Lal Salaams, comrades and the revolution - common phrase words in Jawaharlal Nehru University, unquestionably the bastion of Left student politics where a non-Left organisation does not stand a chance…. Or so you think! Read on.
“Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad won in 2000, Sandeep Mahapatra won by one vote,” reveals JNU Alumni Associations’ chief adviser G.J.B. Prasad. He is in the middle of making last-minute arrangements for Sunday’s big event, “Life beyond JNUSU,” a day-long discussion among presidents of JNU students’ union since the 1970s and a first of its kind.
“Politics is part of the daily life here and we sometimes forget the impact that the internal political atmosphere has on the real world outside. The recent weeks in which our students were the first to take to the streets after the gang-rape incident in the Capital was just another example of the activism and political awareness of our students,” adds Prof. Prasad.
He then hands out the list of speakers which reads like a who’s who of the political world. There are senior CPI (M) leaders like Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, among several other names, equally illustrious. Success has not been miserly in visiting these former presidents; there are journalists, professors, lawyers and writers, all successful in their own way.
There is the first woman president Rashmi Doraiswamy from 1983 who went on to to win the National Award for the best film critic in 1994, served as an international observer for the Presidential elections in Uzbekistan and now teaches at Jamia Millia Islamia. There is also Professor Anand Kumar who lost out to Prakash Karat in 1973 and wrested control in 1974. He’s taught around the world but is now the global studies programme coordinator at JNU. His special interests include the sociology of poverty and the limits of representative democracy among several other things. Prof. Prasad remembers the face-offs in many a night-long presidential debate. The presidential debate is the verbal joust, the ultimate tipper between victory and defeat and the current JNUSU president is always the best orator, articulate and as such deserving of the post. However, who is the best among the best? Only Sunday will tell.