“This is a very historic moment for the student community in NEHU”

Interview with Napoleon S. Mawphninag (President-NEHUSU)

The NEHUSU election this time around has been a very hotly debated issue. Previous years it was a low key affair with hardly any canvassing done and no one bothering to know the identity of the winners. But with so many students’ agitations in the recent past and the anti-student attitude of the administration this year’s election was a highly anticipated affair. In the heart of all this is Napoleon S. Mawphniang (or as his FB moniker says Mawphniang Napoleon Marxwho contested from the group Mission 16-17 for the post of NEHUSU President. He won the election along with all the members of his group and will take charge of the student body for 2016-17 session. His is a remarkable victory because of the continuous harassment that he received from the administration for constantly questioning them. Even before the present election he was taking an active part in leading the students on various agitations in the campus. This interview was taken three days after his group had won the election. He once described himself as “Marxist,Socialist,Anarchist,Syndicalist,Mutualist,Situationist,feminist”.

Q1.      First of all we would like to congratulate you on your win in the NEHUSU election.

Ans.    Thank you.

Q2.      So Napoleon, what has this election meant for student politics in NEHU?

Ans.    The turnout for this election has been the highest in the history of NEHU. I was a part of NEHUSU (North-Eastern Hill University Students Union) in the past as well. In the 2013-2014, I was the Assistant Academic Secretary. I also have some experience working in the KSU (Khasi Students Union). However, during that time I did not have much understanding about the various problems of the students. But after sharing the everyday problems of the students in the campus I have become more aware of the various injustices and oppression that are endemic in the campus. One of the biggest problem is the mindset of the various officials in the campus. The students are lectured about their various duties, e.g., follow the rules, pay the fees on time, etc., but are kept deprived of their various rights, e.g., right to good hostel facilities, right to good transport facilities, right to study with dignity, etc. Therefore, I decided to contest the election again with like-minded people with three aims, viz., create a strong and vibrant student body which will be pro-student and fight for the defense of students’ rights; establish the hegemony of the students by making the voiceless heard; and creating organic intellectuals who are aware of the class implications and question the system to find solutions. We want to bring comfort to the hitherto oppressed and afflict those who have enjoyed comfort at the expense of others. The students also understood the need to challenge the system and therefore, they came in large numbers to show their support. This is a very historic moment for the student community in NEHU.

Q3.      What are your plans for the immediate future?

Ans.     Although we have won the election we have yet to get an official space. So we are sitting in canteens and discussing our strategy. One of the first thing that we are going to do is to create a standing committee which will act as an advisory board for the executive council. The committee will have representative from all the ethnic groups who are studying in the campus. NEHU receives students from all across the North-East region and this is the first time that such a body will be created to bring all of them together under one platform. This body will advise the executive council regarding the various problems that plague the students and recommend members for the various committees’ viz., library committee, sports, finance, hostel, etc. Our motto is ‘management of exception and distribution of labour’. Till now NEHUSU has only been concerned with holding the Varsity Fest and we will have a committee for it as well. But this will not be our main concern, instead our main concern will be with the day-to-day issues of the students. One of the reasons why NEHU has been lagging behind in rankings is because of corruption and misutilisation of funds which includes NEHUSU as well. So the financial committee which shall be established will come up with a quarterly audit of the various financial transactions. Bringing in inclusiveness and transparency will be our most immediate concern.

Q4.      What were your opponents like? What did they believe in?

Ans.     Our opponents also wanted to work but there are fundamental differences between us and them. They believed in few changes but ultimately those in no way challenge the status quo. They would have fought for student’s right but they were not willing to go till the end. This is something one can know if you compare our manifesto with theirs. While our manifesto focuses on the various solutions that can help the student community, they are merely interested in stating the problems. The standing committee which is one of our main commitment is absent from their manifesto and they have no plan for helping the growth of class intellectuals in the campus. They are happy to work within the rules and are unwilling to go beyond it. One of their demand is to have student’s representatives in the Academic Council. Actually there are already three students who regularly take part in the deliberations of the Council. This shows that they are not very aware of the actual affairs of the student community. The student community understood the difference and decided to put their trust in us instead.

Q5.      Is this progressive challenge here to stay?

Ans.    Continuity of this movement is also an important concern for us. To ensure that a progressive challenge is always present we intend to use the various committees to train the students so that they can take up the mantle after we leave. We will organize various programmes and discussion to inform the students in the campus about the power of student politics. The real potential of NEHU has been lying dormant because of the corruption and inefficiency that has become endemic in the campus. But a closed mindset where students’ politics is scoffed at is also a contributing factor. This work in favour of those who want to keep the students’ power suppressed. We will try to make the University more open so that the true strength of the student community can be unleashed. By doing this we hope to create a progressive challenge for the future as well.

Q6.      What has been your relationship been with non-campus groups like TUR?

Ans.    I have been associated with TUR since 2013. It was Avner Pariat who introduced me to it. The discussions on culture, ideas and left politics was an important part of TUR’s gatherings and it helped me a lot in opening my mind to the possibilities that exist for emancipation of the masses. It also brought me in contact with people like Angela Rangad, Tarun Bhartiya, Pastor Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh, Roney Lyndem, Shanlang Kharbuli, and Agnes Kharshiing and others personalities who have been lifelong activists in the fight against injustice and oppression. Being associated with their various campaigns helped to get to the core of the various issues and brought clarity to my own understanding. TUR has been a source of constant support to me even when others were turning against me. I owe TUR a huge gratitude.

Q7.      What is the future of Left Politics in Meghalaya?

Ans.    Politics in Meghalaya is not organized along ideological lines. Here it is all about money and power and less about ideology. People don’t know the difference between polity and policy and government and state. Political education is still lacking among the people in Meghalaya. Because of this people are bound to follow the rules and programmes that have been laid down by the system. This system is only interested in perpetuating its existence by exploiting the common people. If we truly want to establish a welfare state which will take care of all sections of the people and suppress the interest of private concerns, those of us in the Left have a very steep climb ahead of us in the State. We need to encourage political education and should try to reach people throughout the State.

Q8.      Finally Napoleon thank you for the interview and all the best for the future.

Ans.    Thank you to you as well. Have a nice day.

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