Dear would-be AMUSU, please design your manifesto accordingly | Sharjeel Usmani


Aligarh Muslim University, a place that gives a number of stories to discuss over tea at some dhaba to its students is back with another story – AMUSU elections! Ever since I became a part of this prestigious institution, I had been active in observing the limits and heights of the democratic space on the campus. When we talk about a ‘democratic space’ in an educational institute of repute, we necessarily mean an atmosphere of equality – based on gender, region, language, religion and ideas and a sense of practicality with logic, facts and rationality.

‘The AMUSU (Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union) advocates the rights of the students by pressurizing the administration’, says a leader. One point to be noted here, is that the participation of general students after the Union is installed (elected) as compared to their participation during campaigning period of the AMUSU candidates’ drops dramatically. This in turn leads to hegemony of people of common interests (and goals) at the union hall and all of a sudden the general students find themselves aloof from their representative, which further risks the democratic nature of the institution.

AMU girls casting their vote. (The Hindu)
AMU girls casting their vote. (The Hindu)

I, though, feel that the AMUSU still needs to identify the actual rights of the students and also the their actual responsibility towards the students. I had lived as a hosteller in AMU campus for almost two years and what I found was that a vast majority of students tend to choose their leaders on the basis of their region, that is, regionalism plays an important role in AMU’s campus (campus, here, includes the students, teaching faculty and also the non-teaching staffs) politics. This idea (ideology for some) of regionalism is not that bad if the genuine issues are raised. Most of the issues that the students [read voters] bring out to their leaders are the shortage of attendance, year/semester back in a subject or more and resolving fights between two student groups.

Arsalan Mohammad, a student of Mass Communications at Aligarh Muslim University made some fair point when I met him last time. He said,

‘It’s saddening to see that around two hundred students marched demanding union elections. It is good that we’ll have a Students’ union. But what about the previous protests and agitations that took place before this ‘election period’ actually arrived, none of those two hundred people were seen anywhere. If it is just about winning elections, better we have none!’

The points put forward by Arsalan are important in a certain way, because, firstly the campus has seen many issues of students’ interest being raised by one and backed by none. For instance, the hostel evacuation and hall transfers, for which the issue was raised by Afaq Ahmad, a research scholar to which not many students gave a second eye!

Also, most of the manifestos designed by the leaders for us (the student fraternity) are a matter of joke. Last time when the elections took place on the campus, an AMUSU candidate for the post of President had got printed on his manifesto:

‘Will ensure that a department of Aeronautical Engineering is started at AMU’ !

Now how much can a student leader ensure of starting a new branch of engineering in a central university is known to everybody! It is pretty clear that the manifestos are brought in first place only to attract the general students with the fantasies printed on it and none of the points are to be taken into serious notice ever, at least I believe so.

Pamphlet of one of the candidates contesting for the President in the last union (Photo: Awaam)

There is another issue of concern; the union should look into, as told by another research scholar from Public Administration. In recent few years, none of students with a live admission in the university has ever cleared the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC. We only boast of those students who had passed out from the varsity and have paid a handsome amount of money to some coaching in some corner of the nation to get them prepared to appear in these civil services exams. So logically, it is the coaching institute who should be credited for these qualifiers and not the university. I haven’t seen any school celebrating for their student having cleared some IIT exams; it is always the coaching which celebrates. Surely, there is something that is missing in the aura of the varsity that students aren’t even trying to appear in these exams while they have to appear for their semester exams. If we lend a deaf ear to this exigency, we are simply defeating the vision and mission of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who after the havoc of 1857 meticulously inferred that “participation in administration” is the only way out for Muslims of India. The union needs to take a look into the matter. At least my union should!

Apart from these, the union this time needs to do something about the development of communications skills of the students. Communication Skills is definitely a key problem that today’s students are facing. Keeping in mind that a good number of students come from a very vernacular background, the union can install some kind of informal classes in each of the halls itself. To add more, earlier the union schools in the campus were being funded out by the student union from their funds and because of reasons best known to none, it stopped! The union schools were initially started for the children of third and fourth grade employees and the students there had to pay no fee and the finance of these schools was looked after from the [students’] union budget. It would definitely be a welcoming step if the union does that again.

Lastly, I would like my union to ensure equal participation of female students into its working and the place and time of the General Body Meetings to be decided as per their convenience accordingly.

Dear would-be AMUSU, please design your manifesto accordingly.

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Sharjeel Usmani

Sharjeel Usmani is a student of Political Science (Honours) at Aligarh Muslim University. Apart from writing he loves reading contemporary Indian literature and Urdu poems. His other hobbies include travelling and listening to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan