Odisha man from Kalahandi to contest JNU’s presidential election

Bhubaneswar:  Jitendra Suna (29), who once upon a time worked as a helper in a Gas firm, is going to contest polls at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Suna is a presidential candidate in the election of the top Univ of India on September 6.

In 2009, Jitendra Suna (29) worked as a helper with Indraprastha Gas Ltd (IGL) in the capital, fitting gas pipelines, fixing stoves and digging roads in case of pipe bursts.

Ten years later, the Dalit PhD student from the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), is contesting for the post of president in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) polls.

Born in Pourkela village in the backward Kalahandi district of Odisha, Suna was introduced to physical labour quite early in life. His mother was a vegetable seller. His father worked as an agricultural labourer and tilled the one-acre land given to the family during the Land Reforms Act of 1960. The piece of land is now under a mortgage. Suna has six siblings.

Suna said, “My mother died when I was in class VIII. I started sowing others’ paddy fields, for which I would get around Rs 30-40 per day. As part of MGNREGA, I also dug roads and ponds, for which I would get Rs 100-150 per day.”

Suna started attending school and simultaneously continued to work as a labourer. He moved to Delhi to earn money to finish building their house. His brother worked at IGL, so he followed him.

As a helper in the Gas firm Suna earned Rs 3,500 per month which was not enough to sustain him in the city. Hence he decided to go back and complete his graduation.

Also read: Youth Stones Father To Death In Odisha’s Gajapati

After graduation once a friend told him about an institute in Nagpur which was offering free UPSC coaching.

“When I reached Nagpur, I realised it was a 10-month course in Ambedkarism and Buddhism. It was there that I developed an understanding of caste and untouchability… and so I decided to study history and write our (Dalit) history,” said Suna.

At the institute, Suna met students from HCU and JNU and decided to take the JNU MA entrance exam. He enrolled at the university in 2013 and went on to do an MA in History and MPhil from the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy.

Suna is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student in the same centre and is writing his Ph.D. on ‘History of Identities & Exclusion; Ambedkar and the Marginalised’.

On his agenda as a presidential candidate, he is to address the dropout rates in JNU and make sure students get their fellowships.

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