New Delhi, November 4 "The August air is full of the fanfare of official celebrations of '60 years of Indian Independence'. But somewhere behind the national anthem and patriotic film songs, we can hear the cries of the people of Kalinganagar, Khammam, Dadri, Nandigram, Singur. They are telling us: look, our lands are being turned into SEZs... If you want to fight to create a world free of exploitation, AISA is your voice, your choice..."
This is the plank on which the ultra-Left All India Students' Association swept this year's JNUSU polls.
With a political rhetoric that strongly resisted the Indo-US nuke deal and mobilised the campus on Singur and Nandigram issues, the new student union has son of a retired havildar, Sandeep Singh, as its president and a farmer's daughter, Shefalika Shekhar, as the vice-president, all activists of CPI-ML backed AISA.
Singh, who intends to become a full-time CPI-ML activist, says their "struggle" for an egalitarian society will continue. "Our victory is a strong mandate against UPA government's policies vis-à-vis the nuke deal, corporate land grab at Singur and Nandigram. Our fight is for the most marginalised sections of the society," says Kavita Krishnan, national president of AISA. In retrospect, she has a point.
In 1993-94, its student leader Chandrashekhar led the successful struggle against a move to hike fees and privatise JNU. That was also the only time when the student group won three central panel positions in JNUSU polls. "That's when we did our best. We made a debut in 1990 and in the next four years the union led by Chandrashekhar won central panel seats," says Krishnan. In the next decade, AISA suffered a setback with Chandrashekhar getting killed in Bihar's Siwan district while addressing a street-corner meeting. But the party also grew in the intervening period — from one central panel seat to four.
Sunday's unprecedented victory, however, brings along questions. With many comrades joining MNCs and switching parties after campus, will AISA's radical politics last?
"We have never said students should not work in MNCs. Our point is why is the government not creating jobs for us? Statistics show that MNCs are cutting more jobs. But whatever work one does in order to survive, one must be part of a larger struggle to create an egalitarian society," Krishnan defends the trend.
Pallavi Deka, the new general secretary, agrees. Daughter of a lecturer couple from Assam, Deka wants to continue in politics as long as she is on campus. "But the ideology would stay with me", as in the case of Inteshar Ahmad, AISA's presidential candidate in 2003 who works with an MNC in Bangalore now. His fellow comrade and now wife Mona Das, JNUSU president from AISA in 2005 and '06, explains: "We have also had examples where people from AISA have gone all over the country and took up radical politics. The question here is why does the government not create enough jobs for us?"