Dozens of Students Respond to Democracy Collective’s Call for Political Solidarity
Jyotsna Sidharth UG'25 and Mansi Bahl UG'24
On 27th March, at 7 pm, Ashokans gathered outside the mess to respond to Democracy Collective’s call for Protest. The protest saw a turnout of 50-60 people across the UG, YIF and PhD cohorts, making it one of the most active displays of political solidarity among students in a long time.
The call for protest was in response to a number of issues that had lined up over the last semester and a half. These issues ranged from removing water coolers from the Residence Halls, the new ID policy, restrictions in using classrooms, Reddy’s, and other common spaces to more long-standing issues like trans housing, caste, class, and gender-based discrimination, and workers' rights. The debate surrounding the effectiveness of a Student Government, as opposed to a Student Union that would exist as an entity outside the administration of the University, was brought up too by some.
Students were frustrated by the lack of student consultation by the administration before changing policies pertaining to student life. Members of the Student Government themselves expressed frustration regarding the political uncertainty and how they were constantly stuck between the anger of the administration and the students. Neha Sheikh, the President of the Interim SG, went on to say that the administration was reluctant to listen to an interim SG and often dismissed their demands. She also mentioned the lack of representation within the SG, particularly that of women and non cis-het male identities, re-iterating that the only way things would get better is if students from varying backgrounds stood and voted in elections.
Students further claimed the issues weren’t properly addressed because the campus lacked a student union, which would have legal and financial independence from the university, unlike the SG. This, several students argued, would give it “more (bargaining?) power.” This idea was posited by Navya Asopa, a UG24 member of the Democracy Collective. The debate between a Union and Student Government is an oft-repeated one in Ashoka’s short political history. Proponents of a Union argue that existence outside the ambit of the University administration gives it greater independence, power, and weight.
What started out as a forum for voicing grievances later turned into a constructive conversation about the importance of the SG and called for increased student participation in every way possible. Members of Leher, as well as declared independent candidates such as Pratham Arora were also seen speaking at the protest.They brought up how, apart from being angry at the administration, it is important to bridge the communication gap between them and the students. They stressed the importance of getting involved in protests and other initiatives to fuel change on the student and worker fronts. Pratham, Neha, as well as former HoR member Rivan Sengupta repeatedly implored students to run for elections further to accelerate student engagement and power in the admin.
The event on the 27th was a reaction to the suspended animation that student representation has been in since the mass resignations in the SG in the Summer of 2021. The lack of a robust and complete Student Government, the voiding of the last General Elections because of the high proportion of NOTA votes, and the inability of students to mobilise through the pandemic represented a political stupor that Ashoka seems only now to be shaking itself out of.
The protest served as a long reminder of what students have known for quite some time, that there is a political crisis at Ashoka regarding all aspects of student representation. The lack thereof in the present, the obvious consequences of such a lack, and the need for it to change in the future. All in all, whether it was Leher, independent candidates, DemCol, members of the interim SG, or any student voicing their concerns, their voices resonated with a clear, and consistently repeated message - the need for Ashokans to stand for elections and vote.