New Delhi: On September 22, the University of Hyderabad (UoH) elected its third-ever Dalit students’ union president. Sreerag Poickadan, a 27-year-old PhD scholar, defeated K. Palsaniya of the ABVP-OBCA alliance and Anju Rao of the Congress’s students’ wing, NSUI.
The ‘Alliance for Social Justice’, a coalition of student parties, including the left-wing Students Federation of India (SFI) and the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), won all four central panel seats. The ABVP, RSS’s students’ wing, came in at a close second and the NSUI was third. This election, an Indian Express report has pointed out, reflects a significant churn in student politics on campus.
The Alliance for Social Justice also included the Dalit Students’ Union, Muslim Federation of India, Telangana Students’ Federation, Tribal Students’ Federation and Bahujan Students’ Federation.
Last year, in the run up to 2016-17 elections, protests over Rohith Vemula’s suicide were raging on campus. However, an alliance of the kind that won this year could not be formed because the SFI, the students’ wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was unwilling to nominate a Dalit candidate from the ASA or any other Ambedkarite group, Sreenivas Janyala’s article in Indian Express says. P. Vijay Kumar, the ASA candidate and one of the names that had been suggested by Vemula, lost that election, while Kuldeep Singh Nagi of the SFI-led United Front for Social Justice won.
According to what ASA president Munna Sannaki told Indian Express, the alliance between the Left and Ambedkarite groups this year was instigated by the ABVP’s polarising activities. “The ABVP had totally polarised the university on caste and religious lines. They also tried to drive a wedge between South and North Indian students. They talked of Telugu being the main language on the campus, followed by Hindi as ‘rashtra bhasha’. Our coalition, ASJ, was needed to effectively put to a stop to ABVP’s campaign of polarisation. That is why the ASA joined the alliance and our candidate was nominated to contest as president,’’ Sannaki said.
SFI leaders told the newspaper that the election results, in which a Dalit student from Kerala, two Muslims and a tribal won, was proof of how “diverse and inclusive” the coalition was. “The alliance made it possible for three Dalits, two Muslims and a tribal student to win. It is good for the university,” the new president told Indian Express.