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PU polls-2017 | SFS: Students for Society swinging for students, marching to the beat of their own drum

One of the senior leaders of the SFS, Ramanpreet Singh, said, “We encourage members of our organisation to read novels such as ‘Lahu Ki Loh’ by Jaswant Singh Kanwal and works of other leading Punjabi writers such as Baldev Singh Sadaknamma.”

punjab Updated: Aug 31, 2017 14:38 IST
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
SFS,Students for Society,Panjab University Campus Student Council
Members of the SFS during the general body meeting of the party at Student Centre, Panjab University, Chandigarh, on Wednesday.(Karun Sharma/HT)

This is not your ordinary party. Though a first impression of its members would say otherwise. Dressed casually like any other college-goer, they come across as regular students who go about their daily activities on campus. This is notwithstanding the place they have made for themselves in the student politics of Panjab University, mostly dominated by parties that have a political backing or defined by the fall of homegrown student organisations.

The Students for Society (SFS) does not come under either category. Notwithstanding the fact that it enjoys no political support. Its members are steeped in leftist ideology and only hardcore student activism will define their character in the run up to Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC) elections. Like other student bodies, they too hold rallies and protests, but their focus never shifts from core issues faced by students.

One of the senior leaders of the SFS, Ramanpreet Singh, said, “We encourage members of our organisation to read novels such as ‘Lahu Ki Loh’ by Jaswant Singh Kanwal and works of other leading Punjabi writers such as Baldev Singh Sadaknamma.”

Rooting for freedom of speech

Last year, the SFS was thrust into the limelight when it became the third largest force during Panjab University elections.

In a first of its kind incident, the party left the authorities red-faced by bringing journalist Seema Azad into the campus, disguised as a traditional nihang. The administration and university authorities had collectively tried to prevent the entry of Azad, who is also an activist accused of Maoist links.

SFS president Damanpreet Singh ( HT Photo )

Azad addressed the students on the right to freedom of speech, which came days after members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) allegedly attacked members of leftist student groups at Ramjas College in Delhi for inviting JNU student Umar Khalid to a seminar. The ABVP and SFS also clashed on campus in February over the violence at Ramjas College. Soon after, PU denied permission to the SFS to hold a seminar on ‘Rising head of fascism’, where Seema Azad was invited.

President Damanpreet Singh said, “Our organisation has an executive body of seven members. This body will decide the final candidate who will contest the election. There is arts faculty, sciences faculty and engineering faculty. Lastly, we have a separate committee for the evening department.”

The executive body includes president Damanpreet Singh, general secretary Satwinder Kaur and media secretary Harman Singh. Other members include Ipshit, Agyya Paul, Ravinder Singh and Buta Singh.

Fee hike issue

Then came the fee hike issue where the SFS once again took up the mantle by protesting against the university authorities. The student body was instrumental in forming the students’ joint action committee which brought all other student organisations under a single umbrella to force the varsity to roll back the hike. In the clashes between students and police in April, 60 members of the organisation were booked for sedition.

“We tell our members to study about the history of peoples’ movement, Mujhara Lehar, federalism and the Naxalite movement, among others. We urge them to study all kinds of movements and magazines on economics and newspapers to understand geopolitics,” added Ramanpreet.

They were also one of the first organisations to push for a vehicle-free campus that the university later implemented. Less than a decade old, the SFS contested only for the president’s post in its first election in 2014. They were the first party in the history of PU to pitch a female candidate, Amandeep Kaur, who secured 1,334 votes. They did not contest in 2015, but once again nominated a candidate for the president’s post in 2016. The party came third, with Amritpal Singh securing 2,494 votes. This year, they will contest for all four seats.

“There is no place for individualism in our organisation. It will be a joint team effort and everybody will be treated equally. Moreover, everybody’s advice will be considered before taking the final call,”said Harman, the media secretary.

In a campus that thrives on money and muscle power during polls, the SFS spent Rs 2,000 on their campaign in 2014. In 2016, they spent over Rs 2,800. “This year, I think we will spend around Rs 3,000 on the campaign as there are no expenses of stickers and other things,” added Harman.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 14:38 IST