But their protests haven’t been effective. Moreover, critics argue, the unions lack the autonomy to do anything on their own without their mother party’s directive.
Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked to ANNISU(R) chairman Ranjit Tamang about the relevance of student politics in Nepal.
How do you respond to those who say today’s student politics in Nepal is purposeless?
In my view, in light of the current constitutional crisis, student wings are the only forces capable of challenging government wrongdoings. The parliament’s absence has added to our responsibilities. As students are at the forefront of anti-government protests against corruption, inflation, and unconstitutional moves, the government of the day fears us. So, I can assure you that we are still very much relevant.
We have never seen a student union take decisions independently of their mother party. Why so?
There was a time when political parties could not protest against the autocratic government, and their student wings were the ones to take the lead. Today also, we are always the first to speak against the government, whosoever is running it. We speak up on every social, internal, and geopolitical matter. Often, we have taken up more progressive and revolutionary issues than have our mother political party. But as we are affiliated to our mother party, it is only natural we take their ideological lead. This is how things work around the world.
Why aren’t student unions keen on broader educational rights and reforms?
We have always pressured the concerned bodies to provide free education at every level. We have also regularly requested universities to stop doling out affiliation to private colleges. When appointments were being made for office bearers of universities, ANNISU (R) had demanded that the process be based on open competition. Further, to bring drastic changes to our academic system, we appeal to the government to prepare an Education Act based on the recent report by a group of scholars in this field.
Perhaps because of its association with the erstwhile Young Communist League, ANNISU (R)’s image has been rather poor in the public eye. What are you doing to improve your image?
Our major focus has been on the health and education sectors. We demand free health and education for all. The government should allocate enough budget in these areas, and implement its plan to provide loans to students by keeping their degree certificates as collateral. Also, we want an end to the privatization of education institutions and pitch for open competition in the selection of their office-bearers. We want to make ANNISU (R) a representative voice of all students.
Any plans for organization restructuring?
Following our firm commitment to democratic process, we have decided to conduct ANNISU(R)’s 22nd national convention from September 24-26. Also, through ApEx, I want to announce that, following this national convention, I plan to start my journey in national politics. I will be handing over ANNISU (R) to a more knowledgeable, capable, and organized leadership.