Vantage point

Saturday, September 27, 2003

For the past month, Lucknow has been caught in the frenzy of election fever. All the hoardings displaying names of the candidates, posters with their mugs plastered all over the city, loudspeakers, speeches, everything. The whole city is literally submerged in campaigning paraphernalia. It is no coincidence that most of the hoardings bear the colours of the samajwadi party that rules UP currently.

Now the politically aware reader might say that the parliamentary elections are a year away and UP assembly elections got over just around a year back. So what elections have captured(or been struggling to capture) the Lucknowite's attention?

I asked myself the same question when I saw every corner of the city telling me to vote for some dude for the most of "Mahaneta". First I thought they were the city council elections. But on closer examination of the hoardings, I realised that the whole Samajwadi parety machinery has devoted itself to an event as small as Lucknow University Student Union Elections!!!!!!!!!!

I was shocked. But the UP-ites or even Delhi-ites on campus weren't surprised by this. Spending so much time and money over student elections? How vainly political can some eladers get? In Pune or Mumbai, I have never even come to know when the student elections fact I doubt if there are student elections at all. What do we need student leaders in the university for anyway? There are bodies like ABVP etc in Maharashtra who raise their voice if there are any delays in result declaration, or some infrastructural need arises. And frankly, if the cause is big enough, there is a sort of "spontaneous order" among the students to protest against the establishment. These LU student elections seem nothing like a fresh frontier for politicking of the big guns.

Mayawati had done the people a big big favour last year by banning student elections. It was the right thing to do because all these student leaders do is harrass people. I came to know recently that there is a 40 year old who has been deliberately flunking every year just so that he can be in politics through students elections. There was another guy who had beaten up some college principal and so in mayawati's time, he had been banned from entering the campus.

However Mulayam Singh takes over as Chief Minister and all hell breaks loose. Not only is he in a frenzy to release terrorists and gangsters, he also restarts student elections in LU. Apparently the day this announcement was made, all the so called "student" leaders went to campuses drunk and celebrated this decision with with drums and colours. Some teachers were pushed around and some girls were harrassed by these great leaders.

All this makes me sick. Is this what North India has degraded to? UP at one time was such a great centre of learning. Allahad, Benares, Aligarh etc were places people used to come to study from miles away. And now all these venerated institutions have become are battleground for political parties and shooting ranges for arrogant goons.

No wonder people are now headed to the West and the South of the country for education. There, barring a few bad eggs whom you rarely get to hear about, most students are interested in education rather than browbeating other students.

So when I hear of Northies coming to Pune for education, I don't mind it. Howevere the key words are "for education". Unfortunately most of them don't come for that reasons. Most Northies who come to colleges like DYPatil, Bharti, Sinhagad, SSPMS, Symbi, ILS etc in Pune are "bade baap ke bigde" with a lot of money to waste. They will spend more sleepless nights on getting the money from their parents to spend on the latest gizmos than during exams. Funny thing is all these people are apparently children of civil servants who aren't known to get a salary big enough to justify this kinda expenditure.

The unfortunate thing is these bad examples, these kids of so called Industrialists or IAS officers spoil the name of other innocent Northies in Pune.

As long as they keep their drinking-smoking-doping-splurging habits within the confines of their group, I don't think Puneites have a problem with it. But when they start harrassing others, then it becomes a problem as was seen in the ILS ragging case.

In case you haven't heard about it, here are a few links.

July 19 - Ragging: college students face disciplinary action
August 17 - Out of town bullies
Sep 10 - Pune college expels 26 students for ragging

As if the actual act was not bad enough, they worsened their situation. After the college threw them out in July, the parents of all these culprits, very predictably industrialists, politicians and IAS officers from North India, camped in a hotel in Pune and started their nefarious activities to protect their kids. First they pulled strings with someone really high up and got the ILS Chairman Y V Chandrachud(famous as the guy who conducted the match fixing inquiry and let everyone off the hook) to declare that the students won't be expelled until an inquiry is conducted.

Once Chandrachud made this announcement, the raggers should have got down to preparing a case for themselves, or maybe apologise or something. Instead they arrogantly distributed sweets in the campus and actually beat up the complainants as well as the students who had agreed to give testimony. They started threatening them to withdraw their complaints and not give testimonies respectively. Just like in hindi films, you know. They assumed that this inquiry would be an eyewash and they would be let go scot free. However at this point, the city of Pune reacted in a way that apathetic cities of North India never do. There was a big uproar about this attempted subversion of the legal process. Apparently all parties and student bodies united to show solidarity towards the ragging victims and the ILS Principal. And finally the law won when on 10 September, the 26 were finally kicked out. :-)

Even after this what surprises me is that instead of condemning the raggers and warning others to desist from ragging, the Northies in Pune wasted their time painting the ILS college principal as some evil witch out to ruin the lives of students.

There was the typical "Yes, they made a mistake but dont ruin their careers" or "This was just a minor case, worse instances of ragging happen and go unpunished" type of thinking from them. However Principal Vaijayanti Joshi thinks otherwise. ��I need not wait till a suicide case is reported to me,�� she says. Bravo!

They sort of turned the trial on its head. Never mind the fact that what the Princi did was perfectly legal. There are rules of the college as well as a law in Maharashtra awarding the strictest punishment for ragging. However these spoilt rich people apparently have an allergy of anything staying within the confines of the law. They are used to getting away with seen in the Jessica Lal case. So for once if the state machinery works in the right direction, they try to screw it up.

Fine, screw it up, but do so in your own states. Don't try to Up-ise, Bihar-ise and Delhi-ise places like Pune. Already in Mumbai, parties like Shivsena and their ideas find support among people for this very reason, the belligerant behaviour of the North Indians. So far Pune has been free of it, because students coming to Pune till a decade back were by and large decent students. But now when they come to the city, see its open and liberal culture where it is safe for a girl to go to a disc alone at midnight if she wants, see there are no existing goondas asserting their authority, no roadside romeos passing lewd comments..........and they want to fill this gap rather than respect the culture.

And it all has its root in the sort of culture and norms there are up north. So much fanfare and violence in Students elections? Seriously, ever since the election commission issued diktats, even parliamentary elections in Pune don't see posters defacing walls. And here every wall has been uglified by 40 year old student leaders.

You want to go to the root cause? This is it. An utter disregard for law and for the right thing at the smallest level. And even worse, a tendency to actually undermine something that is going in a proper orderly way and to screw it up.