From 1977 to 2017: How student politics changed over the years at Panjab University
From reducing price of movie tickets to opposing massive fee hike, parties’ agendas have altered in past 4 decades.Updated: Sep 06, 2017 23:25 IST
The year was 1976. Students of Panjab University (PU) had never heard of rallies, poster wars, dharnas, and election on their campus. More due to the Emergency and less due to the non-existence of student polls before that. But come next year and the words became synonymous with electioneering in PU.
Bhuphinder Pal Singh Khosa became the first president of Panjab University Student Council (PUSC) after his party -- Progressive Student Union (PSU) -- swept the 1977 polls. PSU then dominated the political arena for next three years.
Soon, a section of students led by Jitender Singh Virk, Jaskaran Brar and Rajender Deepa, resenting the influence of Congress over PSU, contested the 1978 polls under the banner of Panjab University Student Union. “PUSU was the outcome of increasing interference of political parties in the campus politics,” Brar said.
PUSU went on to sweep the election in 1982 and ‘83. PSU vanished from the campus in 1983 and Congress’s student wing National Student Union of India (NSUI) surfaced. In 1984, militancy hit the PU polls too, leading to its ban.
Deepa and Brar claimed that they used to spend ₹4,000 to 5,000 in the entire election campaign. “Political parties and their student wings now bring in muscle power, money and administrative bullying,” said Deepa, the first PUSU chief. “Campaigning was low profile back then. Leaders were not seen on posters and pamphlets were made on paper,” said Kuljeet Kang, former president of PUSC and MLA from Kharar.
Agenda in 1980: Cheaper movie tickets
Interestingly, reducing the price of cinema tickets was one of the agenda in 1980s. “We even pressurised the administration to lower down the rates for students,” Brar said. Over the years, inclusion of PUSC president in the senate remained the top demand besides re-evaluating answer sheets, using gas instead of coal at hostels, bringing down the credit points and increasing the diet money for athletes.
There was hardly any report of violence during student agitations. “Even during militancy, the university remained calm,” Brar added. Kang had even successfully led the agitation of 1992 to reinstate student body election. The campus saw the direct election in 1998 with PUSU sweeping it.
SOPU ends monopoly
It was only after the emergence of Student Organisation of Punjab University, an independent student front, that monopoly of PUSU ended in 1997. Many student wings of political parties tried to make a foothold but neither succeeded except for few instances.
It is not surprising that Student for Society (SFS) has attracted massive support. “Its members are simple, talk about student issues and do not care about political contacts,” Kang said.