JNU polls: BAPSA campaigners will be from ‘margins’
The Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students ‘Association (BAPSA) was established in 2014 by members of the United Dalit Students’ Forum (UDSF), to practice Ambedkarite politics on campus.
In the run-up to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections, while all students’ groups are busy inviting renowned political leaders of their parent parties for campaigning, the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) has decided to give space to people “from the margins”.
BAPSA was established in 2014 by members of the United Dalit Students’ Forum (UDSF), a socio-cultural group of Dalit students with an aim to practice Ambedkarite politics on campus. It has been contesting the JNUSU polls since 2016. “We are not associated with any political party. Ours is the only group that is working for the cause of those who are oppressed and marginalised on the basis of caste, class, religion and gender. We are inviting common people to discuss their day-to-day issues rather than giving space to celebrated figures to lecture about the achievements and failure of national political parties,” BAPSA president Thallapelli Praveen said.
On Tuesday night, while the Congress’ student wing, the National Students Union of India (NSUI) brought senior party leader Shahi Tharoor for a public talk on “centrist politics”, the Left-affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI) invited senior CPI leader Brinda Karat for a discussion on “gender issues”.
During his speech, Tharoor asked students to vote for NSUI in the polls scheduled on Sept 14.
The BAPSA, however, has been inviting students and teachers from the campus itself to talk about their issues. Last week, the group held a public meeting where students and teachers belonging to the Dalit community addressed the audience.
“Unlike other student groups we do not have money to hold events or invite influential people. More importantly, we do not want to invite them as they know nothing about our issues. We had invited Tamil Nadu-based Dalit transgender activist Grace Banu to talk about her struggles and how education has empowered her. She is better suited to tell students why reservations and deprivation points are necessary in higher education institutions,” Praveen said.
The group also launched a door-to-door campaign to meet students and understand their issues.
The mood on the campus has been charged ever since Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) invited chief ministers of three North-eastern states— Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh — last week. “For us, election is another way to create socio-political awareness among students and not to put up a blatant display of power,” BAPSA vice-president Karam said.
The students’ group is contesting all four positions in the JNUSU polls.