As the Panjab University Campus Student Council elections approach, protests undertaken by student parties have began to drawing flak from both PU officials as well as student organisations themselves.
So far, almost all of the 18-odd student parties functioning on the campus have held protests for demands that are almost identical, even as helpless PU authorities looked on.
Most recently, three female activists of National Students Union of India (NSUI) were protesting outside Kasturba Gandhi hostel to demand an extension of the hostel deadline till midnight and passes to visit the college libraries at any time of the day. Another student party, National Student Organisation (NSO) were also sitting on hunger strike alleging discrepancies in admissions to engineering colleges. Many of the protests, officials say, are absurd and, often, held without knowing all the facts.
A top official at PU cites an instance of a protest held almost a month ago, a student party began a hunger strike to protest the university’s decision to lower the credit limits required for promotion to the next class on a day when the university had already decided to withdraw it.“The decision was taken on a Friday. The following two days were holidays. The student party only lifted the dharna on Monday after they were told of the university’s decision,” he says. In another instance, NSUI activists, on Saturday, stormed the dental sciences college over various demands, some of which were not permitted even by the Dental Council of India.
Other student bodies, meanwhile, flay the protests and term it as a “publicity stunt”.
Commenting on NSUI’s ongoing hunger strike outside the hostel, Sahejpal Singh, the president of rival group Panjab University Student Union (PUSU), says, “Let us assume authorities accept demand of allowing girls to go to the library at any point of time. Who is to blame for any untoward incidents?”
Student Federation of India (SFI) president Prabhpreet Singh says a hunger strike must be the last resort in protests. “First, memorandums are given followed by protests, chain hunger strike and other such methods. Directly sitting on a hunger strike for demands related to canteens or other such issues amount to lowering the very importance of hunger strikes,” he said.
President of the newly-formed Youth Welfare Association, Priya Ranjan, who is an engineering student, accuses student parties of using dharnas as a “cheap tool” for garnering publicity and wooing voters. “A student wing was holding protests outside University Institute of Engineering and Technology two days ago while MNCs were holding campus placement sessions inside the UIET building.
The protesters even stopped students from entering the campus to take part in campus placement,” added Ranjan. He said that such parties onlytake up issues only during elections but otherwise did not understand the students’ problems.
Officials, meanwhile, say that the increasing protests were affecting academics on the university campus.