King’s College London has come under fire for allegedly disqualifying many of its South Asian candidates running for positions in the annual Student Union elections.
One day before the Spring election results were due to be announced, protesters swarmed outside the KCLSU offices in Bush House in protest against the disqualification of certain election candidates [video here]. At the time of writing, Roar is aware of the hearings and subsequent disqualification of the following candidates: Mina Rana, Uday Singh Sandhu, Shubh Garg, Osman Faisal and Udit Tayal.
Pictures from the protest outside KCLSU
According to disqualified candidate Mina Rana, the evidence used to prosecute her of wrongful campaigning was a picture that did not reveal a single piece of her campaign material. The picture, which was apparently provided by three members of staff, also came without a date or time to indicate when it was taken. Ms Rana said to Roar: “I have enough reason to believe that these elections have been unfair, prejudiced and discriminatory. I believe that my disqualification is underpinned by baseless allegations.
“As a law student, the first rule of law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof stands on the prosecution, which in this situation seemed to be the KCLSU. I provided my printing history receipt and three testimonies from other candidates and friends, who saw me put up my first posters in the shack once the campaign period had begun.”
The alleged evidence used against Ms Rana
Along with many voters and the other disqualified candidates, Ms Rana believes that there were procedural irregularities in the disqualification process and that these irregularities were racially charged: “I was deeply intimidated during my hearing. I felt like I was repeatedly being questioned against a baseless allegation that I had already addressed. I believe that the whole process was informed by an inherent bias and that racial sentiments have deeply influenced my disqualification. I genuinely thought the Deputy Returning Officer’s (DRO) role is to safeguard and uphold democracy; however, their actions reek of Xenophobia.”
Similarly, Uday Singh Sandhu, a former Presidential candidate in the elections, has stressed that any proof provided by the candidates was dismissed. In conversation with Roar, he stated: “The complaints made against me were mere allegations. There were claims that some people were a part of my campaign team when they were clearly not. My proof of the same, as well as of the fact that there was an ongoing smear campaign against me, was not considered.
“In my disciplinary hearing, I was told that the prosecution could not prove my guilt beyond reasonable doubt and it was on pure probability that I was declared guilty. I was also unable to access all the evidence supporting the complaints. It was only after my disqualification that I was given a chance to view the evidence.”
Students at King’s have had mixed reactions to the protests. Some believe that there is a strong possibility that the disqualified candidates were cheating, citing the harassment scandal from last year’s elections. A second year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “We all saw the cheating that happened last year. I think the issue that people are having isn’t the fact that they were ‘wrongfully disqualified’, but that they were actually reprimanded for their unfair practices for the first time.”
Conversely, others believe that the disqualifications are invalid and based on hearsay. Madhav Setia, a third year History student and an active student voter, told Roar: “It’s an extremely sad state of affairs when an institution like the KCLSU has to be called out by it’s student community, time and again, for racism and xenophobia.
“With the disqualification of candidates who belong to my community, not only have the KCLSU wasted my vote, but also made me believe in the uncanny power of authority over a people whose rights are neither considered nor respected. I, as a voter, demand that the election results be postponed until the issue at hand is sorted.”
The disqualification of multiple candidates have brought to light many issues that KCLSU need to address, with the most pertinent question raised to Roar being: if a member of the Student’s Union claims to see something that isn’t there, who will question it?
In response to the protests and the many allegations that have been made, the Student Union has said that it “is committed to a free, fair and democratic election,” that it “takes these allegations very seriously”, and that it “will be investigating each and every one of them in detail.”
If you have any information about the allegations, please get in touch with Roar by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org