Students’ Union elections are being held in Jadavpur University on Wednesday, February 19, after a three-year-long hiatus. The students’ union election was last held in the university in the year 2017. In the same year, the West Bengal government had taken the decision to replace the students’ unions with students’ councils, and students’ unions elections were stopped in all state government-run colleges and universities. This decision faced massive opposition from students across the state.
Finally, in October 2019, the West Bengal government allowed four universities – Presidency University, Jadavpur University, Rabindra Bharati University, and Diamond Harbour Women’s University – to conduct students’ union elections.
More than 4,500 students from arts, around 2,400 science students, and around 700 engineering students are voting to elect 13 office-bearers across the three disciplines. Apart from that, more than 600 class-representatives will be elected as well. The results for the elections will be declared on Thursday, February 20.
The students’ organisations participating in the elections this time include Students’ Federation of India (SFI), All India Students’ Association (AISA), Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP), Democratic Students’ Alliance (DSA), Democratic Students’ Forum (DSF), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), We The Independent (WTI), and All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO). In the students’ union elections held in 2017, SFI had registered a huge victory in the Arts Faculty, while WTI had won in the Science Department, and DSF in the Engineering Department. TMCP and ABVP had not won in any of the posts for office-bearers.
Terming this election as a fight against fascism, the manifesto of SFI said, “It is the time for resistance against fascism. It is time to stand against the divisive politics on the basis of caste, language, gender, and religion.” The other issues raised by the organisation are formation of a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment with elected representatives from all stake-holders of the university, immediate increase in number of seats for hostels, active SC/ST cell in the university, and reservation for people belonging to the SC, ST, OBC, and PwD categories in every course. They have also promised to make the campus inclusive and democratic, and create a gender inclusive campus for the LGBTQI+ community. They have also promised the creation of Abuse Locating App and Awareness Programme (ALAAP).
Meanwhile, the RSS-backed ABVP, which has fielded candidates for nine posts of office-bearers in two faculties, a first for the right-wing students organisation, has decided to contest the elections on issues like a more efficient placement cell in the university, restriction of outsiders on the campus, and declaring JU as an institute of eminence. In the days leading to elections, their campaign, instead of focusing on the issues faced by the students in the campus, focused on exposing how 'malicious' the left-backed organisations were. In their posters across the campus, and in posts on the social media, ABVP Jadavpur repeatedly talked about the how the left-backed organisations were allegedly 'destroying' the university and the campus.
Talking to NewsClick about the importance of the elections in the university, Anirban Chakraborty, a former student of Comparative Literature in the university and currently a farmers’ rights activist affiliated with All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said, “The students’ union elections in the Jadavpur University will provide oxygen to the movement against fascism that has been going on in the country. When the entire country, especially farmers, workers, and women are fighting against fascist forces, the left organisations in the university will hopefully win the election and raise issues important to the student community, by defeating the RSS and its narrative of communal propaganda.”
This is the first time that 500 MPhil students of the university will cast their vote in the students’ union election. Students of the Arts and Science Departments will vote to elect a chairperson, general secretary, assistant general secretary (day), and assistant general secretary (evening). The engineering students will elect an assistant general secretary for the university’s Salt Lake campus, along with the four other office bearers that are common for the other two departments.