Bihar’s Dhananjay becomes JNU Students Union’s first Dalit president in 28 years

Dhananjay is the first Dalit JNUSU president since Batti Lal Bairwa, who won in 1996

Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union election results were declared on March 24, in which United Left alliance emerged victorious on all four central panel posts – president, vice president, general secretary, and joint secretary.

Dhananjay, hailing from Gaya district in Bihar, emerged as the newly elected president of JNUSU. Dhananjay is the first Dalit JNUSU president since Batti Lal Bairwa, who won in 1996.

The JNUSU polls were held on March 22 after a four-year-long hiatus. Left-backed groups like the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) contested the elections in alliance against RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

A total of 19 candidates contested for positions on the central panel of JNUSU, with eight candidates in the fray for the post of the president.

Dhananjay defeated ABVP’s Umesh Chandra Ajmeera by 922 votes. Avijit Ghosh (Left) defeated Deepika Sharma (ABVP) by 927 votes for the vice-president’s post. Priyanshi Arya (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, supported by the Left) defeated Arjun Anand (ABVP) by 926 votes for the general secretary’s post; while Mohammad Sajid (Left) defeated Govind Dangi (ABVP) by 508 votes for the joint secretary’s post.

Dhananjay told PTI that the victory in JNUSU polls is a students’ referendum against the politics of hate and violence.

“This victory is a referendum by the students of JNU that they reject the politics of hate and violence. The students have once again shown their trust in us. We will continue to fight for their rights and work on issues that concern students,” he said.

The safety of women on campus, fund cuts, scholarship hike, infrastructural and water crisis will be his core agenda as the president of JNU’s students union.

The Left’s 4-0 clean sweep, despite a tough challenge by ABVP, shows that JNU is still a Left bastion. JNU polls witnessed a 73 percent voter turnout on Friday.

Who is Dhananjay?

Dhananjay, a PhD student from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, is a native of Bihar’s Gaya. The youngest of six siblings in his family, Dhananjay hails from Gaya in Bihar, and was elected as the first-ever Dalit president from Left-backed groups after nearly three decades.

As the president of the union, Dhananjay plans to push for increase in the stipend amounts of fellowships, improvement in campus infrastructure, and fair and diverse faculty appointments in the varsity.

Dhananjay, a PhD student from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, studied at Delhi University, where he was part of the protests against the four-year undergraduate programme.

Dhananjay’s father is a retired policeman. The reason behind the Left panel’s win, Dhananjay believes, is the “trust the student community has always had in the United Left.”

According to a statement released by the All India Students’ Association (AISA), “(After facing) caste discrimination… (it) ignited his [Dhananjay’s] passion for a good education so that no one else faced the same discrimination that he did.

“His father, a retired policeman, faced caste discrimination at the hands of the villagers, who only addressed him by his caste name and did not give due respect for his role as a policeman. It was due to these experiences, that his father urged him to pursue engineering, so that Dhananjay can live his life with dignity. Even though Dhananjay had a good academic record, he could not secure admission in a government college and private education was outside the means of his family. However, the family living a life of economic hardship, prioritised education.” the statement revealed.

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