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3 Female Candidates, No Posters: Kawalpreet Kaur On What Makes AISA Stand Apart In DU

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By Sourodipto Sanyal:

The Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections are going to be held on September 9. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has dominated the elections for the past two years, winning all four posts in the central panel. National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress is hoping to make a comeback and the All India Students Association (AISA), a reckoning force in the politics of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is trying to gain an entry in DUSU as well.

Kawalpreet Kaur, All India Students Association’s presidential candidate is a postgraduate student from the Faculty of Law, North Campus, Delhi University.

Why should people vote for you and your party?

Because we provide an alternative viewpoint. We are the organisation in the campus right now talking about students’ issues. We are not lambasting any other organisation, but rather going with the issues of the students in the class room. We are not littering the campus with our posters. If you come to campus, you will not see our posters in the hoardings. We do not feel the need to litter the campus or offer freebies. We can survive on just issues. This is the alternative model that AISA represents. At the same time, we are the only organisation which builds movements on students’ issues.I’m like any other common student. I travel by metro and right now I am travelling in an e-rickshaw. I don’t travel in a 1 crore SUV or Hummer that candidates of other parties come to campuses in. They litter the campus with posters sitting inside those cars. I travel for one and half hours daily in the metro or the bus.

If you are elected as President of DUSU, what will you aim to achieve in a year?

I’m idealistic but I will not make unrealistic promises for the year. The first agenda will be to provide better infrastructure in the university. The second would be to increase the hostel seats. We would aim to set up a pan woman Delhi University gender sensitisation committee, in which you will have a student representative so that we are not dictated by the administration. Transportation is another immediate problem. Few years back we used to have special buses for students and women. I don’t know what happened to those buses. Hostel curfew timing will also be something that I personally would like to take up.

You have three women candidates this year for the top four important positions in DUSU. Was it a conscious decision to give representation to women?

Yes, it is very important to give representation to women, but at the same time I’m really surprised that everyone is asking this same question about three women candidates.  If any other organisation can have three male candidates, then I think it’s absolutely normal to have three women candidates. Women in our organisation have the necessary leadership qualities required, so why not give them the representation? I’ve been in AISA for the past two years and if I got admission in Master’s in DU this year, then obviously the organisation will look up to me. We do not believe that we should just give seats to women for tokenism and representation.

AISA has not been successful yet in the DUSU elections but is a force to reckon with in JNU? Why do you think that is?

JNU is a closed campus, DU is not. We have a lot of colleges in DU. You have a huge chunk of undergraduates in Delhi university, which is not the case in JNU. The politics in Delhi University is largely dominated by caste politics. Most of the time, NSUI doesn’t even exist in the campus, they only come during election times. I think the main competition here is between the AISA and ABVP. These are the two organisations which have presence in the campuses today. During elections, you have money- muscle power working for other organisations. AISA did not put a single poster of a candidate on campus. If you come to North campus or any other college of Delhi University, you will see that the whole campus has been ruined with these posters. They have actually been littered with such posters and are actually violating the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. This is how Delhi University’s elections take place. Other parties hire agencies. They have people working for them littering the campus. Students are also taken to parties. NSUI presidential candidate Nikhil Yadav, who was in ABVP last year took students to watch Jurassic Park.

You don’t have any Muslim candidate for any of the top four posts in the DUSU elections. Why is that? Also, do you have a Dalit candidate?

It’s not that we didn’t keep a Muslim candidate consciously. Two years back, AISA’s Delhi University secretary Aman Niwas, who is Muslim, contested elections and has polled the maximum number of votes in the history of AISA in the DUSU elections till now.We don’t explicitly engage in such politics but we do have a Dalit representative. But it is not something that we do consciously.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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