For the past seven years, Hyderabad Central University has been a stronghold of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the leftist Communist Party of India (Marxist). This time around, the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) has joined hands with the SFI, in what is being called the Alliance for Social Justice (ASJ). Dalit Students Union (DSU), Tribal Students Forum (TSF), Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV), Muslim Students Federation (MSF) and Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) are also a part of the alliance. Sannaki Munna, the ASA-HCU President, explained the agenda of the alliance to Campus Watch, “The ASJ is a platform to counter and fight against BJP, RSS and their ministry appointed VC Appa Rao.” Similar to the situation in JNU, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) remains the major opposition party.
The election for the Presidential position, unlike the previous year, will see a triangular fight. Anju Rao (NSUI), who has been a strong advocate for women’s rights on the campus, will be fighting Sreerag P. (ASJ) and K. Palsaniya (ABVP – OBC Federation). Moreover, representatives of SFI, ASA and ABVP admitted that Rao is a strong candidate though they had issues with her party. Even though NSUI has the image of a weak party, one of the students I spoke to went on to say that she is looking forward to Rao’s election debate.
There have been multiple instances where female students have allegedly been subject to sexual harassment during ‘routine raids’ by security staff and the Students’ Union 2016-17 has been highly vocal on the issue. On this note, it was surprising to see the lack of any female candidates from the ASJ for any of the four major posts. This can prove costly to the alliance, as even last year, the left-ambedkarite alliance had won by a narrow margin.
When I spoke to HCU students, it was clear that the dark days following the suicide of Rohith Vemula are still fresh in the minds of the students of UoH. The rift between the administration and students has widened ever since. As one of the voters for the upcoming elections, Treesa Binny, commented, “Rohith Vemula will always be a part of HCU. The [issue behind] the movement is something that has not yet been solved as discrimination continues and so do suicides in HCU. So, in my opinion, the evil behind Vemula suicide is still existing. That is indeed an issue to be addressed in the elections.”
On the other hand, ABVP aims at ending the seven-year-long SFI rule in the University. According to Garikipati Gurajada, who was ABVP’s Presidential candidate in 2015, “The SFI comes up with the very same manifesto every single year with changes in words and grammar.” The ABVP leader also went to accuse SFI of resorting to “negative campaigning” against ABVP candidates at a personal level, blatantly violating the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations which govern university elections in India. Gurajada raised concerns that the Vemula suicide case is still being misused to arouse feelings against ABVP even as Roopanwal Committee Report justified the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the administration of UoH.
The administration of the UoH, unlike previous years, will be looking forward to this year’s elections. The adoption of the new Students Union Constitution has been the focal point of administration-student relations in the past few months. A Committee headed by Prof. Sudhakar Rao drafted a new Student Constitution which would give the administration influence on the Union. The Student Union 2016-17 made their dissent towards this constitution clear. They further decided to boycott future meetings. Using it to their advantage, the SFI termed this to be “part of a larger movement to cut down the right of speech and expression” in the campus, whereas the ABVP criticised the Students’ Union for boycotting the meetings instead of speaking out for the students in the meeting.
ASJ is highly optimistic of staying in control of the campus, but the ABVP seems much more confident as well. A survey ABVP conducted within the college hostel (which saw almost 1800 students taking part), as they claim, shows that the tables are turning. But at the end of the surprise package would certainly be NSUI making an entry into the Students Union with Anju Rao.