Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur was given the opportunity for asking questions to both the candidates in their respective Statements of Purpose, held on 3rd August 2021 for TSG Elections 2021-22. In this article, we are highlighting the questions asked to the candidates, the rationale behind the question, and the answers given by the candidates.
You can find the SOAPBOX video at this link – SOAPBOX Day 2 | TSG Elections 2021-22 | IIT Kharagpur
A few weeks ago we investigated the withdrawal of five Vice President candidates which led to the publication of the article “Curious Case of the KGP’s Nomination Withdrawal Syndrome” for which we collected insights from the candidates who had withdrawn their candidature for the post of VP. We got to know about a meeting that was held prior to the withdrawal incident that marked the presence of a supposed lobby. A few screenshots also went viral after this incident and many posts were seen being circulated on social media where one of the Vice President candidates claimed to be present in that meeting for whatsoever reason.
In order to dive deep into this whole scenario and know the situation from the other end, we questioned one of the Vice President candidates regarding the same meeting. Below is our word-to-word conversation with Vice President Candidate 1.
Question from Awaaz: So my question is about the grooming part. There was a post on 11th of July from your account describing an unofficial meeting that was held on 10th of July throughout the day and in which there was a set of senior students. After that meeting some of the candidates had withdrawn from the post of Vice President, so after you announce your Vice President candidature the post was deleted. What was the reason for deleting that post and who were the senior students involved in that meeting and who had authorized you to take that meeting?
Candidate: On behalf of Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur you are asking me this question and I would like (voice unclear). This question contains a lot of questions but I would like to clarify some of the questions. First, it was an unofficial meeting and we did not take the meeting, the meeting was going on with some of the students. As we are all in online mode so it is natural to follow batchmates to meet on a google meet on a Sunday. We were doing the same. And on this meeting, the candidates who came, who came with their own freedom of speech to the meeting and they took the suggestions from the people present there. No fixed number of people attended that meeting, it was a very informal meeting and I would just like to clarify that nobody forced the candidates to be in that meeting. Now, coming to the second part of your question-.after that meeting the candidates withdrew. I do not expect the Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur to put any such allegation on any student of IIT Kharagpur. All candidates who had attended that meeting, out of them two withdrew and out of them two have given their own statements why they withdrew due to their personal reasons and one of them withdrew after the final list came. That means one of them, withdrew due to their personal reasons, so here on behalf of Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur, on this public platform you are making such an insensitive statement that is looked down by the complete student community of IIT Kharagpur and also disrespecting the candidates who have put their effort but due to some personal reasons they needed to withdraw. You are disrespecting each and every sentiment of each student of IIT Kharagpur who come forward to serve the student community. I took the responsibility of that post because that was not an official meeting, so nobody was there to chair the meeting as a conveyor so it was my responsibility to come forward and put the truth out to everybody because the rumors were there in the student community so I voluntarily took the responsibility to clear out all the facts that was released in the meeting.
Follow up from Awaaz: Okay, so we have contacted the candidates and they have told us that the motive of the meeting was not discussed with them and they were directly called into the meeting by their hall representatives. So what would you like to say on this?
Candidate: If you are asking me this question I would just like to clarify or state the fact that I am no hall representative. I am not representing any hall of residence as of now. I am not the Hall President, nor the Second Senate Member of any hall of residence right now. You should contact the Hall Presidents on whom their candidates are blaming to. I believe that every senior and every hall representative gives their best to train their juniors in every aspect of their life. They devote their time so that they can provide help to the junior students and to help them and train them. They basically devote their precious time out of their placements, out of their jobs to equip the junior students with their roles and responsibilities.
Through his answers given to us, he has agreed that he was indeed a part of the meeting which was held on 10 July 2021. We believe that grooming culture has led to the withdrawal of many candidates from the post of Vice President and this was one of the major reasons that led to reopening of the nomination portal this year.
It was during SOP of candidate 2, in which an allegation was made on her to have contacted Awaaz for publicizing her based on her gender. The conversation where the panelist made this allegation and the replies from the candidate and other panelists is transcribed below. This conversation can be found in this video.
Panelist 1: In your previous answer you mentioned that it doesn’t matter what the gender of the VP candidate. I am very happy with your answer but currently, I have two screenshots where from your id you have tried to reach Awaaz and tried to tell them please post some article about the first female candidate and please try to glorify this very concept. In the process, you tried to attract people’s votes. What do you have to say about it? I am already telling you I know that you will be denying this fact. So it would be better if you could tell me what he/ she is supposed to do if someone does this kind of work. What image should one person have of such a candidate? I can share the relevant screenshots if needed.
Candidate: This is simply a baseless allegation. If you have any proof you can share that sir. I am sure that I haven’t done anything of that sort.
Panelist 2: These are simply false allegations.
Panelist: Sir what I am concerned about right now is if people have bad intentions then what is the point of raising concerns.
Candidate: Sir I request the panel to not (voice unclear) point of the whole meeting.
Prof: If the candidate wishes to answer this question she may.
Candidate: Sir it is really disheartening that the entire discussion is around my gender. I am sure that I haven’t approached anyone in any such regard. If you have any proof you can surely put it.
Panelist 1: please allow me to share the screen.
Panelist 4: Devaki if you are fine with it the screenshots will be released in public.
Panelist 2: It was not allowed before, it should not be allowed now.
Panelist 4: Devaki are you fine with the screenshots being released in public after the SoP?
Candidate: The entire meeting is being live telecasted on a platform. If needed we can also revisit this and I am sure that anything which was mentioned by one of the panelists is absolutely wrong and I want to condemn this and I want to take a strong stand on this. I never asked someone to help me based on my gender.
Panelist 5: It is so unfortunate that you are targeting the gender and deriving the whole conversation out of it.
In the later part of the meeting, Awaaz was given the opportunity to ask a question to the VP candidate. As the candidate had made the claim that she did not contact Awaaz regarding her candidature, while in fact, she did, we felt that the student community should know what had actually happened. In the SOAP box which was being seen by over a thousand KGPians, it was our duty to bring forward and make sure that only true statements be put forward by the VP candidate. Our question to the panelist and her reply can be found in this video and the proceedings of the question can be found below.
Question from Awaaz: Just few minutes ago a panelist alleged that you had contacted Awaaz for doing your publicity with your gender being in consideration, but you outright denied the fact in this public platform. You said you never contacted Awaaz for your publicity. But we have the proof that you indeed have contacted one of our members regarding this. We in fact denied such biased request at that moment itself. So our big question is, If you can deny such true allegations and you lie in such public platform, how can we trust you as VP?
Candidate: I have never contacted any of the person seeking support from them based on my gender. I am again clear with this point. I have never reached out any person asking them to support/ publicize based on my gender. So, you can surely reconfirm this. I have never asked for support or publicity based on my gender.
This question was based on a conversation (27 June 2021, 10:20 PM) where the candidate reached out to an Awaaz member and stated that she is the first female candidate and requested Awaaz to make a report on “Issues being faced by a female candidate and why it took 70 years for a female candidate to contest for VP”. Awaaz had previously contacted her for secretary testimonials. Her message to one of the members of Awaaz can be found in the screenshots below.
After the team member told her that being an independent unbiased media body we could not support or promote any candidate and denied her request she instead stated that “ I really don’t want Awaaz to promote me. That is not good for me as well. But, following closely and releasing the report after the results is also a good idea, I feel. Just like a cover story”
We believe that any candidate should not be questioned or judged on the basis of his/ her gender, religion, caste, or creed. But at the same time, we believe that any candidate should not use any of the above-mentioned factors for their publicity or gathering support.
Since the SOAPBOX is done, it is now time for the voters to choose wisely and vote sensibly for the candidate they think is better for the prosperity of the institute in these tough times.
TSG Election is on 5th August 2021, 9 AM to 6 PM. Please vote, your vote matters!