In a gravely shocking move, the JNU Executive Council Meeting held on 18 September 2017 has imposed a decision to dissolve the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and replace it with an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ (ICC). This ICC does not meet the standards of autonomy and gender sensitivity required by the Vishakha Guidelines or the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The Internal Complaints Committee is now headed by the someone who was the Chief Proctor till this appointment. As a result, the institutional mechanism for dealing with sexual harassment complaints in JNU has been integrated with the command structure of the University Administration. Thus the body for gender sensitization and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment is no longer autonomous and free from administrative pressure. Further, the Administration has shamelessly rushed yesterday to seal the GSCASH office and take control of its files – which have sensitive and confidential material relating to ongoing enquiries as well as past enquiries.
VC Appointed Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) – A Brazen Display of Sanghi Loyalty and Mockery of the Institution Designated to Ensure Gender Justice
• In a brazen display of his political affiliations, the VC has handpicked a person from the NGO Sampurna, as the NGO representative for the ICC. This NGO is run by the wife of the Delhi BJP MLA Vijendra Gupta. Such shameless exhibition of political appointments in a justice dispensing body is unheard of in any institution and is completely unacceptable.
• Not just this, the same NGO stands indicted in a 2013 Delhi Lokayukta report. BJP leader Vijendra Gupta, as MCD Councillor, recommended government funding to this NGO without divulging that it was run by his wife.
• In a city like Delhi, where several autonomous women’s groups with undisputed credibility have spearheaded numerous campaigns and initiatives on gender justice, it really comes as no surprise as to why our VC, a wholehearted Sangh loyalist, could find no other group other than the one headed by the wife of a BJP leader and which also has the ‘distinction’ of having been questioned by the Delhi Lokayukta!
• The Chairperson of the ICC is Prof. Tandon, who was the Chief Proctor till she was hastily inducted into the ICC. As the Chief Proctor, she certainly did not inspire any confidence about autonomy and fairness in enquiry and justice. To begin with, she was brought in to execute the VC’s partisan agenda in the HLEC Appeals Committee. Then she was made the Chief Proctor as a desperate face saving exercise after successive resignations of as many as two chief proctors within a year of this VC’s tenure. While the first case of resignation came after VC’s partisan handling of post 9 Feb incident of 2016, the second resignation of Prof. Dimri came after VC’s brazen shielding of the assaulters of Najeeb, trampling upon the Proctor’s report.
• Prof. Tandon, unlike her predecessors who refused to be rubber stamps of the VC, has proved her unstinted loyalty to the VC’s political agenda by unleashing a spate of partisan enquiries and punishments on student activists and JNUSU leaders. Most importantly, she has no established record of concern or experience or expertise in matters of related to gender-based violence and discrimination. So the purpose of nominating her is all too obvious.
Assault on GSCASH
For the past two years, the ABVP-RSS-BJP combine has been engaged in a single-minded agenda: to finish each and every democratic institution and decision–making process in JNU, from deprivation points, to reservations and inclusive admission policies. JNU is indeed a major thorn in their skin – with its constant questioning of status quo, its anti-caste, anti-elite, anti-patriarchy discourse. For some time now, the GSCASH has been on their radar. Let us remember that just before the recently held JNUSU elections, a series of scurrilous pamphlets and posters were doing the rounds, suggesting that the GSCASH is an illegal, draconian khap-like institution. And now, as if on cue, following up on the ‘unofficial’ campaign of slander, the JNU administration has stepped in to officially finish off the GSCASH.
What is the ‘excuse’ of the JNU administration? A 2015 UGC notification, stating that existing GSCASH bodies constituted in keeping with the 1997 Vishakha Guidelines must be “reconstituted as ICCs” in line with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (SHW 2013). Let us get the facts clear. GSCASH and the larger JNU community has been well aware of this notifications and its various ramifications. GSCASH has deliberated long and hard, and come up with carefully thought out, legally tenable ways to maintain GSCASH’s sanctity and autonomy, while also sticking to the UGC guidelines. Following these deliberations, the JNU Executive Council ratified a new set of GSCASH Rules and Procedures on 6 October 2015. There was thus absolutely NO NEED for further deliberations. Further, Rule 10 of GSCASH rules and procedures which states that any amendments are to be discussed and passed by the GSCASH itself. The unilateral move by the JNU administration to replace GSCASH, imposed through the EC on 18 Sep, is therefore an overreach.
However, the JNU administration and the ABVP-RSS-BJP clearly have an agenda. Thus, in August 2017, the JNU administration undermined its own EC ratification and unnecessarily set up the Garkoti Committee. Right from the beginning, this committee made its intentions clear. The nine-member Garkoti Committee had only three women. Only one of its members – former GSCASH Chairperson Dr. K.B. Usha – was experienced in the field of gender. Now that the committee has finished its deliberations, various aspects of its functioning are coming out in the open. Apparently (as per Dr. K.B. Usha), one of its members was not even aware of the meaning and concept of ‘patriarchy’! Such was the composition of the Garkoti committee.
Moreover, this committee had clearly decided its agenda, and went to all extremes to disallow any dissent. Since former GSCASH chairperson Dr. K.B. Usha brought her ideas and consistent criticism to the deliberations, she was forced to resign because the committee refused to acknowledge or record her dissent. Her name has even been removed from the list of members and from the account of deliberations within the committee.
Let us understand this loud and clear: the functioning of the Garkoti committee is an indication of how the administration-appointed ICC will function. Members will not be required to have any idea/concern/expertise in matters of gender. Most of them will not be elected and therefore will not be accountable to the University community. No dissent will be tolerated, and the minority dissent will be forced to resign from committees and enquires, and erased from the records! Today, the UGC notification is being used as an excuse to finish off the GSCASH. The fact is that the across the country, JNU’s GSCASH has been acknowledged as one of the better models available for committees addressing sexual harassment – what with its elected and accountable membership, its strict rules and regulations, its clear grounding in a solid understanding of patriarchy, violence and harassment and their close connection with patriarchal and institutional power. JNU’s GSCASH has conducted enquiries against and indicted students, teachers and karamcharis. It has fought against institutional and structural hierarchies. JNU’s model in fact is widely recognised as having several ‘best practices’ embedded within it. The UGC’s own SAKSHAM report mention s this. Also, JNU’s GSCASH model goes way beyond the minimum mentioned by the UGC notification. It is this model which JNU VC has decided to finish off, jeopardising the relative safety that women feel in a campus like JNU. Let us understand the agenda at work, and its implications. Once again, it is high time the JNU community rise up in unity and in rage against this blatant assault on one of our most-cherished institutions.
JNUSU condemns JNU administration’s action against Prof. Nivedita Menon
In a shocking and highly condemnable move, JNU’s Executive Council has removed Prof. Nivedita Menon from Chairpersonship of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory. She has not even been informed about this in writing, and the JNU community has come to know of this shocking move through newspaper articles.
This move has been announced as a ‘disciplinary action’ for her ‘crime’ of alleged ‘misbehaviour’ and ‘insults’ to male members of a Selection Committee meeting. This move smacks of political vendetta, and wilful political victimisation. Prof. Menon is much respected for her insistence on proper procedure, impartiality and integrity in faculty selection committees. She, in exercise of her legitimate right as a member of the selection committee, disagreed in writing with the regulations dictated by a JNU-administration appointed selection committee. In retaliation, her Chairpersonship has been snatched away without even allowing her to defend herself. Her removal is a clear violation of the basic principles of natural justice.
JNUSU knows all too well why all this is being done. It is being done to send the clear and chilling message that any defiance to the administration will be met with severe punishment. No dissent to the Sanghi agenda of destroying JNU will be tolerated.
JNUSU stands by Prof. Menon, and calls upon the JNU community to rise against each and every move to scuttle democratic voices and spaces in JNU.
Geeta, President, JNUSU Simone, VP, JNUSU Duggirala, Gen.Secy, JNUSU Shubhanshu, Jt.Secy, JNUSU