Escalating their movement for enactment of the “Rohith Act” to eradicate alleged casteism on university campuses and heralding an “era of social justice”, the Left in Jawarharlal Nehru University is drawing like-minded students from across the country to the university campus for a two-day national convention of students slated to be held on 15 and 16 July.
Members of different Leftist student groups in JNU like AISA, SFI, AISF and more have been working closely in recent weeks to go to universities across the country to mobilise students and draw students and their representatives to the JNU students’ convention.
“We have sent small groups of students to various universities across the country like Hyderabad Central University, Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University, Gauhati University and more university campuses where independent movements on one or the other issue have been on. We aim to bring them on one stage. Hundreds of representatives are expected to come from over 150 students’ bodies and varsities. Some of the teachers have also shown support,” Shehla Rashid, vice president, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, told this correspondent. It is also understood that a few students from JNU visited Rohith Vemula’s house and invited his mother, who assured her attendance, if her health permitted.
The “Rohith Act” is the main demand in the convention, according to the students. “It hasn’t been easy,” Shehla said, adding that the students are “busy collecting funds for the events as a massive movement is being carried out from the JNU campus”. “We are working tirelessly to bring an era of social justice,” Shehla added.
Students have shown discontent with the policies of the Central government vis-à-vis education in the country and the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) will also be discussed.
“Across the country, students on one pretext or another, are denied fellowships, hostels and other research facilities. Students from non-English speaking and marginalised backgrounds face additional discrimination. With no platform to raise all these issues, students often break out into mass protests, which are then made the further pretext for initiating disciplinary action against them. This serves as a censoring mechanism for the genuine demands of the students. Students have even faced arrests for demanding things like library facilities,” Rama Naga, general secretary, JNUSU claimed.
“Not only students, but teachers are also targeted. WTO-dictated policies of fund cut and market-subservient education such as FYUP (in DU), CBCS, RUSA, Delinking (in JNU), etc. are brought in,” Rama claimed. “In this convention, we would form the draft committee to formulate the Rohith Act. The members will be nominated on the convention. The drafting committee would draft the Act, we would take it across the country for feedback. Once the feedbacks are collected, JNUSU would hold a Students’ Parliament before the Parliament session. Students from all over India would join the Students’ Parliament to pass the Rohith Act. After that, we would send the Rohith Act to various MPs to put the Act in Parliament,” he said.
The Left in JNU has consistently launched scathing attacks on the government, criticising it heavily over its budgetary allocations. They have also targeted the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for allegedly “promoting right-wing Hindutva politics”.
Sourabh Sharma, joint secretary, JNUSU and ABVP leader in JNU, told this correspondent: “I belong to the OBC community myself, but until I had joined this university, I didn’t experience any caste-based discrimination. These leftist groups point out to people that you belong to backward classes and that is unfortunate. I am a lone non-leftist member in the students’ union and whenever there is a debate, I am hooted off the stage. So it is difficult for us as well. As a joint secretary of the JNUSU, I was not even informed of the event. Our party was not invited. We will stay away from the event, but we do not endorse it at all. Rohith’s loss was grave for us as well. But, we will not politicise it.”