From abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, the effect of NRC in Assam, the Amazon forest fire, to local campus issues, there was nothing that the presidential candidates of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) polls did not touch upon in their speech at the night-long presidential debate Thursday. The event saw several disruptions because of technical and other reasons, due to which the debate was paused for some time. Members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) clashed, leaving some people injured.
Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) candidate Jitendra Suna and United Left candidate from SFI Aishe Ghosh received the most applause.
ABVP’s Manish Jangid, who was the first to take the stage, addressed first-year students who got admission through the online entrance exam. “Last year’s Left-led JNUSU kept saying that students who get in through this process will be incompetent… Will you vote for such people who called you incompetent and character assassinated you?” he said, adding that the ABVP had worked to get facilities like a placement cell, WiFi and e-rickshaws on campus. He also hit out at the Left for raising anti-India slogans during the February 9, 2016, event.
National Students’ Union of India candidate Prashant Kumar condemned Jangid for speaking about the February 9 incident, despite it being sub judice, and launched a scathing attack on the BJP.
He said institutional mechanisms were bypassed in removing Article 370 from Kashmir, and the voice of the people was not heard. On NRC, Kumar said, “We are living in an era where the slogan of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family) is being given. Yet in Assam, lakhs of people are ousted in the name of NRC. Is your vasudha so small or do you not believe in kutumbakam?”
Suna hit out at both the Right and Left. Saluting Kashmiris who are “fighting for their freedom”, he said, “These people (Right-wing) call us anti-national, but if there’s any anti-national organisation, it’s the RSS, BJP and ABVP. They talk of Akhand Bharat. First rise above your caste and religion, marry someone from outside, then talk of Akhand Bharat.” He also called the SFI and CPM “zamindar” and blamed the latter for bringing capitalism to the country.
Chhatra Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate Priyanka Bharti and Ghosh both spoke about the Amazon fire, blaming it on US imperialist forces.
Bharti also attacked the Centre on NRC and Kashmir: “What you did in Kashmir, how is that democracy? For us it’s not just a geographical area on the map. Its people are ours. These people (BJP) only want the women and land (of Kashmir).
Her speech was interrupted as a fight broke out between the Left and Right. She was cheered by the crowd when she resumed her speech, saying she would not be cowed down by “bullying”. She also condemned the administration for asking for historian Romila Thapar’s CV for review.
Meanwhile, independent candidate Raghavendra Mishra, who called himself ‘Right-wing ka devta’, paid tributes to late politicians Bal Thackeray, Ashok Singhal, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Appealing to the ABVP, he said: “On three posts, I will vote for your candidate, on this one seat vote for me, a Hindu leader.”
JNU goes to polls on September 6.