It was a moment of reckoning for the students when the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, (TISS) Mumbai held its students’ election on 27th July this year. The election was seen as one bearing great importance in the light of the students’ agitations that started across TISS campuses in the country in February this year.
Earlier, in February, the students of TISS, Mumbai began striking, protesting against the administration’s decision to withdraw a fee waiver offered to SC, ST and OBC students who are eligible for the Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS). The election held on Friday saw many leaders of this strike win and take positions in the Students’ Union.
Five of the seven positions in the Students’ Union went to the participants of the strike. Shefali Saini, one of the leaders of the strike, said through her social media handle that this was a welcome result as the earlier Union had tried to thwart the strike itself. She also expressed her apprehensions over a right-wing candidate winning with over 300 votes in a campus like TISS
Student leaders of the protest, Jit Hazarika and Vidya Wakchaure were elected as President and Vice President respectively. Alpha Toppo was elected General Secretary, Harshita Jha was elected Treasurer, Akunth, Cultural Secretary, Yaniam Chukhu, Literary Secretary and Rupakshi Mathur as Sports Secretary. The new students’ body is expected to take charge tomorrow.
Speaking to TWJ, Vice President Vidya Wakchaure said that the poll results was the victory of democracy more than anything else. “GOI-PMS is the right of the students from SC/ST, OBC communities,” she said.”The most important thing is to have a dialogue with admin(istration),” she added.
Speaking about future plans, Vidya said that the union will be pursuing the matter of disciplinary action that was initiated against over twenty students who had participated in the protest. These students were also prohibited from contesting the elections. The union is planning to request the administration to revoke the show-cause notices issued to these students.
General Secretary Alpha Toppo said that the victory was for all those students who are still protesting. “It shows that our cause for the protest is genuine,” she told TWJ.
Earlier this month, TISS had refused to sign Junior Research Scholarship (JRF) forms of protester students. For many research scholars, JRF is a major source of their subsistence. While some students were not given any reason for the admin’s refusal to sign forms, others were told that it was part of the disciplinary action initiated on them for having participated in the strike.
Speaking to TWJ, Jit Hazarika explained the significance of the polls by pointing out how representatives from various communities and social locations were a part of the new union. Hazarika said that this would prove to be a great resource for making fundamental changes that are important to students belonging to these communities as well as others. “This year’s union is a diverse one, in terms of representation,” they added proudly. Hazarika also said that GOI-PMS was not the only issue that the union intends to address. TISS campuses in Hyderabad, Guwahati and Tuljapur were fighting for their right to elect their student representatives breaking away from the electoral college system. TISS – Mumbai students’ union intends to support those students in their fight, Hazarika explained.
Within the Mumbai campus there are many problems like the difficulty faced by students who speak vernacular languages in the learning process. A language centre is one among the needs, Hazarika said.
It looks like the new union at TISS – Mumbai already has its hands full with issues that need attention.