LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — A law student jailed for allegedly 'rioting' on campus, a social sciences student reportedly attacked by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for having defeated them in union elections, a college student fighting to make sure a college mate's 'murder' was probed without bias and another, whose university was vandalised by Hindutva activists demanding a decades-old portrait be pulled down — student leaders from Uttar Pradesh's universities and colleges have gathered in Lucknow to form an alliance against the Yogi Adityanath government and Modi government at the Centre.
Called Students Alliance for Democratic Rights (SADR), the outfit aims to hold a series of protests and awareness campaigns to make students aware of the students described as the "fascist" nature of the present government at the Centre and heading the state. Led by Pooja Shukla, a Samajwadi Party activist, roughly 150 students gathered at the Kaifi Azmi Auditorium at Lucknow this week and vowed to fight together against the BJP and its students' bodies.
The meeting was also attended by former Lucknow University professors Nadeem Hasnain, Roop Rekha Verma and Ramesh Dixit.
Apart from students heading unions in their respective universities and colleges, several other independent leaders not attached to students' wings of parties or unions also attended to protest alleged atrocities inflicted by the present government and vice-chancellors appointed by the government in Uttar Pradesh.
Avnish Yadav, who was elected the President of the Allahabad University students union, said he had recently got bail after spending 37 days in jail for protesting against the authorities asking students to vacate hostels during summer break. According to news reports, students spiralled out of control and pelted stones and vandalised the university premises in June this year. A few police jeeps were also set on fire. Four hundred FIRs were filed following the incident and 11 people jailed. Yadav, however, denies setting the jeep on fire and says that was the handiwork of people who weren't involved in the protests. Yadav is affiliated to the Samajwadi Party Chhatra Sabha, the party's student wing.
"They kept us with hardened criminals. There were robbers in the cell with me. They kept talking about guns and bombs and killers. It is absurd that the government will jail protesting students with murderers and criminals for days. They are only doing this to dampen our spirit," Yadav said.
However, Allahabad University has had a history of violence involving students. In 2013, the president of the union was rusticated for beating up the vice-chancellor's personal assistant and in 2017, students of the university murdered another student suspecting him to be a supporter of a rival leader.
The leaders present at the meet alleged that police was charging students with Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code which covers 'attempt to murder'.
Rahul Dubey, an independent candidate who won the union elections for Kashi Vidyapeeth University in Varanasi said he was fed up by heads of educational institutions paying obeisance to political leaders of the BJP. Dubey, who had alleged that his supporters was attacked by ABVP activists soon after he won the elections, said the Vice-Chancellor of his university mostly refused to participate in events organised by the union saying that was a waste of time. However, he said, he would be in attendance in any RSS or BJP event organised in the campus or in the city without fail.
Maksur Usmani Ahmed, president of the union of Aligarh Muslim University said that AMU was targeted and exploited constantly by political parties for the benefit because 'Muslim' in the name. "Same goes for Jamia Millia Islamia, there's 'Islam' in its name," he said. Ahmed also alleged that Adityanath has been trying to divide Dalits and Muslims by making comments like the one in which he questioned why AMU doesn't have reservations for Dalits. He also made a comparison with Benaras Hindu University and said if BHU can have reservation for Dalits, why can't AMU?
A student of Budh Vidyapeeth in Siddharth Nagar, UP said that a local student named Manish Shukla had been found dead a few months back. He said that it had been widely alleged that a local BJP leader, who is also a BJP MLA, had orchestrated the murder. "However, they are in power. And we demanded a fair probe and the arrest of the leader, but nothing happened. I am not taking his name, because he is a big shot. We protested for so long, but nothing came out of it, that's how powerful they are," he said.
Independent leaders and professors present at the meet pointed out that universities are meant for dissent and discussions. They alleged that BJP is using VC's to muzzle the voice of students by intimidating them with jail time, refusing admission among others. "People talk about notebandi, but talabandi on voicing dissent is a far more dangerous thing this government has done," said Verma.