- The Edict
Student Politics: Latest Updates
Standing at the ballot box, every student deserves to be armed with the information they need to critically evaluate the candidates and parties. At the Edict, we have created a newsdesk dedicated to reporting about student politics. In the words of our masthead, “it is our leash with which we aim to keep the beautiful beast that is the nascent Ashokan democracy in check.” This page is your one-stop-shop to keep up with the latest developments.
LATEST: A two-part Edict publication on unionisation, one op-ed by Aayra Angrish opposing it and one op-ed by Biplob Das Kumar favoring it.
Editor’s Note: The Edict recognizes that the campaigning period is officially over. Both the drafts were written separately — either author did not see what the other wrote — were submitted for editing before 9th February EOD, and we have decided to publish them right now because we want the students to evaluate the merits and demerits of unionisation for themselves. Neither piece is intended to solicit votes for any candidate for the 7th HoR, and they are published in no particular order.
Here’s what you need to know:
10 Feb: A rundown of all that the candidates said at InFocus debates organised by AUEC and the Edict
Opinion: Meditations on Inclusivity and Other Stuff Dhamma Said by Diya Isha and Nishka Mishra, UG22
Opinion: A Love Letter to Ashokan Student Politics by Akila Ranganathan, ASP21
4 Feb: Independent fundraising by the student and admin provided financial assistance to at least 94 contractual workers
Opinion: Tarz founders write an open letter responding to ex-CEO’s op-ed suggesting ban on former Commissioners joining SG
20 Jan: The Edict analysed SG’s monthly reports and meeting records before the Accountability Debate
18 Jan: In violation of SG Constitution, ballot measures provision to be skipped this election
Opinion: Unprecedented online election brings with it news challenges to inclusion, nuance, and engagement
11 Jan: The Edict analysed every email and social media post by Prakrit, Dhamma and Tarz before campaigning officially began on 11 Jan
28 Dec: Two former Election Commissioners launch newest political party, Tarz
10 Feb | A rundown of all that the candidates said at InFocus debates organised by AUEC and the Edict
The Ashoka University Election Commission and the Edict continued from last year their collaboration to organise InFocus, which follows the format of a moderated discussion on themes that are voted upon by the students. InFocus 1.0 was the first event in the campaign where the student body heard the different points of view of the candidates on a single platform. This first instalment took place on 28th January, on the theme of Academic Adjustments, and it was moderated by the Edict’s Co-Editor-in-Chief, Aritro Sarkar. InFocus 2.0 was held on 31st January, moderated by Managing Editor, Sanya Chandra, on the theme of Student-Admin Relations. This second instalment was supposed to be co-moderated by Ananya Gupta, also from The Edict, but she had to step down due to a request from the AUEC.
Here is a rundown of both the events: ‘InFocus’ in focus: What The Candidates Said by Pratul Chaturvedi and Arundhari Srinath
4 Feb | Independent fundraising by the student and admin provided financial assistance to at least 94 contractual workers
The SG’s July 30 email that exposed the dire circumstances of the housekeeping staff simultaneously invited funds to provide financial relief to such workers. “The minimum goal is to raise at least enough funds to be able to transfer Rs.10,000 to each worker who was laid off. As per our estimates, the amount comes up to Rs. 10,00,000,” the SG stated. Calling this as the “bare minimum amount,” Paytm and bank transfer details were mentioned in the email for receiving money.
These developments occurred in light of VC Sarkar’s August 3 email about a Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) planned to be introduced by the WWC. To this, Das said, “The Milaap fund and WWF function independently. We decided to create Milaap fund because the concerns [of the workers] were too urgent.” Although VC Sarkar had hinted about WWF to the SG earlier as well, the SG “kept waiting only” for that to happen. The WWF was introduced on August 8, eight days after the SG first started its collection of funds.
The SG provided Rs. 12,000 to twenty-six workers, instead of the initial projection of one-hundred workers receiving Rs. 10,000 each. The administration’s WWF has also provided financial assistance to at least sixty-eight workers, as per an email from VC Sarkar dated 11th December. In effect, the two platforms, while working independently, acted as alternative routes to provide financial assistance to as many as 94 workers.
Read the full news article by Dipanita Malik here: How the students and administration financially assisted contractual workers, explained. Also, read the article by Riddhi Verma explaining how the SG negotiated the reversal of coerced resignation of workers.
Opinion: Tarz founders write an open letter responding to ex-CEO’s op-ed
We are tremendously grateful for our time in the AUEC and forming Tarz does not take away from what we believe was an impartial and meaningful term. As individual students whose term as Election Commissioners had ended on 21st November, we felt that we had the right to represent the beliefs we hold, and an added responsibility to do so since we didn’t find any other political actors representing those beliefs.
As far as precedent is concerned, one can place a tremendous amount of faith in our political community. If students in the same position as ours misuse the information they were privy to or the platform they held, they must be, and shall be held accountable — by the AUEC itself, by their political opponents, by journalistic organisations, and most importantly, by the electorate.
We do not believe opportunities should be restricted for any Ashokans, whether they are joining the AUEC or a political party. Rather, the strength of structures of accountability needs to be maintained. Before we create such prohibitive mechanisms, there needs to be renewed interest in increasing the number of people who care about student politics, diving straight to the heart of the apathy problem.
Read the complete open letter by Amola Mehta and Maanya Saran here: An Open Letter Responding to Ex-CEO’s Op-Ed in The Edict. Read the op-ed by Shashank Mattoo here.
Opinion: “Trust is AUEC’s Greatest Asset”: Ex-CEO Suggests Ban on Former Commissioners Joining SG
During my tenure as Chief Election Commissioner (CEO), the House and AUEC considered the merit of having a “cooling-off” period before a student could move from student politics to the AUEC. When I first heard of Amola Mehta and Maanya Saran’s new party, I found myself slightly bemused that not one of us considered what might happen if an Election Commissioner left the AUEC in order to contest student elections. Yet, in days past, I have realized that our oversight, far from being an act of foolishness, came from a place of trust. It was a testament to the reputation for integrity that the AUEC had built for itself that we focused all our energies on the question of keeping former politicians out without ever considering what might happen if one of us decided to make a go of it in politics.
I do fear what will happen in future election cycles if people look upon the AUEC as just another political actor. So what is to be done to put an end to the whispers and doubts? I believe the HoR and CEO might consider a blanket ban of former members of the AUEC serving in positions of elected office or as ministry members. I’m utterly convinced that their intentions in forming this party are positive to their core. Good and fair intentions alone, however, cannot avert lasting reputational damage. Trust is all about perception and for a body like the AUEC, it is all we have. As a former Election Commissioner told me when I took the job, the AUEC’s best weapon is having no weapon at all. I would like to keep it that way.
Read the full op-ed by former AUEC chief Shashank Matto here.
23 Jan | A non-exhaustive guide on why and how to contest elections for the House of Representatives
Over the last three years at Ashoka, the AUEC has shown an unflinching commitment to improving voter turnout. Under Shashank Mattoo, Ashoka witnessed the debut of online voting, and under Amola Mehta, the voting period was extended over two days. The results speak for themselves — the 6th House was elected with a five-year-high turnout of more than 80%.
At the same time, there is a parallel trend where novelty in the pool of political parties has decreased. The last time first-years formed a new party was in 2017, when a few students who were removed from Dhamma due to alleged irregularities in their inductions decided to start Moksh. And Moksh too is exiting the electoral field. Since then, Ashoka has welcomed two parties, LIBERANDU and Tarz, both founded by students in their third and possibly last year.
The AUEC has put out a video explaining the official procedure to file your nomination. To nominate yourself as a candidate, you need to fill this form by 24th January. If you are running with a party, you must first register your party here. Many students, who joined the SG without any party affiliation, have publicly offered to guide and assist others. Aspiring independent candidates are also encouraged to reach out to them.
For this article, the Edict interviewed some students who had started or helped set up political parties at Ashoka. Here is a non-exhaustive guide on why and how to contest elections for the House of Representatives:
Q. I don’t understand the voting system. What is Swiss PR?
Q. I have heard that Swiss PR is unfair to independents. Is that true?
Q. Is student politics at Ashoka too competitive already?
Q. How to form an ideology that stands out?
Q. Does it help to be a part of a party?
Q. How to internally structure a party?
Q. How to induct members and field candidates?
Q. How to make a manifesto?
Q. How to campaign online?
Read the full article by Deep Vakil here: The Forgotten Civic Right: Why and How to Contest Elections.
20 Jan | The Edict analysed SG’s monthly reports and meeting records before the Accountability Debate
By many yardsticks, the 6th Student Government made history. It gave us our first female President, Priavi Joshi, who went on to appoint the highest number of women in the Cabinet, seven out of nine. It was elected using the new Swiss PR voting system, in the first two-day-long election that saw a five-year high voter turnout, over 80%, with the first woman Chief Election Officer, Amola Mehta, at the AUEC’s helm. It was also the first House to govern-in-exile, so to speak, due to the pandemic, and yet saw the highest recorded number of meetings held and votes cast, all without any resignations.
On the eve of the AUEC Accountability Debate, here is an overview of the 6th SG’s term and here is an analysis of their attendance in the House. The Edict also provided independent fact-checking of the debate in real time.
18 Jan | In violation of SG Constitution, ballot measures provision to be skipped this election
In an exclusive statement shared with The Edict on Sunday, the Ashoka University Election Commission has admitted that it will be unable to implement the provision for ballot measures for the upcoming election cycle. As enshrined in the Constitution, members of the student body have the right to float a petition for a ballot measure during the campaigning period, subject to certain conditions.
Ballot measures are pieces of proposed legislation that voters approve or reject through a referendum. Usually, as in the Ashokan context, voting on ballot measures is held simultaneously with regular elections. A question can qualify for a ballot measure if a petition floated for the same garners a certain threshold of signatures.
This provision immediately came into effect after the elections for the 6th HoR, following which the AUEC under Amola Mehta was expected to propose necessary additions to the Election Code to allow students to exercise their newly granted right. In October last year, after meeting with the House to discuss its initial recommendations, the AUEC sent a revised version to the House for further consideration. It has been revealed to The Edict that the House failed to revert to the AUEC’s revised recommendations, consequently depriving the student body of the required mechanisms to exercise their constitutional right.
Read the full report about this constitutional abridgement by Aggam Walia here.
Opinion: Unprecedented online election brings with it new challenges to inclusion, nuance, and engagement
As the ‘new’ normal casts its shadow upon Ashoka and we move into a second consecutive semester online, we’re faced with newer challenges. The Spring 2021 semester starts with the elections to the 7th House of Representatives. The 6th House, which went through a largely online term, is all set to hand over the reins of power to a newly-elected House on 13th February 2021. The Election Commission, led by Abhay Hari, has already come up with an election timeline and different parties are gearing up for what promises to be a competitive election season. This is the first time in the history of Ashoka University that not just the voting, but the entire campaigning period is going to be online.
The style of campaigning, the issues over which the election will be fought, the voter turnout – all of these pose potential problems. The virtual nature of campaigning indicates that social media platforms such as the Facebook group, Instagram and Whatsapp will be the top forums for party campaigning and voter mobilisation. While online elections were perhaps inevitable, they pose various challenges. These include information access, exclusivity of the purely online election period, the polarised nature of social media debate, and the overall lack of student engagement in a global pandemic.
The doxxing incident regarding the Undergraduates group is also fresh in the minds of many students, and tougher moderation is the need of the hour to maintain the security of the group as well as the participants. Aside from moderation, the candidates should also keep in mind the polarising nature of social media while engaging with each other as well as other students. There should also be a concerted effort to use the medium of campus publications such as the Edict, and AUEC-moderated events that facilitate informed and respectful discussions.
Read the full article by Akanksha Mishra: Cam‘pain’ing In A Pandemic – Challenges of an Online Election.
11 Jan | The Edict analysed every email and social media post by Prakrit, Dhamma and Tarz before campaigning officially began As of 11:59 PM on 10th January.With the onset of the campaigning period on 11th January for the upcoming election to the 7th House of Representatives, student inboxes are expected to be inundated with emails. All the three active political parties have concluded their first rounds of inductions, and the second rounds are underway. As they invite new members, each party is keen to stand out from the rest. Here is an overview of everything that we have heard from them so far:
Prakrit Their Ideology. Prakrit, with its signature push for unionising the student body, strives to “unflinchingly commit to progressive principles and civil liberties.” In the House, the party has been vocal about “its stance on matters of national politics.” Their Organisation. Prakrit maintains that they have a “horizontal power structure,” meaning that their internal decision-making is democratic. On Student-Admin Relations. In unionisation, Prakrit sees a viable balancing act between “effective, democratic negotiations” and “collective action through student mobilisation.” For proof of concept, the party points to their three years’ track record, such as the P/NR policy and workers’ welfare.
Dhamma Their Ideology. Dhamma considers student politics to be “an integral part of one’s development as a student and as a citizen of a democracy at large.” The party highlights classism as an overlooked issue that has festered a “subtle otherisation” of the underprivileged in policies and representation. Their Organisation. Dhamma adheres to a “horizontal structure of power dynamics” that treats every member equally. On Student-Admin Relations. Dhamma says it approaches issues with “sensitivity and thoughtfulness.” Once “diverse opinions” have been heard, the party’s strategy is to deliberate and mutually decide on “a further course to action.”
Tarz Their Ideology. Tarz, like Prakrit, professes its “progressive left leanings,” but promises to offer “an alternative manner” of doing politics on campus. Their Organisation. Tarz proposes to democratise its “internal voting and deliberation processes” and a formal structure that “values organised and dedicated work ethic” by rewarding hard work with “upward mobility.” On Student-Admin Relations. Tarz rejects the assertion that opposing unionisation is an admission of being pro-administration. Tarz strives to usher in “a nuanced and reflexive approach to dialogue” that champions “the vibrancy and evolution of Ashokan politics.” Read the full analysis by Deep Vakil: In The Inbox: What we heard before campaigning officially began.
11 Dec | SG reverses coerced resignations of workers, says more challenges lay ahead Following allegations over the summer of workers being mistreated and, in violation of their contracts, coerced to resign, the Student Government, in early August, had put forward three common-sense demands: re-hire all workers who resigned under the coercion, pay salaries to those who resisted the coercion, and investigate those responsible for the coercion. On 3rd December, the SG announced that all the workers who were made to resign would be returning to their jobs.
The administration faced multiple allegations of impropriety toward workers during the onset of the pandemic-induced campus shutdown, at the height of economic distress in the country. Since late May, more than 100 workers in the laundry, housekeeping, infirmary, and other departments have allegedly been fired or furloughed by third-party contractors. Others have complained about late and incomplete payment of salaries. In July, several members of the housekeeping staff reported receiving threatening calls and house visits from their supervisors, pressuring them to resign. (The Edict could not independently verify the claims.)
As part of the challenges yet to be tackled, the SG claims that employees working on a 15-day rotational basis are not paid their entire salary at once. Rather, they reportedly receive deferred payments in small amounts, causing problems in paying for medical expenses, rent, and school fees. Multiple workers have expressed, with no avail, the need for more workforce on campus, a demand that is also echoed by the SG. The SG says that the 15-day system is only meant to be a temporary arrangement. The offices of the VC and the Pro-VC did not respond to our requests for a comment on this article. Read the full article by Riddhi Verma: How the SG negotiated the reversal of coerced resignation of workers, explained.
6 Jan | AUEC admits it skipped constitutional formality before announcing election timeline
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Election Commission (@auec.ashoka)
Following an RTI request filed by the Edict, the Ashoka University Election Commission (AUEC) has come clean that it had announced the election timeline for 2021 without finishing a key constitutional formality. The step that they “erroneously” skipped required the House of Representatives to officially recommend when the elections must be called, even though this recommendation is not binding on the AUEC. The authority to call for elections is constitutionally vested in the Chief Election Officer, Abhay Hari, and the Election Code gives the AUEC broad leeway to decide the election dates.
Another constitutional provision complicates the absence of a formal recommendation from the House. Currently, elections the House take place in the first half of February, and the SG takes another month to pass its annual budget by late March. But it does not receive any new funds under this budget from the administration before June, due to their financial cycle. Until then, it relies on funds left behind by the previous SG.
Based on an arrangement with the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to remedy this issue, the 5th House created a one-time constitutional provision that would allow the next House to synchronise the SG’s election calendar with the administration’s fiscal year. According to that provision, the 6th House could unanimously choose to extend its term till 21st March, to reduce by five weeks the period in which the next House would have to rely on leftover funds (their term is currently set to end on 14th February). As per the announced timeline, the AUEC plans to declare election results on 13th February.
Update: The House met on 5th January, and could not muster the unanimous support required to exercise the option to extend its term. A decision is yet to be made on whether to reauthorise the option so that the 7th House can choose to exercise it. The SG is expected to consult the OSA before the decision.
The announcement of the election timeline came on December 27th, nearly a month after Abhay appointed two Commissioners and completed the election watchdog’s formation. The campaigning period is scheduled to begin from 11th January, and end two days before voting starts on 12th February. The announced timeline also designated 23rd January as the last date to file for candidature, one day sooner than is required by the Election Code. It includes an unprecedented number of campaign events and debates hosted by the AUEC, in line with Abhay’s promise to tackle the challenge of engaging first-time voters in what is shaping up to be an entirely online election season.
Update: The House sent its formal recommendation to the AUEC. Soon after, the AUEC announced a change to the already declared timeline: the last date to file for candidature was changed to 24th January, to comply with the Election Code.
– Reporting contributed by Deep Vakil and Aggam Walia
21 Dec | For partial campus reopening, VC gives priority to PGs and those with home-learning difficulties
Vice-Chancellor Malabika Sarkar, in an email on December 21st to the Young India Fellows, other students, and faculty of Ashoka, outlined the administration’s plan to bring some groups of students back to campus. This announcement came on the heels of VC Sarkar’s earlier email dated 15th December, which first confirmed a plan to bring certain students back to campus, even as classes would continue online for everyone at least till 6th March 2021.
These announcements were likely enabled by the UGC’s recent notification that offered guidelines for residential colleges to start bringing students back on campus, and provided the topmost priority to postgraduate and doctorate students, along with those required to do laboratory work. In a separate letter sent by the UGC to universities containing measures to lodge students in hostels, it was specified that social distancing must be maintained among students. This effectively slashed the maximum occupancy on campus by half, given that only one student could be accommodated in one room.
The SG proposed that there must be a priority list to decide which students shall be brought back to campus. A day before their meeting with VC Sarkar on 16th December about a priority list, the SG held an open house meeting to collate the concerns of students and to present its own proposals regarding the priority list. There were two proposals—one from Niharika Mehrotra, Representative in the 6th HoR, and the other from Priavi Joshi, President of the SG, both of whom are from Prakrit. Although the two of them differed over the order in which they proposed students to be brought back, the categories of students to be brought back were identical.
The House decided that students with adverse home-learning conditions and internet connectivity issues, ASPs, third-years, international students, and students with lab-intensive courses be brought back to campus. Since the SG is only elected by the undergraduate students, these proposals were notably silent on accommodations for YIFs, Masters, and PhD students.
VC Sarkar, in her 21st December email, sent out the final ordered list of students according to priority. There were two categories of students—one that included students facing internet issues and home-learning difficulties, along with international students, and another that contained YIFs, ASPs, MLS students, UG students with lab courses, and MA students in that order. UG’21 students belong to the only batch that was present in the SG’s proposal but excluded from VC Sarkar’s list.
The students in both the categories will be simultaneously moved to campus in a completely voluntary exercise, in smaller rounds formed on a first-come-first-serve basis. The students falling in the first category must write to VC Sarkar expressing their difficulties and they would then be accommodated in a priority list that will be decided by VC Sarkar. Responding to a query from the Edict, she said that the reasoning behind her decision cannot be disclosed “for reasons of confidentiality in the interest of student View this post on Instagram
A post shared by The Edict (@edict.ashoka)
The process for arrival and moving-in was detailed in an email by the Dean of Student Affairs, Deboshruti Roychowdhury, sent only to those batches that made it to the priority list. The first round of student intake will take place on 16th and 17th January, for which the applications closed on 20th December, and the next round, slated for 30th and 31st January, is now accepting applications till 6th January. Once students undergo 10-12 days of quarantine and show two negative Covid-19 tests, they are all but certain to be confined to campus premises until the end of the semester, or the pandemic, whichever comes first.
This announcement, while being a breath of fresh air for some students, was a source of disappointment for others, especially the UG’21 batch, who were not included in VC Sarkar’s list despite the SG recommending otherwise. Furthermore, it is unclear what may qualify a student to claim unfavourable home-learning conditions and VC Sarkar’s decision about this remains as of now arbitrary. This partial reopening plan nevertheless sounds promising to most, and it remains to be seen if it will be executed successfully.
– Reporting contributed by Soumil Agarwal
28 Dec | Two former Election Commissioners launch newest political party, Tarz
Tarz is named after the Hindustani word for manner or technique.
An unexpected email dropped into all our inboxes on 24th November, announcing the newest political party at Ashoka. Just over a month later, it became the first party to announce its second round of inductions. The party, named Tarz, is co-founded by Amola Mehta and Maanya Saran, both ex-AUEC, marking a break from the convention of outgoing Election Commission members retiring altogether from student politics. The third co-founder, Dhrupad Damani, was briefly a member of Prakrit in his first year and resigned after he was twice denied a ticket on the party’s list.
In a statement to the Edict, Tarz marked itself as a left-liberal party that promises to bring “plurality in the method” of doing politics, by striving for individual growth, professionalism and “engaging effectively” with the administration. The statement painted Tarz as a reaction to the withering opposition in an electoral field increasingly dominated by Prakrit, even as it confessed that their ideological positions “may not differ substantially from what Prakrit may hold.”
Prakrit, a party that has existed since the 2nd House, has emerged as the single-largest party in four of the five elections it has fought till date. For the last three years, Prakrit has secured the presidency, no less than seven House seats, and at least four Cabinet posts, even winning a historic mandate of 10 seats out of 15 in the most recent election. In the two previous Houses, there were abrupt changes to the leadership of the opposition, following swift departures of the then-sitting LOs from student politics.
A post shared by Tarz (@tarz.ashoka) In a veiled attack on the ruling party, the first public email from Tarz derided Prakritʼs signature push for unionisation as “a futile venture” and faulted many sitting members of the 6th House for “resorting to aggressive or overly defensive tactics” in the face of criticism. They placed themselves in opposition to what they described as “mentor-protege dynamics” in the other political parties. Their stance on other matters concerning the Ashokan community still remains unclear.
While this may be the first instance of former Election Commissioners entering student politics, there have been students who left student politics to join the AUEC. One member in each of the last two Election Commissions was formerly in a political party and both of them were active members of the SG when they joined the AUEC. The current AUEC is headed by Abhay Hari, who contested on a Prakrit ticket in the last election, and one of the two commissioners that he recruited, Samriddhi Hooda, had also been affiliated with Prakrit, and prior to that, Moksh. – Reporting contributed by Arya Shukla, Deep Vakil, and Soumil Agarwal
9 Dec | Abhay Hari appoints two Commissioners, completing new AUEC
Abhay gave an interview to the Edict one week after his appointment.
Abhay Hari, the newly-appointed Chief Election Officer, announced on 30th November that he has selected Samriddhi Hooda and Mohammed Amaan Asim for the role of Election Commissioners, thereby completing the formation of the three-member election watchdog. He also hired Karan Lobana as the Head of Technology to oversee online voting, and in view of his plans to increase voter engagement through social media, he also appointed Kavya Satish as the Head of Social Media and Outreach.
Abhay, who was a Prakrit candidate in the previous election and has left the party since March, faces an unprecedented task – to hold the SG elections during a pandemic. Speaking on his plans for the upcoming election cycle, Abhay says that the biggest challenge facing him is voter engagement, considering that the entire process is likely to be online. “Most first-years don’t have any idea about Ashokan politics, so we would have to engage with these students specifically by giving them a reason to care about student politics,” he adds.
The outgoing Election Commission (AUEC) announced on 21st November that Abhay Hari was appointed as the Chief Election Officer for the 2021 election cycle, jointly by the President, Priavi Joshi, and the Leader of Opposition, Gaurav Nandan Tripathi, after an arduous selection process which saw over half dozen candidates vying for the job. Gaurav explains that he chose Abhay despite his partisan record because “he knows the system so well that he can identify the cracks in it and also has solid ideas on how to mend it.”
Samriddhi Hooda, one of the two Commissioners, was also formerly a member of Prakrit, and before that, a candidate for Moksh. Three days before Abhay appointed her, he said in an Edict interview that “if I appoint another person that happens to be from Prakrit say, there are going to be questions asked.” Responding to a later query from the Edict, he credited Samriddhi’s “wealth of experience” for the decision of appointing her, and after seeing her on the job for nearly four weeks, believes that she has transitioned “seamlessly” into her new non-partisan role.
The outgoing AUEC team, under the leadership of Amola Mehta, is lauded for its deft conduct of the 2020 election cycle, after the student body voted to change the electoral system in November 2019. Looking back at her term, Amola feels that her team’s biggest accomplishment was to make last year’s election process conducive for the highest turnout, over 87%, in five years. “Things at Ashoka aren’t set in stone, so it felt really cool to be able to use this position to improve on things and I hope that future CEOs will continue to do that,” she says. After their term, Amola, along with Maanya Saran of the AUEC, founded the political party, Tarz.
– Reporting contributed by Aggam Walia
Listen to Abhayʼs first interview after becoming AUEC chief here, on Radio Edict. You can also read select portions of the interview here.
10 Nov | After 47 days and five new moderators, SG reopens UG Facebook group
The Student Government announced on 10th November hat the ‘Ashoka Undergraduates’ Facebook group is reopening for students to join, after the platform had been shut for more than 45 days. As per the House’s decision, the appointment of moderators for the group needed to take place before the group could be reopened. The new moderation team comprises of Shauryavardhan Sharma, Pulari Bhaskar, Lavanya Sen, Rohan Manoj and Siddhartha Sreenivas.
The group was restarted nearly seven weeks after an incident of doxxing had occurred on 24th September. Comments made by some students and alumni in the undergraduates’ Facebook Group were doxxed. Their identities along with the comments were leaked onto social media, which was a cause of serious concern for their safety and wellbeing.
What followed was a series of open meetings to discuss and decide the selection process of the moderator team, as part of the SG’s broader project to formulate standing community guidelines for social media platforms used by the student body. The 15-member House internally appointed a three-member panel to select five moderators from a pool of candidates whittled down from the application form. The shortlisted candidates would then have to be confirmed by 2/3rd majority or 10 members of the House.
The process of joining the group can be found in an email from the SG dated 10th November with the following subject: “Reopening the Undergraduate Facebook Group!”
Read the full article by Arya Shukla: How the SG revived the UG Facebook group, explained, and also find here an op-ed analysing the doxxing incident as a part of social media culture wars.
19 Nov | Moksh will not contest another election, say its three members in SG Moksh members in SG say it will be dissolved.
As we are approaching that time of the year when the political scene on campus wakes up from months of relative dormancy in preparation for the subsequent HoR elections, Moksh, a three-year old political party and once a formidable opposition to Prakrit’s hegemony, has been suspiciously quiet. A few conversations with some Moksh members confirmed that after their three members finish their respective terms in the Student Government, the party would be dissolved.
“The initial purpose behind Moksh was to bring out new politics. For some time, it succeeded, however, it is difficult to provide an alternative to what Prakrit brings to the table. The scope of the SG as an institution makes it difficult for alternative politics,” explains Ashutosh Sharma, Moksh’s lone member in the HoR. He feels that there cannot be alternative politics on campus because “what distinction can you make within a body that can at best protest?”
Moksh’s dissolution will have serious implications on the political landscape of our campus. With just Dhamma left to challenge the success and popularity of Prakrit, there’s an urgent need to ask why Prakrit needs to be opposed, if at all, and to then build the opposition from there. Moksh’s experience makes it clear that opposition just for the sake of it cannot sustain itself in the long run. For those reasons, Dhamma would have to entirely revamp its image to present itself as a viable alternative to what Prakrit offers. Or, in the opinion Moksh’s co-founder and ex-member Arnav Mohan Gupta, Dhamma won’t be enough – it’ll take a new party to do that.
Read more about the dissolution of Moksh in the full article by Aggam Walia: Beginner’s Luck – The rise and fall of Moksh.