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JNU gender panel elections delayed due to sedition row

The controversy over a sedition case against some JNU students which triggered a nationalism debate across the country not only affected the academic functioning of the university but has also delayed the election process at the politically active institution.

JNU gender panel elections delayed due to sedition row
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JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar who was arrested in the sedition case

New Delhi

JNU has Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), a body which deals with complaints of sexual persecution. It consists of two student-elected representatives, faculty members, office staff and representatives from the JNU Students' Union, JNU Officers' Association and JNU Staff Association.

The election of the students' representatives which is conducted in April every year will now be delayed by over five months in the wake of the recent turbulence on the campus.

"The GSCASH elections are held in April every year and the process begins by February end. However, this time, due to the arrest of three students in a sedition case and the controversies that followed after that, the polls could not be held," JNU students union Vice President Shehla Rashid Shora said.

"Exams are beginning next week which will be followed by summer break on campus so the GSCASH elections will have to be clubbed with the student union polls slated to be held in September," she added.

The GSCASH polls used to coincide with the JNUSU polls earlier. However, in order to maintain the sanctity of the gender panel as a non-political body, it was decided three years ago to have the two polls separately.

Although the election is not contested on the basis of organisations or a candidate's political ideology, unlike the JNU Students' Union elections, most of the candidates are supported by organisations within the campus.

GSCASH, which works as an autonomous body, was constituted in 1999. It has three major functions: 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 university authorities claimed that 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'.

Though the election to the body has been delayed, the university is in the process of reviewing the sexual harassment policy barely few months after it had amended it.

JNU was caught in a row over an event on campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. Three students- Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU Students Union president, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested in a sedition case following the event, triggering protests and boycott of classes. They are out on bail now.

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