of discussion among the students, university faculty and political scholars outside the campus.
Amritpal said while in other student organisations, casteism is a dominant factor, it was only SFS that showed the guts to put up a Dalit student as a candidate for the office of president.
“Now everyone is talking about us. But some years ago, we were ridiculed and treated as
non-entity in this university dominated by Kakashahi culture. We created a space in the minds of the students for our organisation by working hard and raising issues such as fee hike, problems faced by the students in the hostels, protesting against eve-teasing and waging struggle for equality on the campus,” Amritpal said.
Those who believe in Marxist ideologies see the popularity of SFS as a return of the left-wing forces in the educational institutions.
Commenting on this, Amritpal said: “The SFS’s left philosophy is different from the one followed in the communist countries and also by the leftists in the country over the decades. Our left philosophy is rooted in our soil. It is a blend of humanism propagated by Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the determination, sacrifice and commitment of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the spirit of struggle of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.”
Amritpal, who has a deep understanding of ancient and modern history, said he would soon write a book on his village where mass conversion took place in 1876.
“I am keen to work as a cultural activist,” said Amritpal, who is fond of acting in plays and playing various music instruments and dufli, a folk instrument made popular on stages by singer Gurdas Mann.
A strong opponent of the right-wing forces, Amritpal said: “Suppression of the poor sections of the society and atrocities on Dalits by the activists of the right wing would unite masses across the country to revolt against such forces.”
The defeat of SOI and ABVP alliance was a most significant development in this regard, he added. “The communal forces wanted to divide the country on frivolous issues. Instead of addressing the concerns of poor people, these forces were targeting them on various issues,” Amritpal said.
Amritpal, whose father worked in South Arabia for a brief period to earn livelihood, is a research scholar in the history department.