On August 22, the Senate passed a resolution to revive students unions in educational institutions. For long, the idea of student unions has revolved around their association with political parties.
History shows that unions such as the National Students Federation (NSF) always allied themselves with influential parties, and they also saw divisions over the decades. The idea of a ‘leftist’ movement has, in recent times, become increasingly apolitical, even though it is still deeply associated with politics.
The Democratic Students Alliance (DSA), for instance, was founded three years ago by a group of young students hoping to make an impact in society. A key event that gave the Alliance a push-start was the cancellation of ‘Unsilencing Balochistan,’ at which Mama Qadeer was to speak at LUMS.
“It made us realise that our actions, however insignificant, were not being done in isolation. They were, in fact, connected to the society at large,” said Ramis Sohail, one of the founding (now former) members of the DSA, talking to TNS.
“When Sabeen Mehmud was shot dead we understood that we were a very small target for our enemies and could easily be wiped out. That called the need for us to organise.”
Their political philosophy revolves strongly around socialism, with their inspiration coming from icons like Che Geuvara and Malcolm X. The DSA operates in chapters, with many supporters across campuses of LUMS, UET, Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Punjab University, Forman Christian College, etc. They hold events and seminars that aren’t restricted to a particular institution or area. ‘Burger Bachay, Mailay Loug Aur Pindi Boys’ was an Open Mic event that they held recently to discuss countering stereotypes and recognising their privilege in order to be better able to understand the people around them, especially the ones they worked with in the Alliance.
Their philosophy also focuses on tackling issues at the grassroots level, with education being one of their main weapons of countering extremism. For instance, they set up Sangat Summer School in Joseph Colony to educate children about ethics, philosophy, human rights, and politics.
Normally, the NGOs who work with schools impart science and skill-based education, but the DSA aims to help people improve their living conditions by becoming more socially aware. Joseph Colony was the area in which 300 Christian houses had been set on fire two years earlier, and the people were still struggling to establish stability in their community.
Zainab Ashraf, a volunteer at the Sangat School, says that their main agenda is to help the community organise itself to improve its circumstances through realising the power within their unity.
For the Democratic Students Alliance, leftism is more about being non-conformist and making an impact on a grassroots level than putting an opposition against other student union groups in the universities. They work with other alliances and unions for projects as well and feel strongly about putting up organised resistance to the wrongs being committed in the society at large.
The Alliance’s internal framework is based on the concept of equality; students from all universities and age groups are welcome. Once the persons complete their education, they must leave the Alliance. In this way, the DSA works as a non-heirarchical organisation where no members are considered to be more important than their counterparts.
This is also an effective tool in combating any disunity amongst the Alliance as well as being helpful in avoiding targeted opposition towards specific students by the police or any other institution.
Their recruitment process is purely volunteer-based and the members bear no affiliation with any particular mainstream political party.
Lastly, it may also be said that organisations like the DSA provide a counter ideology to the next generation of radicalised militants that are being bred in many universities, through their acts of peaceful resistance.
To quote Auwn, another member of the Alliance, “The DSA has not restricted itself to campus activism. We have come out in the streets and protested against every injustice. We want to empower our people through the simple weapon of narrative.”