SDGM: Good Cop, Bad Cop?
On August 9th, three members of the Quirk team interviewed Raghuveer Meena and Sikander Wankhede, current conveners of Security Disciplinary and General Management Committee (SDGM). The intent behind this was to gain an insight into the workings of SDGM, which the college has largely been unaware of. In this candid interview, Raghuveer and Sikander describe in cutting detail the culture of SDGM, the limitations under which they operate, their relationship with DISCO and ultimately, despite all the backlash they have to bear, how they protect the interests of the student body. This is just an excerpt and the full transcript will be available online soon. The Quirk team is deeply thankful to the SDGM conveners for agreeing to this interview.
What is the SDGM policy on student discipline this year and how is it different from earlier years?
Raghuveer Meena (Meena): Earlier, some SDGM conveners, after conducting show causes would go sympathise with the person concerned. Now we don’t. For example, if I caught Shikhar and told him he will be DARICed, I should not later go and tell him that it is all fine and he’ll get off. That is bad policy. This year, we have assigned good and bad cops within the committee.
Do you think that there should be a codification of SDGM’s powers and procedure of conducting raids?
Meena: I don’t support the codification of rules, else people will try to unfairly gain advantage. Also, rules rely upon interpretation as well. If we start reading the rules, people will get DARICed. At present, the third offence mandates a DARIC, but we don’t ever do that. We put such cases under miscellaneous, and take whatever action the committee as a whole thinks is appropriate.
Sikander Wankhede (Sikander): Ultimately ours is a small college. Everyone knows everyone by name and their personality. We wouldn’t like to screw another person’s life. Take the case of Shikhar, who said that he didn’t want to DARIC a batchmate of his, so we considered the case as unique and under the the miscellaneous category, imposed a fine and grounding.
Some of the hostel rules, like loitering, are ridiculous. Why have they not been gotten rid of?
Meena: We have tried to get rid of them but it hasn’t happened. We have made attempts to change our name from ‘Security’ to ‘Student,’ but the warden has told us that we will have to speak to the Registrar, for which we’ll have to obtain an appointment. Thereafter, consultations will need to be conducted with the VC and UGC, because whenever hostel rules are amended, they need to be put before the Executive Council. Ultimately, we have decided that these rules don’t matter as we don’t have to ever use them. There are a lot of silly rules, like one against trolling.
The fine for missing room check has been increased to Rs. 1000 from Rs. 150. What is the reason for that?
Meena: Rs. 150 was a fine for miscellaneous violations. Rs. 1000 was the fine for missing perm in the rules. This year we were told to implement these fines. There is no fine for room check, as the system of room check was created after the incident of murder happened.
We spoke to the warden and told him Rs.1000 is too much. We are changing it to Rs. 300, as we feel Rs. 150 is too insignificant to be taken seriously.
Rs. 1000 fines and grounding has always been in the rules. Gopika and I went through the previous ten years rules and it has always been there. We believe we have to determine fines and impose suspended punishments using our discretion.
Sikander: For codification we feel that it becomes a court of law. Decisions are appealed and defense and prosecution are brought forth, which I feel is not required in this college. You have mooting for these experiences. Making it a court of law is unnecessary. I didn’t like the idea of Aman Saxena making it that in his first year.
Doesn’t that prevent some sort of arbitrariness? Sometimes committees selectively enforce rules making the system unfair.
Meena: The deal is that you when you let someone off ten times, that person will not praise you or even recognise this fact, but when you put your foot down, he will approach the warden.
Moreover, if the timings of the raid are designated and the warden’s presence is made necessary, SDGM’s ability in conducting will be hampered. Also, the warden has his own life. He can’t always accompany us at 10 o’clock. Some sort of happy hours will come up.
What is your relationship with DISCO and do you think there should be parity in the rules? Could you also clarify the jurisdiction of both?
Meena: I must provide some context. There have been personal issues between conveners of SDGM and DISCO in the past, which have hampered their ability to work together.
Recently, when a girl was caught by SDGM on the New Acad terrace in violation of some rules, we had a separate show cause for her in the acad in the presence of DISCO members. This has been the practice since the sutta thing happened two years ago. In that incident, a guy smoking handed a cigarette to a girl and said SDGM did not have jurisdiction. That case forced us to create jurisdiction for SDGM in these special circumstances. Another time, a guy was show caused by DISCO for drinking at some quad party. Thus, there is overlapping jurisdiction. Gopika and I took the initiative and both reduced the fine to Rs.150. The committees get along this year. Recently, in an incident when we had to show cause our own batchmates both committees worked closely together. We think there should be parity in the punishments imposed.
Can you comment on the problems that the student body had with SDGM last year, such as the incident in which a first year faced harassment?
Sikander: I’ll explain the incident. We were taking their room checks but the first years were highly irregular. Some 10-12 people were missing it every day. This was never the case with other batches. We were shocked at this. Then we heard that some of them gone out for drinks before their Torts exam and got beaten black and blue. One day, Sarthak Gupta and I went and told them the realities and that they should not cross limits. One boy started laughing. He was laughing at me as a SDGM member and as a senior, which caused me to take offence. How can one do that? I asked him to shut up but he started laughing again, in front of the entire batch in the quad. I asked him to go outside Himalaya. This SF thing was happening and the student body was sending mails about moral policing and bashing SDGM on the college mail. So I was already pissed, we do work, don’t even get paid for it and get flak from the entire college for it. There were jokes being made about ‘undesirable mass gatherings.’ My junior members told me that he had written something about that. It was that morning that a student was robbed at knife point between Gate 3 to 1. So I was pissed that such things are happening, and I lambasted everyone. Just a week to prior to this, I had seen some first years on Surya terrace. We would write our local guardian’s name in perm letters in first year. These people were writing going to a movie, going for dinner to McD etc. How could they do this? This wasn’t allowed.
But why not?
Meena: I don’t have a problem, but the warden has a problem with it. It’s a policy that be strict with first years. Don’t go for a movie or anything at night. We suggest them to go with a senior for their safety. Why do you have to go for a show at 10 o’clock? That is the reason why the warden wants to maintain records, and when we tell first years that LG is the only place, we actually think they should write that. In first trimester, you are getting a hang of this place, how this place works, what it is about, what Nagarbhavi is like and the environment of the town. In later years, you can go to Pondicherry or Coorg or anywhere. That is fine with us, but not initially.
So do you think room check should be limited only to first trimester or second and third? Because by third trimester I think it’s largely unnecessary.
Meena: See the purpose of room check is not just safety but also to ensure that daily interaction with SDGM. That is it. It’s a basic thing we do to let people know that you shouldn’t break any rule. If they see the SDGM member shouting at one of their batch mates, they will have second thoughts about breaking rules.
Sikander: It’s not redundant. We have to keep them on campus after 8, because if they are found at Surya terrace at 10PM, anything can happen. And such things have happened in the past. We gave a similar orientation to the MPP first years, and some of them got drunk and there was a big fiasco over there which we came to know about later. Seniors in this college have been helpful to juniors in every way. They take them out, teach them how to drink, and give important life gyan. It is also important that you learn when and where to maintain silence. Essentially, you cannot be cool everywhere. The localities do not like you.
So you mentioned that you always face pressure from two ends, the students and the warden. How do you navigate this conflict?
Meena: The moment we join SDGM, we are taught two things. Sartaj told me that the people who don’t get disciplined by their parents will not be disciplined by us. And forget that people will love you for this work. We never think that if I’m raiding, people will love me and say ‘yes, please come raid my room’. It will always be ‘why the hell is he in my room?’. This is the nature of our committee. When I ask most people who don’t drink or smoke on campus why they didn’t join SDGM, they say that they fear their batchmates won’t be on good terms with them.
Sikander: I’ll tell you a very important thing in this regard. Last year, during a PFL match, there was a tiff between a spectator and a player. SDGM was asked to take action on this issue and I was completely against that. I won’t take suo moto action as SDGM. In the future, it will backfire, if we take suo moto action today. If we do this in a football match, later some idealistic guy will question why I’m not show causing drunk people in a Quad party. The coke is spiked. We know that well.
What if I’m smoking on the terrace, and my batch mate knows and comes there and then complains to you. Would you have complained about the batch mate if he went to the terrace if you’re not on SDGM? If they’re not making a ruckus or causing a problem.
Meena: Let him smoke.
Sikander: I don’t have any problem.
How do you think that in the past four years, the culture inside SDGM has changed? You’ve alluded to it.
Sikander: I have seen two sides of the coin. In my third year with Vishav, and in my fourth year, with Aditya Rathore. They were completely different. And now we are sticking to how it was when Vishav was there (Quirk team edit: We had earlier mentioned how Vishav had told Shikhar that SDGM was harsh on first years because they would start drinking and smoking eventually anyway, but would do so in their first year itself if the committee was lenient. The policy for senior batches was no-nuisance one). Or Sartaj, or Vagish. Zero tolerance policy can not work anywhere. We didn’t understand Aditya Rathore’s actions at last years Strawberry Fields. Why would he do that? Locking a terrace! It’s SF man. Jim Morrison also used to smoke up. I engaged with Aditya on this but he said that SDGM will stop this. I told him it doesn’t work like this.
What do you think the future is headed with this batch of junior members.
Meena: Next year, we are really doubtful. We both won’t be there. And Amber also won’t be there. Now there is only one senior member who is Tarun Rathore. And then there are all Shikhar’s batch mates.
Sikander: I can say that SDGM is quite in safe hands. Utkarsh and Jeydev are working well. They also have enough experience. They have been on the committee for two years. We have chosen the committee members personally after discussions with the warden, and we feel that we are all on the same page. And the committee members work as a team.
Meena: Right now the committee is in such a way that if Sikander will propose something, the entire committee will be in favor. They respect his experience.
Just for curiosity, do you guys take a vote? How do you decide on things?
What do you do with all the alcohol that you confiscate?
Sikander: We drain it.
So last year that GBM happened and there was a vote to remove you. What did you do when you found out about this?
Sikander: I was present for the first two hours of the GBM but I had left for my hostel by the time this issue came up. Some of my friends told me that my name had come up, that I had fucked around with a junior and all that shit. But I was like chill, it’s okay, this happens with SDGM. Not a big deal. Then a mountain was made out of a mole hill, which was not required. Shrishti told one of her batchmates that Sikandar had agreed to all this. I never did. They took silence as assent.
So they never approached you after the allegations?
Sikander: No. No one approached me. Not a single person.
Meena: The warden asked the SBA if they had any evidence or anything.
Sikander: This happened later on. I wasn’t even told about the vote being taken for my removal or that there was resolution to remove me.
So the only thing that College/Ugstudents knew about the entire incident was the mail about your removal?
Meena: So SDGM never comes under the SBA. We are constituted directly under the warden. They can’t pass a resolution against an SDGM member.
Sikander: As they don’t have the power to appoint me, how can they remove me?
It was just supposed to be persuasive, right?
Sikander: At least you should give me a chance. Principles of natural justice were infringed over here. I was not given a fair chance. I don’t like saying these things as I don’t treat these matters like a court of law. I got to know about the vote for my removal when I was in class. I was like what the fuck has happened suddenly. I knew that I was going to lose. SDGM is not popular with people. And some girl brought some feminist perspective that SDGM is against girls as well. Girls on the house voted against me.
Meena: There is a false perception that there are people on the committee who judge if girls drink or smoke.
I guess it came with the idea that girls should leave the field early and all that.
Sikander: I personally feel that I was not given a chance and was not asked about what had happened. On the day of voting, the minutes of the meeting were sent by Vansh Gupta who accused me of drinking, and he didn’t even know me. I had never touched alcohol till then. So the voting happened and I got a 100 votes for me staying, without any sort of campaigning, because of the the people in my hostel and others who know me. After all of this had happened, at the end of the trimester I was asked for an apology from the SBA. I was informed by the warden that he had asked the SBA to submit evidence against me to him. In the interim, I was not to be appointed to a post in SDGM.
Meena: You’ll remember that Gopika was appointed as convener much before us, and Anil was assigned as convener before this, just because of the sheer stupidity of the SBA office bearers.
Sikander: And the warden till the end asked them to submit in writing why they were against me and why they did not want me to be part of the committee. His stance was that, “If you give me a valid reason, I’ll chuck him out of the committee.”
Meena: They didn’t reply to the mail.
The perception we had was that the admin wasn’t keen on removal because they weren’t bound by SBA resolutions. What you’re telling us is that SBA office bearers didn’t fulfil the burden of proof.
Sikander: One more interesting thing. I went to Anuja Ma’am’s room (the warden then) to ask her about this matter. She told me that she had no idea about this. She was very surprised to hear it. Also, Prashanth Sir was not on on campus and were equally unaware of this matter. The SBA office bearers told to the entire college about keeping the wardens in the loop, and how they wanted action against SDGM. Nothing was done on their end about this.