- NL Sena
The notice is in connection with the ‘Occupy Ad-Block’ agitation which took place earlier this year demanding the revocation of UGC Gazette notification 2016.
The crackdown on student activism in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in the form of proctorial inquiries and arbitrary punishment, has reached yet another level with the latest instance of 15 students receiving show-cause notices under the “JNU Students’ Discipline and Conduct Rules”. The notice says that the protest took place early this year, against the implementation of UGC Gazette 2016, had ‘disrupted the normal functioning’ of the university.
The notice sent to the students reads, “You have been found guilty in the following acts of indiscipline — sitting in room no. 225 of the Administration Block the whole night of February 27, despite a request by the security persons to vacate.” If the students fail to defend themselves, they will have to face punishments under different categories which include cancellation of admission, withdrawal of degree, fines upto Rs 20,000 and rustication for two semesters depending on the charges slapped against them.
Some students who received the show-cause notices belong to different organisations including BAPSA, United OBC Forum, DSU and AISF and many of them are not associated with any organisation at all.
The rule also says that hunger strikes, dharnas, group bargaining and any other form of protest by blocking the entrance or exit of any of the academic and/or administrative complexes or disrupting the movement of any member of the university community is also an act of misconduct. In short, according to the administration, any protest by students in JNU amounts to an offence.
The students have denied the allegations and claimed they are being targeted for staging protests against the implementation of the UGC Gazette notification of May 5, 2016 which resulted in massive seat cut, implementation of 100 per cent viva for M Phil/PhD and the removal of minority/gender deprivation points.
A throwback to February protests
A series of protests, ‘Occupy Ad-Block’, had begun in JNU since January 2017 demanding the revocation of UGC Gazette 2016. This agitation has been considered one of the largest and unique protests in the history of JNU where students locked down the administration building for more than 20 days which is what the administration called “criminal” and in “violation of the law”. The students were sitting inside the administration block demanding that Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar meet them and answer their queries regarding the seat cut. The current proctorial inquiry has been done particularly on the incidents that happened on February 27 and 28.
Amid the massive protest, on February 27, around 20 students had gone to the VC’s office and made demands to meet the VC. “We were told that the VC will come and meet us around 4 pm in the evening. But he didn’t turn up and we stayed in room no. 225 of the administration block the whole night,” said Prasanth Nihal, who was one among the protesters.
The next day, on February 28, the VC was forced to meet the students followed by a suicide threat made by one girl student, Anubhuti Agnes. “The new admission policy was also an emotional issue for many because there are many students in JNU who come from marginalised sections of the society,” said Nihal. However, the talk between students and the VC didn’t go well and VC left the place surrounded by a human chain of security guards.
Students’ future at stake
“I had been called twice for deposition with the Chief Proctor. Every time I asked for evidences which prove that I am guilty, but never shown anything,” said Anubhuti Sharma, who is a final year Ph.D. scholar. “This is such an arbitrary decision. Also, this is quite inconvenient as I am supposed to submit my paper in next July and they are sending me show-cause notices,” added Sharma.
“I have been found guilty without being shown evidence and a chance to defend myself,” said Mulayam Singh, a Ph.D. scholar, who is an activist from United OBC Forum and has been punished under category 1.
Sumeet Samos, a Dalit student during the academic year 2012 – 2017, has already been denied the mark list and provisional certificate by the administration without proper explanation. “The deposition over this inquiry happened in April last week. They showed me some video footage from the protest though I was nowhere in the video. Since I have already done with my course, the only punishment option for me is the the complete withdrawal of my degree,” said Samos, who has been found guilty under category 1.
“It is so weird that I have given deposition in one thing and they are punishing me for something else,” said Birendra Kumar, who is a second year Ph.D. scholar. “I was there on February 27 to meet VC and had left the place next morning. But, the notice says that I was found guilty for whatever happened on 28th,” said Kumar, who is an independent political activist.
A majority of students among this also face a lot of other inquiries. “We protested against something that denied the right of students to come to universities and now we are going to be punished. This has become almost like a routine and I have even lost the track of how many inquiries are there against me,” said T Praveen, also a BAPSA member.
The students are supposed to reply before October 25. “Your reply should reach this office latest by October 25 (5 pm), failing which it will be presumed that you have nothing to say in your defence and this office will be free to take appropriate action against you,” the notice read. Despite repeated attempts to reach out to Chief Proctor Vibha Tondon, Newslaundry failed to get any response. We will update this story if and when she responds.