New Delhi: The need for revival of the Left, equity for the marginalised and tribals, and justice for victims of the Gujarat riots were just some of the subjects that JNU’s presidential candidates debated their heart out at the last major leg of the campaign.
But the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations that have been at the centre of discourse in the varsity since 2008, was an issue that evoked high sentiment at the presidential debate.
As the 10 candidates for the most prestigious post of Jawaharlal Nehru University student’s union spoke to their electorate last night, some of them spoke bitterly against the elections being held under partially relaxed norms of the Lyngdoh recommendations.
“You are finished,” said Baljit Singh blatantly to the boisterous crowd of students, pointing out that accepting the “neo-liberal agenda” of the Lyngdoh Committee at the campus was a “surrender” the University student community will always pay for.
“You look quite happy with the resumption of elections, I am not. Just go home and read the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations and you will know how your autonomy has been taken for once and for all,” the independent candidate said.
He blamed the leaders of the student campaign for surrendering the four-year struggle against the norms and ridiculed them for promising to fight after the election.
“How on earth will you fight a structure that you yourself have invited to the campus, when you yourself become a part of it,” he said to both loud cheers and boos. “I don’t need votes. My intention is not to win this election, but to bring this point of view across to you.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court had stayed the student elections in JNU citing violations of Lyngdoh Committee norms.
After four years of protests, marches at India Gate and rounds of courts, the Supreme Court last December allowed the elections with some relaxations in the norms.
While there is a general jubilation at the fact that the democratic process has been restored, a section of students believe there should not have been any acceptance of the recommendations in JNU.
“The student unions are the strongest voices against privatisation and hence they are being targeted with tools like Lyngdoh Committee that make the varsity administration a part of the election process. This is a direct attack on our democratic space,” another independent candidate Javed Iqbal Wani said.
“And when all political discourse in this election should have been against the Lyngdoh recommendations, what we are witnessing is that the Leftist bodies are attacking each other,” he said, expressing disgust at the fact that Leftist groups who had been given the mandate by students to fight their struggle had “failed” them.
In 2008 when the election process was stayed, the existing student union dominated by the ultra-Left All India Students Association (AISA) was given an extended mandate by the University General Body Meeting to represent them in the struggle.
Zico Dasgupta, the presidential candidate of Students Federation of India (SFI), whose representatives played a frontal role in the negotiations with the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae in the case, admitted the reinstatement of elections was but a “partial victory”.
“A systematic attack is being launched against unionism, be it in JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia or Aligarh Muslim University. And at a time when everyone had given up the fight for our elections, it was our organisation that was at the forefront of the struggle,” he said.
JNU students vote tomorrow in what will be their first election in four years.
The election process at JNU is unique as it a process conducted entirely by students themselves, who first elect an election committee within themselves and entrust it the task of holding a fair election.
This year, in line with the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, a Grievance Redressal Committee has been set up which also has members from the University administration.
All parties from the major Leftist players like AISA, SFI, AISF, to mainstream national players like NSUI and ABVP have fielded their candidates. So has Youth For Equality too.
The election will be held for four office bearers — President, Vice-President, General Secretary and Joint Secretary — and councillors for different schools of studies.
A total of 123 candidates are in the fray.