When it all began: the Karuna Chanana Working Group (Karuna Chanana, Sudesh Nangia, Ania Loomba, Rama Baru, and Yogesh Tyagi) was set up in the wake of “'the surcharged atmosphere” on campus following a host of sexual harassment events and the demands of student organisations and the Gender Studies Forum, a campus group of mostly women faculty. The Report was submitted in October 1997, but was placed before the Executive Council only in May 1998, after a great deal of community lobbying and popular mobilisation.
The Chanana Report makes crucial use of the 1997 Supreme Court Visakha judgement provides a plan and a framework for an institutional response in a workplace like the university, where everyone may not be an employee. It called for definingand publicising what is construed as sexual harassment/violence to dispel ignorance and to break the silence around it and to dispel ignorance.
The report importantly recommends the creation of an autonomous body within the university to sensitise the JNU community, to mediate crises, and also to conduct enquiries into specific cases of harassment through accepted procedures. The composition of such a body was carefully thought out to include all levels of the university, from students and karmacharis/security staff to faculty and senior administration. It also sought for a minimum 50 percent representation for women. A draft of JNU's policy on Sexual Harassment was appended.
The Executive Council, even as it placed or record its appreciation of the Chanana Working Group report, did not implement the specific mechanism its Report set out (link 1b). The ostensible reason for this was a UGC Circular from 1998 which recommended to universities to immediately set committees along the lines specified in the EC resolution to implement the Vishaka judgment.
The proposed EC mechanism was met with widespread protests. As the JNUSU undertook a protracted agitation, faculty approached the UGC. Finally, the university was persuaded to formally approach the UGC with the proposal that it be allowed to implement an alternative composition of GSCASH on 14 October 1998. The Chairperson of the UGC, Prof. Armaity Desai also replied in writing to three faculty members of the GSF stating that the UGC did not wish to insist on any particular mechanism, and that JNU was free to adopt an alternative one, as long as the Vishaka judgment was implemented.
The widespread agitation in the community and the final go-ahead from Prof. Desai gave the final push to the university administration. On March 8, 1999, the Committee was at last notified.