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JNUSU Elections | Social Justice Reigns Supreme as Left Sweeps All 4 Posts

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

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As the spring season heralds the splendid blossoming of Bougainvillea flowers across the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) campus, the university retained its distinct laal identity in the recently concluded elections for the students' union.

Following last night's announcement of the JNUSU election results, the whole campus echoed with laal hai, poora campus laal hai. JNU's political landscape again witnessed a resounding victory for the Left.

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

An image from election night at JNU.

(Photo: Arbab Ali/The Quint)

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

An image from election night at JNU.

(Photo: Arbab Ali/The Quint)

The last time the student elections were held was in 2019. This year, the Delhi High Court appointed Justice Ramasubramanian (retired) to oversee the process.

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Some Context

As per the JNU student constitution, there are four seats for the Central Panel, i.e., the president, vice president, general Secretary, and joint secretary. Alongside it, the school-level councillors' body elections were conducted.

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

An image from election night at JNU.

(Photo: Arbab Ali/The Quint)

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

An image from election night at JNU.

(Photo: Arbab Ali/The Quint)

Left-wing organisations were contesting the elections unitedly, their candidates consisting of Dhananjay from the All India Students Association vying for the presidential position, Avijit Ghosh from the Students' Federation of India for vice president, Swati Singh from the Democratic Students' Federation for general secretary, and Mohammad Sajid from the All India Students' Federation for joint secretary.

Before 2015, left-wing organisations predominantly contested elections independently, but of late, they have forged a united front to thwart right-wing forces.

Among the other notable student organisations on campus is the National Students' Union of India.

18 candidates from various student outfits contested for the central panel positions. Dramatically, the Left alliance encountered a significant setback mere hours before the election.

Swati Singh, the general secretary nominee for the Left, was disqualified at the eleventh hour. In response, the Left extended their support to the BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association) nominee, Priyanshi Arya, who ultimately secured victory with the backing of the Left's votes.

This marked a significant milestone for BAPSA as it was the first time one of its candidates had won a position on the Central Panel since its formation in 2014.

Initially, Singh had started an indefinite hunger sit-in in front of the SIS-1 building, demanding her re-nomination. After 36 hours of the strike, she called off her protest upon the student community's request.

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry.

Swati Singh's hunger strike. 

(Photo: Author)

However, her organisation, the DSF, asserted that the action taken against her was arbitrary, constituting a breach of the election code of conduct.

Nevertheless, what is it about JNU's culture that makes the Left an undefeatable political force?

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The Debate Tradition in the JNU Polls

Before any election in JNU, the contesting candidates from various student outfits and the independents have an open debate, allowing students to assert their views in a free and open environment. Debates take place in the respective schools at the councillor level.

A day before the election, the General Body Meeting of the JNU Central Panel is held, in which the candidates participate, give speeches, and answer questions asked by students. This is followed by a presidential debate at night.

This venerable tradition is held a day before the election. It embodies the essence of informed discourse and participatory democracy. The scope of speeches extends far beyond the confines of the campus, with national and international issues finding resonance.

After each speech, the floor invites written questions from students to that particular candidate.

It is said that the iconic victory of Kanhaiya Kumar in 2015 stands as a testament to this phenomenon, where his stirring presidential speech propelled him to success. Jhelum Lawn, the hallowed ground where this intellectual clash unfolds, becomes a crucible of ideas, where candidates unfurl their manifestos.

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The Diverse Cultural and Lingual Landscape of JNU

JNU stands as a beacon of India's diverse cultural tapestry. The echoes of myriad languages reverberate through its corridors. The campus serves as a microcosm of the nation, drawing students from the northern Himalayan heights to the southern coastal shores, from the eastern Gangetic plains to the western deserts.

Here, one finds a kaleidoscope of identities, each contributing to India's vibrant mosaic.

Professor Ayesha Kidwai conducted a linguistic survey with research students of the Center for Linguistics, JNU, in 2017. Their findings revealed that a total of 179 languages were spoken as mother tongues within JNU.

In contrast to the narrow, homogenous confines of right-wing politics, which often seek to marginalise diverse identities under the guise of a monolithic national culture, JNU guards the beauty of plurality.

It is no wonder that the university is called a "mini India" among other campuses. In this vibrant ecosystem, the Left's ideology champions social justice and equality, embracing our nation's cultural diversity, rather than seeking to impose a singular narrative.

One pivotal example of JNU being a bastion of advocacy for social justice was in 2006 when it advocated for the central government's ratification of OBC (Other Backward Classes) reservations in educational institutions. The prolonged protests by students against fee hikes in 2019 served as a wake-up call nationwide.
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JNU is often ahead of the curve in addressing issues that later gain prominence in societal discourse. The campus has witnessed deliberations surrounding the extension of the Dalit category to encompass Muslim Dalits from as early as 2004.

To understand JNU's ethos, one need only read the banners adorning its walls. These walls serve as a canvas for the voices of change.

The anti-JNU media campaign in 2016 brought a negative spotlight on it for people across the nation. The attack on students and teachers within the campus premises in January 2020 reaffirmed the existence of forces keen on suppressing democratic forces that prefer discourse over coercion.

As students immerse themselves in the JNU experience, they begin to discern the smear campaigns against it for what they truly are — manifestations of hatred and misinformation.

(Mohd Arshid Chauhan is a Research Scholar at JNU. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  JNU   JNUSU Elections 

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