The Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University Professor Ram Prakash Singh has shown rare courage in holding the bull of campus hooliganism by its horns. The LU, like most of the campuses in north India was taken over by criminals in the garb of students who were patronized by opportunist national political parties. These so called student leaders, who are neither students nor leaders, hope to catch the attention of one of the parties so that they may use campus politics as a stepping stone into the state or national level politics. If one gets elected to one of the three important posts of any student union of a major university, then sooner or later one is ensured of a ticket from one of the major political parties to contest the assembly or parliamentary elections.

I, as a student with a rosy picture of politics as an instrument to bring about social change, had contested the position of representative of Institute of Technology to the Banaras Hindu University Students’ Union in 1985. It was a shocking experience even at that time and at such a level as university politics that I found the candidates for the big three posts, President, Vice President and General Secretary, asking me to align with them on the basis of a common caste and offering me free unlimited viewing of cinema in the Halls in city and liquor if needed for students who could pledge their votes in exchange. After having won the election for the representative’s post, attendance at the first few meetings of the Students’ Union was sufficient to disillusion me of the Indian electoral politics for life. The students who won or ran for the top three posts did very well in their political career subsequently. The Vice President at that time Rajesh Mishra is the Congress MP from Varanasi presently. The General Secretray O. P. Singh, was a minister in the last BJP Government in UP. A former President of the Union Manoj Sinha also became a MP for BJP from Ghazipur. Satya Prakash Sonkar, who ran for a post in that election but did not win, also became a MLA later.

While it may be a good opportunity for these student leaders to maintain their student status and indulge in campus politics so long as they have not won an election or become sufficiently important (read notorious) so that they cannot be ignored by the mainstream political parties, the university suffers in general because of them. They contribute to deteriorating law and order situation on campus, often forcing the VCs to close the universities sine die. The academic activity takes a back seat so long as the political heat is on. The sessions are delayed and sincere students are losers. It is virtually impossible under these circumstances that professors or researchers would engage in any serious research activity. Instead of enhancing the standards of these seats of learning the faculty members have to bother about how to just keep the normal affairs going.

I can perfectly understand the predicament of Professor R.P. Singh, as I had to myself face the hooliganism of these student leaders. The occasion was a programme organized in the honour of 40 visiting Pakistani guests in August 2005 at the prestigious Malviya Bhavan of LU. Since the programme was being held at LU we also decided to invite the then LUSU President Rajpal Kashyap as a representative of the student community to share the dais along with other dignitaries. The other student leaders present there also wanted to sit on the stage without realizing the seriousness of the programme or being considerate of the guests from across the border. We put our foot down and told the student leaders that there was no scope for any other student leader to join the dais. A melee followed and there was attempt by these so called student leaders to compete with each other in making their presence felt. Each one of them appeared more threatening than the other and they continued to hover around the stage while the programme was in progress. Some of them also said some abusive things about the organizers, especially the ladies.

Much to our embarrassment, with Pakistani guests as witness, we decided to protest against the unruly behaviour of the LU students by boycotting the snacks which were organized by the Union for the Pakistani guests. The Pakistani guests not knowing what to do just walked out along with us. Before making the exit I had announced that I would never organize any further event in LU.

Frankly, I think the LU needs an overhaul. It must be rid of all its goonda elements. Having observed the student politics at BHU and now at LU, I had never thought that it was possible. When Professor R.P. Singh had taken over as V.C. of LU and used to talk about making an IIT out of LU, we had thought that he would get disillusioned soon. But he has demonstrated the guts and can take on not only the university goondas but also state level politicians. While Mulayam Singh Yadav shamelessly patronizes the goonda elements of campus and other political parties support him or keep silent on the issue, Prof. Singh has stuck to his guns. He needs all our support to take on Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brand of politicians. He deserves kudos for not having buckled under the political pressure and attempts to isolate him and threaten him. Without caring about the danger that he has invited to his personal security he has shown the determination to convert the LU into an academic institution from the hopelessly messy situation to which it had degenerated. If the political parties think that they can ride roughshod over the VC by supporting the kind of rowdyism which has become the hallmark of Indian politics they are mistaken. People are tolerating this brand of politics because they have no option. As soon as they’ll have a cleaner and healthier alternative they’ll reject the dirtier and murkier characters.

Dr Sandeep Pandey

(About the author: Dr Pandey was awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership (2002), did his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, U.C., Berkeley, 1992 before heading back to India to become a social activist. Took out a 1500 km Global Peace March for nuclear disarmament from the Indian nuclear testing site Pokaran to Sarnath, a place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, beginning 11th May and ending on 6th August, 1999. Presently with Program on Science & Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University for 5 weeks. He can be contacted at: