An American has stormed what was once a bastion of the Left. Tyler Walker Williams, a 28-year-old Californian created history when he was elected vice-president in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union elections on Saturday. One of his first tasks, he says, will be to improve the food for foreign students.
“Indian food is very spicy and it is difficult for foreign students to adjust to it,” the Hindi M.Phil student says in chaste Hindi. “We will consult these students,” he adds, in the spirit of democracy.
Ironically, though Williams is a citizen of the world’s ‘hyperpower’, he had the backing of the All India Students Association (AISA), affiliated to the far left Marxist-Leninist faction of the Communist Party of India. Perhaps it was his views on the Iraq war: “I am against President George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.”
Or perhaps his stand on caste politics: “I support the government’s pro-reservations policy because everyone has the right to an equal education.”
And despite the presence of anti-reservation parties in the polls, AISA and the CPI(M)-affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI) swept the top posts: SFI’s Dhananjay and Jyotsna are the new president and joint secretary, while AISA’s Sandeep Singh is now the JNUSU general secretary. “The ideology of the Left still prevails at JNU,” Williams declares triumphantly.
And when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited JNU last year, Williams was among those with a black flag. “This was to protest India’s vote against Iran at the IAEA and the rise in farmers’ suicides in India,” he says.
And even if you thought he was a rebel without a pause, his parents do not. “My folks are thrilled with the news of my victory,” he says. “They know I am active in student politics.”