Read this interview to get first hand insights from Unnimaya, the general secretary of LSR Students Union on Aishwarya Reddy suicide case and general issues.
DU Beat spoke to Unnimaya, the representative (general secretary) of Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) Students’ Union. The interview was aimed to get a deeper insight into the Aishwarya Reddy suicide case.
1) Are you satisfied with the way things have been handled by the administration?
Not at all because most of our demands have not been met. All these demands had been raised in August 2020 and it took them a death…….an institutional murder to come to it. And moreover it’s quite ambiguous and most of our demands have still not been met.
2) What have been the insights of the meetings you have had with the LSR’s Principal, Dr Suman Sharma and how did she treat the Union?
This time what has happened is that the Principal has tried to put aside her authoritarian mentality for the first time. She has tried to concede to our demands and gave us time to speak. But even then, we had to ask them to give us time to speak. However, it’s the first time that something like this happened…….also because of the havoc that has been created and maybe because of that……
3) The Residence Hall Policy of LSR has been talked about a lot. The latest development is that hostel rooms will be given on the basis of “needs”, if I am not wrong?
Well, it’s not even “needs” that has been specified clearly. They have very ambiguously said that a few seats will be kept aside for current second year students. But there’s no clarity as to how many seats have been kept aside. Why didn’t they do it before?
And this decision was very sudden. The Students’ Union itself got informed about it via the mail that was sent.
4) Was there any added pressure of disciplinary action from the college’s side or any attempt of curtailment of speech while protesting?
There were more number of policemen than students who were protesting…..it was all barricaded. Even the Inspector General of Police was present….you must have seen the video of the number of policemen over there!
And every morning when I got up I used to get a call from the Station House Officer (SHO). And the other day when protests happened in front of LSR, the woman police officer who was in charge of that area pinpointed saying, “Who is Unnimaya?” and they took my phone number.
Then on 8th November 2020, my second year comrades had gone to LSR hostel to vacate it. So at that point also there was a barricade and police asked who Unnimaya was. In that way multiple enquiries have happened. But that’s not scary because I am a part of Students Federation of India (SFI) and Aise hume darana bahot mushkil hoga (scaring us like this would be very difficult). Humare comrades jail dekhe hain, hum bhi dekhenge, isse darne wale nahin hai. (Our comrades have seen jail, we will also see. So we won’t get scared like this)
5) The entire issue has been fairly raised by print and electronic media. What do you have to say about it?
How did we get media coverage? That was because the issue was fairly raised by the students body. So when I got the message of the suicide, I contacted the Delhi State Committee of SFI. The Delhi State Committee then contacted Telangana state committee which then contacted SFI Rangareddy District committee. So we took the initiative to enquire about the issue. People from Rangareddy District committee went to Aishwarya’s home and that’s how they found about it. Then with Aishwarya’s mother we had a press conference.
So I think it’s because we raised the issue well and then, media took it up. Media did highlight it but that also because LSR is a reputed college.
6) Some of the demands have already been met by the administration. Are there any further plans the Union has to raise rest ones?
Yes! See basically the movement for Aishwarya is that no more Aishwarya’s are repeated. And why are Aishwarya’s repeating, Rohith Vemula repeating? Because we have an exclusionary education system. We are facing education fund cuts. We are there with the Draconian Bill for New Education Policy which talks about centralisation, commercialisation and communalisation. So this movement will go on in next semester too. We are demanding universal education and not just limited to university students. From school students to everybody. So this movement is large. That’s why we are calling it a movement. Because one or two protests won’t do anything and won’t fulfill our demands. We will have more number of protests and have received solidarity from student unions across India and abroad. It will be a large university movement where all universities and student bodies are present.
7) Do you think that the kind of politics that operates in the state also affects educational institutions?
Absolutely. See what we are watching today is complete saffronisation and commercialisation happening. The interest of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) and BJP (Bharatiya Janata party) is being pushed into the University so that they can propagate their agenda and make people believe in their agendas. So such a thing we are already seeing. Who are the people getting appointed as VCs (Vice Chancellors)? Look at their political stance. Everything is political. If the University and Central Government care about marginalised students why did they push for digital learning without any preparations? Jadavpur University had already given Rs 800 to students before the Aishwarya case happened.
Why did the university push for an online system without precautions? That’s because they want to prove that the Central Government’s idea of an online education system can work. They are trying to show it so that at least upper middle classes or upper classes are able to afford online education. So this is pure politics. Why do you think that the University said these numbers of students attended OBE? These are distorted numbers, trying to push their agenda.
8) Is there anything you would like to say about the issue or anything in general?
I totally agree that there was a lot of solidarity. But for us to sustain this movement we need full support of the student body. It’s not the fault of the student body but it’s the administration that is pushing an agenda of distancing students from student organisations and organising themselves. But this kind of distancing will do no good to students. If you look at what happened in LSR there was a huge anti-organisation feeling in the starting but when the Aishwarya case happened, it was these organisations who were coming on streets.
We do agree there was a lot of solidarity but it was just a spontaneous one. We saw people talking about Aishwarya only for a few days but now nobody from the unorganized sector is talking about it. From the organised sector, especially progressive left, they are still planning. So for us to win and not let more Aishwarya’s happen and win our demands, we need organisation and unionisation.
Featured Image Credits: The Print