This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by ishita sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Upset With Electing Just CRs, TISS Hyderabad Students Demand Direct Student Elections

More from ishita sharma

Election time in universities is one of the most vibrant and gripping times of the year. Debates, discussions, name calling and mass mobilisation of students: this is how I had imagined the election scenario, as a school student. However, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, I saw none of that. The election is a mere formality wherein students vote for a class representative who goes on to be voted as a member of the student council.

Additionally, the whole campus never votes for one person. This leads to the representative being accountable only to their classmates, rather than the entire student population. Such an environment breeds unaccountability to students who hoped for their voices to be heard at the institutional level.

This, however, is a relatively recent development. Last year, indirect elections were conducted for the first time in all the off-campuses. It was met with skepticism which led to the students forming an action committee. They conducted an unofficial referendum held in the Hyderabad campus; members of the committee while in conversation stated that 78% of the student population supported direct elections. Despite the clear opposition to indirect elections, the administration disregarded it, calling it a “rigged” referendum.

The official reason for the change in the election pattern was attributed to the guidelines which were stated under the Lyngdoh Committee, as per its report on May 23, 2006. (This committee was set by UGC to give directives for student elections in university spaces).

There is a specific section for elections in campuses which are spread out in different geographical locations.

The Mumbai campus implemented point 6.2.4 in all the off-campuses. This was stated as the main reason for the shift from direct elections to indirect elections.

However, students across TISS have been asking for a shift from point to 6.2.4 to 6.2.2. It seems like a simple demand which falls under the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines as well.

“We aren’t asking for a lot. It is a valid demand. We wanted direct elections last year as well, however, this year we are relentless. We saw how an indirectly elected student council failed us. We don’t have to have another year to follow the pattern”, said Bibin San Thomas, a student from the BA program in Hyderabad Campus.

An important guideline mentioned in clause 6.1.5 under the Lyngdoh Committee is the fact that the system decided by the university must undergo a review every two years.

“When the system failed miserably, why should we wait for another year to change it?”, asked Thomas.

The students have decided to protest in a full-fledged fashion. Over 320 signatures have been collected in two days for the campaign. Many professors have also shown solidarity with this movement for direct elections. Dr KP Rajesh talking about the importance of a democratic platform at the university-level said, “I think the voices of the students are important in the context of higher educational institutions in the country. I believe that in order to deepen the democratic structures of an institution it is inevitable to create a democratic platform where the students can register and articulate their collective voices.”

He further states that the implication of restricting student voices will have a detrimental effect on the institution as a whole. “Curbing student voices will have a destructive implication on the academic autonomy and imagination of the institution. Given this larger scenario, I feel that the TISS Hyderabad students’ demand for direct elections is undisputable and that should be respected if one is really aspiring to expand the democratic structures of the institution and also need to create a climate to express democratic dissent in a collective fashion”, said Rajesh.

Dr Arjun Sengupta, a professor at TISS Hyderabad, raised a pertinent question in a Facebook post questioning the ethos of the decision and highlighting the fundamental democratic value that runs through the core of this institution. “The courses I have taught in TISS Hyderabad till now have reflected, in terms of syllabus, a core democratic ethic. If one went through the curricular content of the various courses offered here, across academic programs, one would find a similar democratic spirit pervading all that is taught. Ideas of ‘deepening democracy’, ‘democratic accountability’, ‘participatory governance’ are the staple courses offered here, a fact that sets TISS apart from a large number of educational institutions.”

“Given this commitment to strengthening democracy, should we not also be concerned about the democratic rights enjoyed by the students? Should we not see the curtailment of student rights as contrary to values we espouse in class? The students have begun a campaign to ensure direct elections on campus. They wish to ensure that their political rights on campus extend beyond selecting their own class representatives. They wish to have a union that is directly elected by them, something that any minimal concept of unionization must entail. Direct elections are an important and inseparable component of representation and unionization by the standards of even bodies like the ILO which TISS regards as pivotal players in the global thrust towards socioeconomic justice and equity. A denial of this basic right would amount to a contravention of the basic values that TISS stands for. I request and urge faculty members of TISS Hyderabad to support this basic demand of the TISS students. Let us rally behind the students in this basic demand which reflects a significant part of what we teach them every day. Let us live up to what we teach them,” said Sengupta.

What Next?

Amidst such strong support, the General Body has sent the signature campaign to the administration in TISS Mumbai along with documents stating the demand. The administration has been given an ultimatum till August 3 to make a decision.

The question remains, would this lead to a change in the system imposed on TISS off-campuses? Or would this be another example of curtailing the democratic rights of students?


Image used for representation.
Image source: Himanshu Chutia Saikia/Facebook
You must be to comment.

More from ishita sharma

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below