As the news poured in of Kanhaiya Kumar walking out of prison free and delivering an electrifying speech on Jawaharlal Nehru Univerisity campus in Delhi, another President of a Students’ Union, Richa Singh at Allahabad University, the first woman to hold this office in University’s history, became the target of the Sangh Parivar.
After her election in September, 2015, she blocked the entry of controversial BJP MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath who was invited by her remaining co-office bearers of the Students’ Union, all of them belonging to Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, to the campus for the inauguration event of the Students’ Union. Not only her consent was not sought for the event, her name was given on the invitation card taking her tacit compliance for granted. The patriarchal mindset continues to hold sway over our minds.
On the night of 19-20 November when Richa Singh was sitting on a peaceful fast outside the Library protesting the impending visit of Yogi, about 30 right wing students including ABVP office bearers of the Union attacked the girl students after midnight using lewd and abusive language. Some students, including Richa Singh, suffered injuries. Richa Singh filed an FIR against AUSU office bearers General Secretary Siddharth Singh, Vice President Vikrant Singh, 8 other students and the Proctor N.K. Shukla who was present during the attack but did nothing to stop it.
In a shocking development Richa Singh was issued a show cause notice by the Registrar instead of the students who attacked her. In the show cause notice Richa Singh has been accused of indiscipline and misconduct for having taken the matter directly to police instead of going through the Proctor or a competent authority of the University. However, the University authorities fail to realise how Richa Singh could have trusted the Proctor who refused to fulfil his duty of stopping the attack by ABVP leaders on her.
In a letter addressed to the Vice Chancellor, dated 26 November, chairperson of the Women’s Advisory Board of AU, Professor Ranjana Kakkar has criticised the manhandling of girls on campus and objected to invitation sent to Yogi Adityanath, describing him as anti-women and communal. WAB also objected to an all male inquiry committee constituted to look into the violence against girl students.
Richa Singh had also complained against the appointment of Amit Singh as Officer on Special Duty with Vice Chancellor’s office. Amit Singh has been earlier accused of sexually harassing and threatening a female student, who had to ultimately leave the hostel because of his continued threats. There was a FIR filed against Amit Singh and five others in 2014 but apparently no action has been taken against them.
Richa Singh had to soon pay a price for her laudable bold actions as she was prevented from holding a meeting of reputed journalist Siddharth Vardarajan on campus in January, 2016. Vardarajan ended up speaking at the Swaraj Vidyapeeth, home to an anti privatisation-liberalisation-globalisation campaign, Azadi Bachao Andolan, opposite the women’s hostel of AU.
From the above description it appears that Allahabad University is very insensitive to the gender issue. It is amazing that Richa Singh has been able to get herself elected in this traditionally male bastion. But she has brought a refreshing change which is certainly a break from the criminalised student politics on UP campuses.
AU authorities are continuing to hound Richa Singh. They have raised questions over her admission to the Doctorate programme in Globalisation and Development Studies, Faculty of Arts, done two years ago in 2013-14. Incidentally, the complainant, Rajneesh Kumar, is not from her department. Now he has also filed another complaint in bad taste making sexist comments targetting Richa Singh.
This pattern is similar to what I faced at Banaras Hindu University. The complaint against me was made by a student, Avinash Kumar Pandey, of Political Science department, whereas I was teaching at the Indian Institute of Technology, on the basis of which my contract as Visiting Faculty was terminated prematurely. Also, baseless charges against me are more to tarnish my image rather than raise questions over my academic performance.
It appears that after Hyderabad University and JNU now the Sangh Parivar has decided to target AU. If any action is taken against Richa Singh, the issue is likely to flare up as Richa enjoys considerable support among students, Allahabad city as well as from around the country. The UP CM also decided to honour her with Rani Laxmi Bai Award for bravery on the women’s day. He has also agreed to provide AU with five buses which will transport the students from various parts of city to the campus on her request. This is a major victory for her as the Sangh Parivar is out to destroy the academic atmosphere of our university campuses.
It is important that Richa Singh stays a student and the President of Students’ Union on Allahabad University campus if we are to expect any qualitative changes in Indian politics. It is young leaders like her and Kanhaiya Kumar who are going to impact the trajectory of future politics in this country. Two former AUSU Presidents have held the Prime Minister’s office. The qualitative transformation that Arvind Kejriwal’s movement brought to Indian polity is only now taking an ideological direction in which Rohith Vemula, even after his death, and his friends belonging to Ambedkar Students Association at Hyderabad University, Kanhaiya Kumar of the All India Students Federation, who also happens to be the son of an Anganwadi worker and other student leaders at JNU including Umar Khalid and Richa Singh with the support of socialists at AU are playing a leading role. This alliance representing the marginalised sections of Indian society Dalit-Poor-Minority-Women is ultimately going to pose a decisive challenge to the Rashtrya Swayamsewak Sangh which has for the time being gotten a stranglehold on Indian government through Narendra Modi. This must certainly be bothering the Sangh Parivar governed by Brahminical thinking.
By Sandeep Pandey
Vice-President, Socialist Party (India)
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