All dressed in maroon, Kanupriya, her mother and her best friend, smile at the camera for pictures inside the office of the president of the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC). It is a moment to capture in time, after all.
Her name on the board is etched after a long line of male presidents, dating back to 1977. On September 6, she created history by becoming the first woman president of the student council along with leading her Left-leaning party Students For Society (SFS) to its first presidential victory since it first contested the election in 2014.
Her father asks her to stand next to the board for a picture. The room is full of well-wishers, SFS activists and other students. Secretary Amarinder Singh and joint secretary Vipul Atray greet Kanupriya’s parents warmly, touching their feet as a mark of respect, asking for their blessings. The PUCSC 2018 has come into effect.
Her parents and paternal uncle came from Ludhiana to be part of the oath-taking ceremony where they were felicitated along with Kanupriya and the other office-bearers. The ceremony took place after the results of the election to executive posts of the PUCSC were declared on Friday.
All the four office-bearers and 124 department representatives, including the five executive members, pledged to uphold the Lyngdoh guidelines, work for student welfare and promote academic environment on the campus and obey the office of the Vice-Chancellor and the Deans along with other offices of the university.
Later, Kanupriya’s parents told Chandigarh Newsline that their daughter was a “born protester”. Her mother Chandar Sudha Rani, a government nurse, said, “You can say, her first brush with protests could be when she was in my womb. I’d lost my job and went to protest at the Matka Chowk back in 1995. But after that protest we all got our jobs back,” adding that she received her transfer orders soon after and had to leave Kanupriya, who was only one-and-a-half-month-old, with her husband’s family. The Matka Chowk, a roundabout on the intersection of Madhya Marg and Jan Marg in Chandigarh, was the chosen site for protests till 2007.
Kanupriya’s father Pawan Kumar said his daughter had turned the “impossible into possible” and relatives and neighbours back in Ludhiana were still congratulating the family on her achievement.
“She’s the president of our family too. There’s a view that only boys can achieve such feats, but she has broken through that myth and everyone is telling us how lucky we are to have such a daughter,” he said.
Her uncle Anil Kumar said she had always been an outspoken child.
“I told her never to be afraid of anyone and that her family was always there to support her. Even as a student in school, she would do whatever she set her mind on. In our area, we celebrate Lohri in the name of a newborn son, but we celebrated Lohri in her name and our neighbours were aghast at why we were celebrating a daughter’s birth with such abandon,” he added.
Kanupriya’s parents want her to study further and get a PhD, but they have no qualms about her involvement in politics. “Student elections should be considered a part of academics. As for differentiating between girls and boys, it is pointless in today’s day and age; both are equally capable,” said her mother.