First Dalit president in 27 years and first-ever BAPSA nominee in JNUSU

The newly elected students’ panel has two Dalit members — Left’s Dhananjay, who was elected the president, and BAPSA’s Priyanshi Arya, who won general secretary post; students’ body hopes to address infrastructural issues, reinstate GSCASH

March 27, 2024 01:08 am | Updated 07:26 am IST - NEW DELHI:

(From left to right) JNUSU president Dhananjay, vice-president Avjit Ghosh, general secretary Priyanshi Arya and joint secretary Mohammed Sajid. Photo: Special Arrangement

(From left to right) JNUSU president Dhananjay, vice-president Avjit Ghosh, general secretary Priyanshi Arya and joint secretary Mohammed Sajid. Photo: Special Arrangement

A day after Holi, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus was soaked in hues of red and blue as flags of winning student outfits fluttered on the campus. United Left Panel candidate Dhananjay was declared the winner of the president’s post in the student body poll results that were announced on Sunday. He is the first Dalit candidate to hold the post in 27 years.

Another Dalit candidate, Priyanshi Arya, from the Ambedkarite organisation Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), was elected the general secretary. Ms. Arya’s victory marks the first time that BAPSA, founded 10 years ago, has made an entry into the central panel. The RSS-affiliated ABVP trailed on all four students’ body posts.

“After a decade, BAPSA finally made it into JNUSU central panel. JNUSU isn’t red, now blue is in it,” read an X post by the Ambedkarite outfit.

Ms. Arya, a Dalit woman from Uttarakhand’s Haldwani district, said she hopes to fight for the reduction of weightage in the viva-voce, “where Bahujan students are discriminated against.”

“I also want to address the high dropout rates among students from the SC and ST communities,” Ms. Arya said. Also on her agenda are the construction of gender-neutral washrooms and the use of the pronouns they/them in official documents.

Pramod Sagar, president of BAPSA’s JNU unit, said the party has a presence across universities in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Uttarakhand. “Many parties field Dalit candidates now. However, the discourse was started by BAPSA, which pledged to question Brahmanical structures on campuses,” he said. Meanwhile, the United Left Panel stated that it had fielded candidates across sections with inclusivity on campus being the end goal.

Charter of demands

Speaking about the plans of the newly elected union, Mr. Dhananjay, a PhD scholar from Bihar’s Gaya, said, “We will organise a GBM [general body meeting] across schools and then prepare a charter of demands based on the students’ suggestions.”

Other JNUSU members said the union will tackle sexual harassment, accessibility, and infrastructural issues . The students’ union will also seek to re-establish the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH). The panel also intends to tackle gender-based discrimination and homophobia on the campus.

‘Started with 300 votes’

BAPSA’s history on campus can be traced back to 2014. Rahul Sonpimple, former BAPSA leader, said, “The basic idea was that upper-caste people lead the parties both on the Right and the Left. In 2015, when we first contested the polls, BAPSA got 300 votes. It was a decent beginning .” He said other parties have, over the years, fielded more candidates from marginalised sections as talking about caste has now become a necessity.

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