The rationale of the Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations on students’ elections was to ensure regular polls on the campuses, free of money and muscle power. Two years ago, the Supreme Court (SC) passed an order making the committee’s recommendations mandatory for all campuses. But that has not happened. Even where the committee’s recommendations have been implemented, they have failed to ensure elections minus money and muscle power. It has also failed to pull up erring university administrations that have failed to hold elections. Instead, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) constitution, which has a successful record of conducting elections free of money and muscle power for 37 years, has been accused to ‘violating’ the committee’s recommendations.
An overwhelming number of colleges and universities, including some central universities, don’t hold regular elections, in spite of the committee’s recommendations. Even Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has admitted that only eight out of 24 central universities held elections last year. Yet, suo motu notices were neither issued to those universities by the SC, nor any action taken against them. However, a suo motu notice was issued to JNUSU and elections were stayed in the university, even though the committee held that JNU’s election model was exemplary.
The elections in JNU were seen to be ‘violating’ the committee’s recommendations regarding ‘repeat of candidates,’ ‘age barrier’ and the like. These are minor details, even the Lyngdoh report does not hold these to be paramount. The JNUSU election follows all the norms prescribed by the Lyngdoh Committee.
The JNUSU constitution was framed and implemented by students and the union is accountable to the students. Other campuses should be encouraged to emulate the JNU election model. If the JNUSU constitution is seen to be violating the Supreme Court order even as campus democracy continues to be denied in most universities, students will be forced to conclude that the Lyngdoh Committee’s orders are being used by the authorities to crack down on student movements as exemplified by the JNUSU.
Kavita Krishnan is a former Joint-Secretary of JNUSU