The 22nd State Conference of Progressive Democratic Students Union was successfully staged at Nizamabad, Telangana on 1-3 December.
Very positive to witness such a resurgence of democratic revolutionary spirit within the student community, when forces of reaction are operating at helm to patronise globalisation and Hindutva fascism. The legacy of the PDSU was continued which was born in the turbulent decade of the 1970’s.creating a turning point in the revolutionary student movement. Its cadre played an important role in shaping East Godavri Adivasi Movement,tribal movement in Nizamabad and in the field of industrial workers. The organisation seemed determined to resurrect the days of student upheaval of the 1970’s.It gave priority to confronting the twin menace of Brahmanical and Hindutva fascism ,as well as the ascendancy of globalisation and privatisation.
A most powerful procession of around 3000 students shouting slogans reverberated the town, fluttering the flag of revolutionary resistance, reminiscent of a sea. The rally terminated with a public meeting. Professor Jagmohan Singh, nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh was the chief guest of the meeting. It was also addressed by the Indian Federation of Trade Unions All India General Secretary. B Pradeep, Krishna of Human Rights Forum, Chandan Soren of Social Medicine and Community Health Department, PDSU leaders J Srinu, Mahesh Pramukh. We missed the presence of leaders and organisations of farmers and Adivasis.
A very inspiring song was presented by cultural group Arunodahaya.
The theme of the conference was based on the evils of the New Education Policy.
A book was released on the life of student martyr Jampala Prasad,in 1976. In detail it summed up his heroic contribution and what shaped his life as a revolutionary. It dwelled on how Prasadashaped important struggles of PDSU, be it on fee-hike, caste discrimination, campus facilities,libraray, cultural freedom etc.The booklet covered how secret forms of work were devised in the dark days of the emergency, to enable the organisation to function. Most vividly it described how PDSU resurrected itself into a fortified and coherent structure after the setback of emergency. The booklet narrated incidents of how Prasad at the vey root challenged oppressive aspects of society and conventional feudal or religious norms.
The inauguration of the delegate’s conference underwent proceedings from 2nd. December. Prominent journalist Teesta Setalvad was sadly absent. In addition to the review of the organization’s activities and planning ahead, a discussion was undertaken of civil attacks spread-eagling the society as well as attacks launched on education especially the national new education policy. Cultural programs interspersed the discussions. The conference of delegates continued till the 3rd. Finally PDSU elected a new leader to handle the future tasks. Mahesh was elected as president and Srikanth as the Secretary. The leading committee was elected with 5 vice presidents, 5 vice secretaries, 1 treasurer, an executive body was elected. An activist of Punjab Students Union was also present.
Till the late 1970’s , the Progressive Democratic Students Union was the most influential student group in Andhra Pradesh ,in the democratic revolutionary camp and major breeding ground for the agrarian struggles. In important ways it combated the left depradationist trend of the movement in the 1970’s.I recollect the admiration activists from Mumbai had for the manner the PDSU conducted election campaigns, in abject contrast to that of revisionist or reactionary parties and the impact of PDSU in the mid 1970’s.As an activist I recollect the impact PDSU had on shaping the work of the Pragatisheel Vidhyarti Sanghatana in Maharashtra, and not converting it into a mere Marxist Leninist front. Emphasis was placed on establishing a link between the struggles of students with that of the working class, without imposing party ideology.
Regrettable that for over 4 decades the Progressive Democratic Students Union has been splintered into different factions, as a result of splits within the Chandra Pulla Reddy group. This was predominant since the mid -1980’s. Powerful tendencies existed of PDSU functioning as a front organisation of a Marxist Leninist group, and not properly preserving identity as a democratic mass organisation. A serious review should be undertaken of what divided the student movement, obstructed democratic functioning and how the legacy of yesteryears can be resurrected.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India