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Panjab University’s SFS is aiming for a ‘new democratic revolution’

SFS is a left-oriented student organisation but is not affiliated to any party. Members claim it’s an independent student initiative running on student funds.

punjab Updated: Aug 27, 2018 11:53 IST
Arshdeep Arshi
Arshdeep Arshi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
punjab,punjab news,Panjab University
SFS has no faction, and the executive committee is chosen on the basis of proposals of previous committee members. (HT File )

The Students for Society was in the news when members sneaked in journalist-turned-activist Seema Azad, disguised as a turbaned girl from Kurukshetra, to the Panjab University campus in 2017 for a talk. Disguised as a turbaned girl from Kurukshetra, she spoke for around seven minutes outside the vice-chancellors office and left, in a major embarrassment for authorities as no one recognised her.

Largely leftist in its ideology, SFS was founded in 2010 by Sachinderpal Pali, Amrik Singh, Amandeep Singh, Amaninder Singh, Pardeep Singh and Shawinder Singh. Pali was earlier associated with Students Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU). Amrik, Amandeep, Amaninder and Pardeep, from Punjab Engineering College (PEC) and Shawinder, a law student, had been members of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), the youth wing of CPI (ML).

Among the founders, Pali is the only one now who is actively involved in the organisation, which fought its first Panjab University Campus Students Council (PUCSC) election in 2014.

The slogan of the organisation, according to spokesperson Harmandeep Singh, is “to mobilise youth to accomplish the new democratic revolution in India.”

Party affiliation

SFS is a left-oriented student organisation but is not affiliated to any party. Members claim it’s an independent student initiative running on student funds.

Agenda over the years

SFS has been raising issues of fee hike, privatisation, and 24-hour open girls’ hostels. Earlier in 2015 they had demanded a referendum for a four-wheeler ban on campus in 2015, with a majority of students voting for the ban.

This year, they plan to campaign against the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill, which will replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) for greater autonomy for educational institutes. The other issues include privatisation of education and right to hostels.

Highs and lows

SFS first contested the election in 2014, with Amandeep Kaur, a woman presidential candidate, getting 1,334 votes. In 2015, they did not contest but campaigned during elections for a ban on vehicles on campus.

It was in 2016 when SFS delivered a bouncer to all the major parties with its candidate Amritpal Singh securing 2,494 votes and that too without forming an alliance with any other party. It was then that the party was seen to be fully established in PU.

Last year, party candidate Hassanpreet Kaur became a runner-up in the PUCSC elections with 2,190 votes.

The SFS held hunger strikes in 2013 and 2014 over the issue of fee hikes. In 2017, outraged by a hike of 1,100 per cent, students pelted stones at the police during protests. Around 60 students were arrested, a majority of whom were from SFS.

In February 2017, SFS and ABVP supporters clashed at PU’s Student Centre over a row at Delhi’s Ramjas College where the ABVP had interrupted a literary event. After an SFS protest in PU against the disruption, ABVP in a counter campaign lashed out at the alleged derogatory remarks made by the SFS against the army. Leaders of both parties were arrested. SFS maintained that its speaker at PU had cited a National Human Rights Commission report on rapes of 16 tribal women in Chhattisgarh by the security forces and that the ABVP had made an issue out of it.

Factions

There are no factions in SFS and differences of opinion in the executive committee are sorted out through discussions. The executive committee is chosen on the basis of proposals of previous committee members, at their conferences or the general body meeting where the members have the right to reject the proposals too.

Big-wigs produced

So far the party hasn’t produced a prominent leader. The party has lofty ambitions with its members claiming they are working towards a new democratic revolution by having a ‘connect’ with the ground. Often they visit villages nearby to maintain “a continuous dialogue with the people,” members claim.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 13:26 IST