A Guest Post sent to us by BONOJIT HUSSAIN and NAINA MANJREKAR
[This is a leaflet issued by the University Community for Democracy which has come up in the wake of the arbitrary and authoritarian eviction of students from the hostels of Delhi University for the Commonwealth Games. Initially starting off as a facebook discussion among students, the anger has now snowballed into a movement that seeks to go beyond the immediate question of evictions. – AN]
Down with eviction of students from College Hostels!
Onwards to students self-activity!!
The current administration of Delhi University has attempted to reshape the University through a series of sinister agendas – be it the introduction of semester system, the European Studies Programme or the biometric identification system. All of them have shared one thing in common: the thwarting of democratic debate on proposals for change, and the routine violation of regulatory protocols.
The latest episode has been the eviction of students (2,000 students according to reports) from a number of hostels in Delhi University in order to make them available for the Commonwealth Games. Hostels are being renovated and beautified for the officials and visitors of the Games, while students are scrambling around for their own accommodation. The students, like the 40,000 families on the Yamuna bank, are now among the many that have been displaced in the name of national glory. What comes into question is the fact that the University has agreed to avail of 20 crores of rupees from the Commonwealth Games project without taking any cognisance of how and where such resources are generated. It has thus become an accomplice in the larger process of reckless corporatisation that the whole city is undergoing in the bid of becoming a “global city”.
This has left students at the mercy of private accommodation, with its unregulated rents and precarious guarantees. Rents are rising in anticipation of the increased demand for PGs [paying guests] and flats, forcing many existing residents to move out and making accommodation unaffordable for incoming residents as well. The University has made no attempt to devise a mechanism to control or subsidise rents. The inflated prices that students pay are in effect the costs they bear for the cosmetic surgery DU is undergoing, and by extension, the hidden burden they carry for the Commonwealth Games. Some newspaper reports even indicate that hostel fees may increase after the hostels have been “upgraded”. Moreover, the lack of a viable and safe alternative has compelled many girls seeking admission in DU to rethink their decision. The University has also failed to consider living conditions around campus, especially from a gender-sensitive perspective. We can only begin to imagine what it must be like for those with physical disabilities to navigate around dug-up roads, unmarked holes and hazardous construction material.
The students are told that their eviction is “for their own good”. It is “for them” that the authorities are “improving student infrastructure”, making “world-class” hostels. Where was this concern for well-being when the college authorities took the decision to evict students? Not once was there any dialogue with students about this “upgradation”, or about the best and most suitable way to go about it. Instead, the whole decision-making process was shrouded in mystery, leading to utter chaos and confusion: while Hansraj college made its hostel residents sign a bond last year declaring they had no objection to being evicted between July and October 2010, Miranda House students have still not been officially informed about the eviction!
We cannot allow the University to get away with such deliberate and avoidable irresponsibility. We make the following demands from the University:
We demand the provision of alternate accommodation for evicted students.
This accommodation should be at par with the hostels, both in terms of prices as well as qualitative conditions such as basic amenities and safety.
We also demand, as conscientious members of a larger community, that this provision not be met at the cost of another section of society.
On our part, let us work towards creating another space, a commune perhaps, an imaginative and practical alternative that is self-governed by members of the university community, a cooperative living space that meets its own needs and conducts itself in a responsible and democratic fashion.
If you are angered by what you see around you in the University, and indeed, in the city, if you want to speak out against the shrinking of democratic space and are ready to reclaim what is rightfully yours, please come and join us!