The freedom struggle of our country already demonstrated the relevance of students in struggle. After Independence, Atulya Ghosh and Bidhan Chandra Ray formed ‘West Bengal Chhatra Parishad’ in 1954 for inclusion of students in building the modern India. The same effort is further pushed by Vayalar Ravi in Kerala by constituting ‘Kerala Students’ Union’. After seeing the significant contribution of the students’ community in nation-building through human rights, women empowerment, preserving democratic spaces, social justice and freedom of speech, Smt. Indira Gandhi Ji, Hon’ble Ex-Prime Minister, established National Students’ Union of India in 1971 by merging KSU and WBCP.
The recent times have already shown the degeneration of democratic values, secular thread, movement of social justice, and the academic space for freedom. Our earlier leaders, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad and others had already anticipated such scenario, therefore, they laid down such values in the constitution as the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. To carry forward the same spirit for progressive modern India, Smt. Indira Gandhi set forward the aim of the students’ organization in the following terms – “To empower the student community to create responsible citizens and leaders based on the values of democracy, secularism, liberty, quality & equality”.
Since 1971, NSUI is keeping alive the spirit of constitutional values and Gandhian principle, that is, “Truth is God”. Not only has it questioned the government policies to provide constructive criticism to make modern India better, but it has also tried to uplift the studying conditions in central and state universities in the last 50 years. It is due to the sole struggle of NSUI that we witnessed the constant increase in various scholarship programmes and the increase in the number of seats in many undergraduate, post-graduate and research levels. On one hand, NSUI constantly toiled hard for the inclusion of students from various social and regional backgrounds, on the other, the current BJP government, in 2017, reduced seats in many M.Phil/PhD courses. If we talk about the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the prestigious university of the country and the dream of Jawaharlal Nehru, it did not take a single research scholar in 56 courses out of 67 courses. Think of exclusion of thousands of research scholars in other universities!
The Modi govt. for last 7 years has been relentlessly attacking the academic freedom and institutional autonomy which has put our students’ future in jeopardy. Today’s Modi govt’s sole agenda is to minimize the participation of weak and marginalized students like ST, SC students by promoting privatization of education. The Govt. has reduced the budget of education and as a result, the students belonging to poor and weaker sections are deprived of education. With the promotion of private institutions, there is no provision of scholarships for students of weaker sections like ST, SC and minority and they are forced to drop out of their schools. NSUI will tirelessly oppose the privatization of education.
The exclusionary politics of BJP in all the fields has been questioned by NSUI everywhere, whether it is a systematic attack on women students by filing false charges (recall Natasha Narwal and Devanganakalita who are Charged under UAPA), or not providing safe spaces (BHU girls protesting against VC for not providing safe spaces), or whether it is the brutal beating up of protesting girls by the Delhi police in the vibrant streets of the capital. On the other hand, NSUI protested against such policies of BJP to keep the struggle of women out of the academic areas. It is the struggle of NSUI that pushed the Congress government to construct a UG and a PG girls’ hostel in Dhaka to accommodate more than thousands of girls in the Delhi University. To constantly promote women representation in Indian leadership, NSUI launched Young Women Leadership Programme to protect and expand the free spaces for women, to work for women’s fundamental right to safety and their equal representation.
Similarly, NSUI has worked hard to preserve the rights of minorities, Scheduled castes, Schedule tribes, North-Eastern students. It is the long-driven struggle of NSUI and a constant engagement with the Congress government that gave the green signal to scholarship like Maulana Azad National fellowship for minorities, Rajeev Gandhi National Fellowship for SC, ST and OBC. It provided spaces for lakhs of minority students to carry forward their research in prestigious universities of India.
To promote the democratic character of the party, Shri Rahul Gandhi ji introduced internal organizational elections in NSUI and IYC to transform the structure of both the organizations. He has a vision that Students and youth should choose their own leaders. Leadership should not be imposed and doors of politics should be open for common and ordinary students and youth. Under Rahul Ji’s guidance, the first internal organizational election of NSUI was held in Uttarakhand in 2008.
Today, NSUI is the only organization in India that has internal democracy and students choose their leaders through voting. Lakhs of students have become members of NSUI. A large number of students from non-political background contested organizational elections and became office-bearers of NSUI at colleges, district, state and national level.
In all these 50 years, NSUI has given voice to the student community in India and has helped them evolve into the torch-bearers of students’ activism. It has also preserved the values of democracy, secularism, liberty, quality & equality. However, the task is endless, and growing tensions on the basis of religion, gender, region and color due to the hatred politics of the Modi Govt. and its paid media, present many challenges for us. The university spaces witness curbing voices of students and youth and to tackle the challenges, future students’ politics not only demands revised ways of thinking to protect the values of constitutional rights of Indian citizens, but also a cordial engagement with the ignorant hate-mongers. We, the members of NSUI, believe in the politics of love, harmony, rights and justice, and against all the odds in the upcoming times, we are determined to hoist the flag of love, rights and justice.
The Author is the President of NSUI