Photo essay: JNU presidential debate makes elections different here

Wednesday night saw Jhelum Lawns come alive.

Photo essay: JNU presidential debate makes elections different here
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The presidential debate at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Jhelum Lawns on Wednesday took many on a heart away and shattered some in the sloganeering, the loud drumbeats and applause. One could see glimpses of passion and perseverance.

The groups that are contesting elections this year include the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the All India Students Association (AISA), the All India Students Federation (AISF), the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the Students Federation of India (SFI).

The first candidate was Shabana Ali from BAPSA, who blamed the Left groups for being “casteist” and their “bogus” participation in minorities’ issues.

Shabana Ali of BAPSA dances with party supporters.

The second speaker, Nidhi Tripathi of the ABVP, was quite emphatic about the deterioration of healthcare in the campus, mainly faced by women. She said, “Instead of women gynaecologists in the campus, we are given painkillers, ABVP would not just talk about the problems, but would find solutions for these problems.”

Nidhi Tripathi of ABVP speaks.

The next candidate was NSUI’s Vrishnika Singh. She lacked fervency but highlighted campus issues like “inadequacy in transportation and healthcare”. She also emphasised on the low-sex ratio in Haryana from where she comes.

Another candidate, Md Farooque, created a milieu of mockery and sarcasm. He blamed the ABVP for creating the divide between Hindus and Muslims. He said, “In case of triple talaq everybody unites, but you “cow urinate” drinkers what about “Baba Ram Rahim”?

Aparajitha Raja of the AISF said, “Even after 70 years of Independence, people are not provided food but weapons, journalists like Gauri Lankesh are dying, and we are talking about beti bachao, akin to Quit India movement during colonial rule, we need RSS quit India!”

Aparajitha Raja of AISF with her supporters. 

The last speaker, Geeta Kumari of the Left alliance comprising AISA-SFI-DSF, attacked the RSS. “Today universities are being governed by the RSS, please friends let’s not forget Hitler’s propaganda began from the universities themselves. The way they demolished Babri Masjid, they have reduced seats in the campus, on what basis are they asking for votes?”

Geeta Kumari delivers her presidential speech. 

Supporters cheer their candidates during the debate. 

Kanhaiya Kumar of AISF beats drum and call slogans with supporters. 

AISA and ABVP supporters raise slogans for their respective candidates. 

Students didn’t mind the rain break that interrupted the debate thrice. 

Indeed, the evening resounded with youthful passion for politics as a weapon for positive change.

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