With student council elections making a comeback in universities and colleges across the state after more than 20 years, student wings of political parties are busy reaching out to young voters. Apart from hearing out concerns of students and creating draft manifestos for elections in the next academic year, youth wings are also taking precautions to prevent campus violence, which had led to elections being banned in the state the last time.
In October 1989, National Students Union of India (NSUI) activist Owen D’Souza was murdered outside a college in Vile Parle, allegedly by members of a rival political party. While youth wings are sure that such a case will not be repeated in this day and age, precautions are a must, said party spokespersons.
“Our workers across the state have been reaching out to students, and we have categorically told everybody to not take the law into their hands. In case of trouble, they should either inform their top officials, or the police,” said Vipin Singh, president of NSUI’s Mumbai unit. He added that even in cases where violence erupted in campuses, his youth wing members have handled the matter without resorting to violence themselves.
Yuva Sena, another youth wing contesting elections this year, is planning to share some precautionary measures with the state government as well as the universities, in order to introduce stringent rules into the code of conduct for student elections. “For starters, we will request all colleges and universities to allow entry into campuses only on the basis of college identification proof, to avoid any outsiders from creating ruckus on campus. We have noticed that problems usually start when outsiders get involved,” said Sainath Durge, for Yuva Sena.
The state government is still working on statutes to implement as part of the newly-approved Maharashtra State Public Universities Act 2016.
“We are in the process of forming statutes to form a clear and proper code of conduct for the various elections that will be held henceforth,” said a close aide to state education minister Vinod Tawde.
Members of Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) are planning to call for an all-party meeting before the elections, to have a formal discussion on how grave instances like that of 1989 can be avoided. “Peaceful and fair elections can only take place if all participating parties are aware of the problem and are equally determined to avoid violence under any circumstances. We hope the code of conduct will also have rules written in fine line to avoid untoward instances,” said Santosh Gangurde, vice-president, MNVS’s Maharashtra unit.
Members of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) said chances of such instances being repeated are “faint”.
“No form of gundagardi is acceptable anymore and students know how to choose their leaders wisely. We are using social media to reach out to people and hear them out so I feel the possibility of 1989 being repeated is almost impossible,” said Aniket Ovhal, head for ABVP, Konkan area.