A lot has been said regarding an incident at EFLU recently, with news reports, articles, debates and arguments all over the media, both social and conventional. The incident is directly related to me, therefore I feel that a clarification from my side is necessary.
On the 9th of this month, a GBM was conducted to elect the election committee members for the elections to the EFLU students’ union. I was given the responsibility to defend the constitution (as Deputy Dean, Students’ Welfare) that was written by a committee which included faculty members from SC/ST and minority communities (like Dr. Bhagya Bhukhya, Dr. K Satyanarayana, both well-known Dalit intellectuals, and myself). The constitution is probably the only students’ union constitution in India which has reservation for SC/ST, OBC, minorities, women and disabled students in the school councillor posts. Hundreds of students attended the meeting and I was asked a lot of questions, to which I replied patiently.
- A student asked why there is no reservation in the union, I answered that there is reservation in school councillors posts for SC/ST, OBC, female, minority and disabled students, pointing at the blackboard which had the names of the schools written, and explained how the reserved posts would be rotated every year through the different schools in alphabetical order.
- A student asked why the Lyngdoh committee recommendations are being followed, and why we don’t reject the recommendations as the university is an autonomous body. I replied that the Jawaharlal Nehru University also was not following the recommendations till 2007, when a case was lodged against the university in the Supreme Court of India. The case went on for 4-5 years, during which the elections were stayed by the court, and the court ultimately ruled that JNU has to follow the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. I went on to say that we do not probably want such a thing to happen in our case.
- A student asked why there is no post for a foreign presentative. I answered that we have not made any distinction between foreign and Indian students, foreign students can and should contest for the regular posts.
- Another student asked that how can foreign students win when only a hundred foreign students are there in the campus. I replied that, for example, a student from the USA contested for the Vice-President post in JNU Students’ Union elections a few years back, and won with a record number of votes, therefore proving that it was not just foreign students who voted for him.
- My last remark in this dialogue with the students was that nothing in the constitution is sacrosanct. If students want change in it, there would be amendments in the future. If we are able to hold elections this year, the students would have a Students’ Union, which would be in a much better position to demand for change and amendments.
My remarks have been COMPLETELY TWISTED, and posted all over the social media, as an anti-reservation, anti SC/ST remark. This is a BLATANT LIE, hundreds of students who were present there, and all people who know me can testify that I did not and would not make any such remark. One of the accusers went on to say on a show in NDTV 24×7, “The Social Network”, that I made anti-reservation remarks. The same was said about me in articles in Countercurrents, India Resists, Kafila etc. It was written on Facebook that “I really feel somebody has to sue him under ‘sc/st (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’ for his anti-reservation remarks in public”.The same person writes on Kafila ten days later that “No, we are not saying that Mr. Tariq Sheik intentionally made malicious anti-reservation remarks.” This sudden and huge change in tone is difficult for me to understand, either of them has to be a lie.
This kind of an allegation is a very tricky thing. Since there was no video or audio recording, neither can I prove that I didn’t say it, nor can the accusers prove that I did. There can only be endless accusations and counter-accusations on it. And there can be testimonials from the hundreds of students present there, against the allegations that are being made.
When I was a student at JNU, as a student activist, I always stood for social justice and reservation for the marginalised sections of our society. I fought tooth and nail against the anti-reservation forces among the students in JNU during the debate on the OBC reservations in 2007. I was named by the Youth For Equality (the anti-reservation group) as a main proponent of reservation and therefore a major enemy.
Therefore, because of my political principles and praxis, ‘casteist’ is, in my opinion, the worst abuse that one can throw at me. I am deeply hurt by this accusation, and anyone who knows me from my student days would be extremely disturbed, just like I was, if they hear of this accusation.
I reiterate my position regarding this year’s students’ union elections in EFLU. The EFLUSU constitution, although quite progressive in its current form, is NOT written in stone. If the students’ movement in EFLU demands for change, no administration in the world would be able to stop them, there would be amendments in the constitution. A students’ union therefore, is an absolute necessity, not only to raise social and political issues, not only to address problems students face in the campus, but also to shape the future of students’ movement in the campus and suggest changes in the path it is walking.
P.S. – The present EFLUSU constitution is available here.