Jawaharlal Nehru University was on the boil Saturday after counting of votes for the students’ union elections remained stalled for over 14 hours, with frequent clashes between student groups. It resumed around 6.30 pm, after having been suspended around 4 am Saturday.
“The EC (Election Committee) had recommended two names of faculty observers from day one. We have given them the responsibility to observe the counting from start to end in the problematic polling booth. Right now, nobody has asked for recounting,” said Umesh Kadam who heads the GRC.
Leaders of the ABVP had stormed the counting centre around 3 am Saturday and allegedly tried to snatch ballot papers, and “intimidated” the EC, accusing them of starting counting without the presence of their polling agent. They remained inside the building until 5.30 pm.
“The counting process, which had began yesterday (September 14) at 10 pm has been suspended due to forcibly entering into the counting venue and attempt to snatch away sealed ballot boxes as well as ballot papers from our counting centres. This was in addition to intimidation and violence on our EC, including on our female members led by a Presidential and a Joint Secretary candidate,” EC chairperson Himanshu Kulshrestha said in the morning. Around 6.10 pm, the EC made an announcement over the loudspeaker that counting would “resume in 20 minutes”.
Shubhanshu Singh from the Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) who was in the counting room when the ABVP barged in said, “They hit the door thrice with chairs to break it, because of which the glass shattered. Once they entered, they tried to snatch the ballot papers and became violent towards EC members.”
Former JNUSU joint secretary Saurabh Sharma from the ABVP, who was among those who went into the School of International Studies where counting was taking place, said EC had indulged in “gross violation of JNUSU constitution”. “Rule 5(b) of part 3 in Appendix 1 of JNUSU constitution says that no votes can be counted unless the counting agents of all the candidates are present at the counting hall. The rule provides that each ballot paper must be shown to the counting agents of all the candidates. EC members broke the seal of ballot box of School of Sciences in absence of the counting agents of the candidates,” he said.
The ABVP JNU unit president also said the EC was involved in “rigging election in favour of Left organisations”. In a joint statement, 12 organisations — all besides the ABVP — said, “It must be noted that the same rule was applied to counting agents for post of Councillors from the United Left for the School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies, who could not be present on time. The EC’s decision was accepted by the candidates and agents.”
“ABVP members entered the SIS-I building, broke glasses of doors and barged into rooms where counting was taking place. They laid siege to the rooms and prevented anybody from entering or leaving. The ABVP’s acts constitute a serious violation of the election process. The ABVP by indulging in violence has not only disrupted the counting process, but also sought to undermine the sanctity of the student EC whose decision is abided by all organisations,” they said.