Few days back, I came across an op-ed written by Chetan Bhagat, where he makes a point for campus politics in the IITs as opposed to the campus politics in colleges like JNU and DU. I also happened to read this article by a certain Aditya Mani Jha, alumnus of IIT Kharagpur who works as a full-time journalist now. He talks about how having a 'toothless' students' body like the one in the IITs, may sometimes result in mayhem, similar (in effect, not in cause) to what JNU and DU have been observing lately.
Of late, we have been made to believe that the campus politics in the IITs is the anti-thesis to the campus politics practiced in JNU or DU which involves the Youth Wings of established political parties. In theory, the only fundamental difference between these two brands of politics is that the mobilization of electorate in JNU or DU happens on the lines of political ideologies while in case of the IITs, that line can be as silly as (but not limited to) one's Hostel where he resides. And in practice, I find no whatsoever difference between these two brands of campus politics at all. Except maybe those 'presidential debates' but then it's limited only to JNU outside IITs.
Where there is democracy, there is stupidity and the IITs are no different. Here are some of the exhibits of how the pact-politics is certainly not the best form of students' representation:
1. The system has become such that no independent candidate who has a genuine will to contest for a Gymkhana post and serve the electorate, he can't do it unless he has support of the pact that his hall is a part of. In 2009-10, Ankit Singh did contest for the post of VP independently, but his hall of residence didn't leave any stone unturned to make sure he doesn't win. Because a victory for an independent candidate would severely damage the fragile ego of pact politics. Ankit did manage to stand second in those elections.
2. Another unsaid rule is that one cannot contest for General Secretary Social and Cult. And General Secretary Technology, unless she/he is a part of Cultural or Techno-Management Fests' core team member. Why both the General Championships and Fests are coordinated by the same people is still a mystery to me. A dear friend of mine was a core team member of a fest and he sincerely wanted to become the G. Sec. But since the pact equations didn't allow his hall of residence to field a candidate for that very post, he couldn't contest the elections.
3. Another friend of mine who belonged to the same society/cell/fest as one of the candidate's but a hall as the other candidate's, received threat-calls from certain factions since posted a hashtag on Facebook in favour of one of the candidates.
The panel that sits during candidates' SOP serves no purpose at all. Consisting of supporters of both the pacts, the whole purpose of this panel becomes to ridicule and make fun of the candidates from the opposite pact and bail out their own. Hardly any serious discussion on their proposals or their Statement of Purpose is held.
5. Violence has become a common thing among halls because of the divide the system of pact-politics propagates. Every once in while we hear stories of someone getting beaten up after a basketball match or an election victory procession.
6. Right before elections when the candidates are finalized, Hall Presidents make sure that the entire first and second year batch turns into unpaid troll armies, spamming Facebook with hashtags in favour of the candidates from their halls. What's the difference between IITians and IT Cell of some political party?
I don't find pact politics healthy for students' representation and I don't really have a solid alternative for it either but we do know what's wrong in the current system. Maybe we can start-off by voting according to credentials of a candidate and not according to their hall, pact or the club they are a part of. Maybe more independent candidates will start contesting in near future and the electorate will have a real choice to exercise.
Disclaimer: Article under "Your Perspective" is the perspective of the writer on the prevailing issues and the incidents. Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur has no take on this.