Over the last few months, AISA has been at the forefront of many student issues and protests in Tamil Nadu. Whether it is the struggle against caste discrimination or for better medical and hostel facilities, these initiatives have served to build up a radical left alternative for the students’ movement in the southern state. The following report outlines briefly some of the key struggles undertaken by AISA in recent times:
Demanding Better Hostels and Health Facilities
In a situation where the government is busy reducing allocations to education, the conditions and availability of hostels for students from Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes is steadily becoming worse. Students have now begun organizing themselves to deal with long-pending demands on hostel issues.
Throughout Tamil Nadu, law college students have no hostel. The only hostel for law students is in Chennai and there is one private hostel in Salem. This causes great difficulties for students who are keen on pursuing their studies. On 20th March, AISA organized a dharna in front of the Law College, Madurai in which Comrades Vindotha (AISA sec. Madurai), Rameshwar Prasad, Vengatachalam (State Gen. Sec), Com. Raha Sankar (State Vice President) and Com Bharathi (State President) spoke. Com Usha (State Gen.Sec. AIPWA) also addressed the meeting.
A Protest Dharna was organized in Selam on March 23, 2010 demanding proper maintenance of Hostels and payment of scholarship dues. The protest was presided by Karthikeyan and Muthukumar (Law College Students, Selam). Comrades Vengatachalam (State Gen. Sec. AISA), Gopal (Kanchipuram District Secretary, AISA) and Comrade Bharathi (State President-AISA) participated.
In a dalit hostel in Madurai, a girl student died because of inadequate health care facilities. AISA immediately responded by issuing a poster condemning the incident and a sustained struggle forced the administration to accept responsibility and pay compensation to the girl’s family.
In a similar incident, a student of Meenaxi College died from a virus fever after the warden of the hostel did not allow her to leave the campus to receive medical treatment. AISA took up this struggle as well, organizing protests to force responsibility on the college.
Demanding a Proper Inquiry into the Deaths of Outstation Students in Chidambaram
Two months ago, an outstation student of Annamalai University, Chidambaram met his death after falling from an overcrowded bus. The tragedy occurred due to negligence and led students from the university to organize a protest. However, the police met the students’ demonstration with a brutal lathi-charge in which three students from Bihar died. AISA intervened condemning this brutal attack and demanded a proper investigation into the incident. However, till date, the authorities continue to maintain silence on these incidents.
Protest Against Caste Discrimination in School ID cards
The Murugappa Group is one of the leading corporate houses in Tamilnadu. It is known by it brand name TI (TI Cycles, TI Diamond Chain and so on). The Group also runs a school in the industrial town of Ambatur, near Chennai.
The management of the school issued ID cards to students where they were marked by their caste identification. Although there are many trade unions in the industrial establishment, none of them thought it fit to raise this issue. AISA, however, declared its protest in front of the school and also conducted a poster campaign condemning the school management’s discriminatory tactics. The intensity of the protest and the response it received was such that the trade unions were also forced to belatedly join the struggle.
Following protests, the local Inspector of Police met the Head Master and advised him to meet the AISA State President so as to solve the issue amicably. The management called the AISA leader over the phone and admitted they had committed a blunder. The struggle, however, went ahead as planned. The Head Master came out and met the protestors, assuring immediate withdrawal of the discriminatory ID cards. These ID cards were taken back before noon.
The protest was address by Dewaki (AIPWA, State Vice-President), Mohan, Munisamy (Uzipalar Urimai Iyakkam), Raja (AICCTU-Construction wing State Secretary) and AISA leaders Suresh, Murugadas and Aswin. More than 75 people participated in the demonstration.
Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Memorial Conventions Held
Conventions commemorating the Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar were held as part of Shahadat Saptah in Salem and Kanyakumari. Comrades, organizers and activists from AISA participated with great enthusiasm in these events. The Conventions committed themselves to upholding the revolutionary legacies of Bhagat Singh and Chandu. They voiced concern at the wholesale privatization of education and demanded the improvement of infrastructure in schools and colleges.
While many of these struggles have been victorious ones, many of AISA’s leaders have had to face the wrath of the administration and authorities. False and motivated cases have been registered against our activists Bharathi, Vengatachalam, Divya, Karthikeyan and Mlalarvizi for their involvement in these struggles or else they are facing suspension from their colleges.
However, we continue with the resolve that these struggles are about basic student demands and rights and must be taken forward.