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JGU’s Democracy and its Discontents

Kriti Soneja and Tanisha Jain

“Every decision taken by the administration that affects the student body directly is taken in negotiation with the student councils,” observes Jhanvi Khanna, a second-year journalism student. Student councils are democratically elected bodies that represent students to the administration. Each of JGU’s nine schools has one.

These councils are often productive. “When the administration had floated the idea of a fee increase, the councils had successfully expressed the student body’s opposition to the idea, and in the end the fee was not increased,” Khanna adds.

The councils are also generally inclusive. Madhur Arora, vice president of the JGLS student council, says, “We function very inclusively. We have representation from most communities in the student body. In fact, we have a member in our council who has a gender-fluid identity.”

But every democracy has its discontents.

It is common for students to feel the councils are not able to do enough. There is a dissatisfaction with the councils’ ability to meet all the student body’s demands. But the councils claim that it is not a question of ability, but capacity. “There is pressure on us from the administration. We are bound by rules. We have a limited amount of power, and this is overlooked by students,” defends Anjali Midha, president of the JSIA student council.

The student body’s frustration sometimes leads it to finding other, unofficial means of expression. One such way is on Instagram. Popular Instagram pages like Jindalal and Jindalcohol, which are run anonymously by JGU students, become the alternative representatives. “We campaigned for the cancellation end-term exams last semester. We can advocate more freely because we are not answerable to the university. We are independent,” says the admin of the page Jindalcohol.

These pages tend to be very critical not only of the councils but also of the council’s system itself. They believe it too biased toward the JGLS council in particular. This feeling is shared by non-law students in general. “Other schools don’t have as much of a say. Last semester, other councils barely had any role in the drawing up of the academic policy. As a result, the policy reflected the law school’s interests more,” claims the admin of Jindalal.

“We do not interfere with matters of other schools,” responds Arora, on behalf of the JGLS council. “There may not be an equal influence, but the influence still may be equitable. The large number of JGLS students is a factor that must be considered. So, there is an influence in proportion to that, but there is no hegemony.”

Arora acknowledged the positive role social media plays in representing students, but also expressed caution. The pages, unlike the councils, are after all not democratic. “Anything that gives voice to the student body is welcome, but the anonymity is potentially counterproductive. It can mean a lack of accountability. We must promote accountability among all representatives, even unofficial ones.”

(Edited by Sanchit Pradhan and Isha Chincholkar)