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JNU gender panel polls delayed for 9 months amid student-admin tussle

The protracted tussle between the JNU administration and students over a host of issues has not only caused turbulence on the campus but also delayed the election process at the politically active institution for more than nine months.

The election to the post of student representatives of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), which deals with complaints of sexual harassment in the university, are conducted in April every year. The polls could not be held last time as the sedition row sparked a series of controversies on the campus.

GSCASH comprises two student-elected representatives, faculty members, office staff and representatives from the JNU Students’ Union, JNU Officers’ Association and JNU Staff Association. “The university administration and students have been engaging in a tussle following the February 9 incident. Now the authorities have even equated protests to crime… We have not been able to conduct the election to such a crucial body,” JNU Students Union (JNUSU) President Mohit Pandey said. “We will propose holding of elections once classes resume after the winter break,” he said.

Earlier, the election to GSCASH would coincide with the JNUSU polls. However, to maintain the sanctity of the gender panel as a non-political body, it was decided three years ago to hold the two polls separately. Though the election is not contested on the basis of organisation’s or a candidate’s political ideology, most of the candidates are supported by organisations within the campus.

GSCASH, which works as an autonomous body, was constituted in 1999. Its three major functions are gender sensitisation and orientation, crisis management and mediation, and formal enquiry and redressal. The panel has a crucial role to play as the university received maximum number of sexual harassment complaints by any educational institution in Delhi in the last two years.

While the JNU authorities claimed the high figures were due to the university offering a proper platform encouraging complainants to come forward, a group of varsity teachers had questioned the working of GSCASH, alleging that its “processes are perverted”.

Some of the issues which have kept students and the JNU administration at loggerheads in recent months include the row over the February 9 event last year in which anti-India slogans were allegedly raised, blocking of degrees of a few students for allegedly violating discipline norms, banning protests at varsity’s administration block and suspension of students for allegedly disrupting a council meeting.