Tag Archives: universities

Do not let a university turn into a ‘shakha’ of a poisoned tree

Have the JNU students and faculty seriously considered taking legal action against the current Vice Chancellor? From every report that I have seen, all his actions in the recently concluded farcical Academic Council (AC) meeting seem to me to be instances of prima facie procedural violation. (Or am I incorrect in assuming this?)

From what I have heard, his conduct includes the deliberate misrepresentation of the minutes, pretending to consensual decisions where there were none, and disruptive and arrogant behavior towards Academic Council members. If this is indeed the case, could there not be strong legal grounds to ask for his removal on the grounds of his willful violation of institutional procedures and ethics? What do people with legal experience think of such a possibility? What do students and faculty think?

If recourse to legal action is not feasible or practical, what else can be done to remedy this situation? What kind of campaign can restore a semblance of sanity to JNU (and to universities, generally) that have been serially assaulted by university administrations acting at the behest of right-wing thugs.

It seems to me, that this man, Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (the current JNU vice-chancellor) is acting like a criminal, and I think he should be treated as such from now on. Co-operating with his decisions, or even tacit acceptance of his manner of functioning, should now be seen as complicity with an agenda to destroy the university. Let us also not forget that this VC continues to protect those who assaulted Najeeb Ahmed before he disappeared from JNU. In the unfortunate possibility of anything untoward having happened to Najeeb Ahmed, this VC should be seen as being responsible. He creates the conditions of impunity that threaten the safety of each and every student. His decision to punish the students who protested yesterday with arbitrary and unjust suspension orders is exactly analogous to the authoritarian conduct of Podile Appa Rao, VC of HCU, that led to the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula. The manner in which both Jagadesh Kumar and Appa Rao have acted suggests a pattern of the deliberate victimization of students on the basis of their caste identities. This only brings shame and disrepute to the institutions headed by them.

In my considered view, (and please view this only as a suggestion) the time has come for Faculty and Students of JNU to come together (irrespective of their political positions and postures) to demand the unconditional removal of Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar from the vice-chancellorship of JNU and from the university itself. I think that all limits have now been crossed by his conduct. His declarations about what the AC decided should be treated as null and void (also because they are violative of the principles of social justice and democratic education), and the suspension orders against the students who were targeted must be revoked. I hope that the present JNUSU and JNUTA will not fail in their responsibility to conduct a coherent and militant campaign to reverse this situation. If they vacillate, or, are unable to offer a coherent, well worked out strategy, they too will be seen as responsible for the mess that JNU is in today.

I hope that every student (and here I mean ‘common students’ as well as student activists within and outside organizations) and every teacher at JNU is able to rise above the temptation of negativism and needless point-scoring at this juncture. Just as the JNUSU crucially must not see itself as immune to criticism, or fail to act with militant resolve and clarity, and in resonance with the concerns of students, (including of those outside the union) so too, those outside the union could help matters by not falling to the temptation of adopting ‘holier than thou’ postures that impede practical unity. Let there be solidarity in struggle, and the kind of criticality that aids , rather than impedes, solidarity.

This time, this opportunity, this moment of necessity for thoughtful, militant, intelligent unity of all students, teachers and all friends of the idea or a free and open university is too precious to lose at the altar of either posturing or prevarication.

Restore freedom to freedom square! Do not let a university turn into a ‘shakha’ of a poisoned tree! Eject Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar! Reject Podile Appa Rao! Bring back life to our universities !

‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya

Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA

This piece has long been in the coming. Soon after the summer of student protests in India exposed the terror-apparatuses of the state and unleashed a new vocabulary of progressive political resistance, the students of a certain Central University of South Bihar (in Gaya) went on strike against the university administration in the early days of August. They however were not fighting to protect constitutional rights, because their daily encounters with the university had already come to rest on a structural suspension of many such rights. Like those of speech, of rational thought and scientific inquiry, of gender-equality, and of resisting what Vemula called the event of being reduced to one’s “immediate identity”. These students merely decided to fight for their right to a degree.

They had come together to demand statutory recognition for courses that they were enrolled in since 2013, but most sections of the national media at that time deemed the issue ‘sub-national’ enough to be granted space or audience. Reporters from the local print-media were – in what seems like accepted practice across public institutions in the country – barred entry into the university campus, and hearsay reports constituted the stuff of low-key news-briefs with little context or compassion. Those who attempted to organise public opinion by writing on social and alternative media spaces, were – in a classic division of interests that administrative bureaucracies are deft at provoking – urged by students themselves to withdraw. The reason was simple: each social media post or conversation around the issue was declaredly spied on by the university administration in order to ‘detect’ subterranean alliances and “outside support” (as if it were a terrorist conspiracy!), and students were individually targeted and intimidated for passing on internal ‘secrets’ to ‘outsiders’. I know of specific Facebook posts which had been taken print-outs of and convened surreptitious meetings over, where administrative heads and proctorial board members put their heads together to crush the germ of student dissent and ‘outsider’-mobilizations. The agitated students continued in their own ways, despite open threats of disciplinary action and reminders of exam-time tactics of penalisation. The Vice-Chancellor marched off to Delhi to strike bargains for an interim settlement-package with officials in the ministry, and returned to meet the striking protestors with as much of an assurance as threats of expulsion. Continue reading ‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya

NIT and the Never Ending Story of Kashmir: Jagjit Singh

Guest post by JAGJIT SINGH

[The incidents in NIT Srinagar follow those in a number of universities and institutions of higher education and at one level, reflect a similar pattern. Yet, at another level, they – and the forces active behind them – play on a very different template of politics to achieve the same result. The story is similar and yet, radically different. The key dramatis personae are, understandably, the same. How do we make sense of what is happening in NIT Srinagar? Today’s Indian Express story by Nirupama Subramanian gives a sense of one part of the backdrop – life in NIT Srinagar before the incidents. The piece below gives us another sense of the larger history.]

NIT Srinagar non-Kashmiri students demonstrate
NIT Srinagar non-Kashmiri students demonstrate, image courtesy The Hindu

I remember when I was kid and was trying to make sense of a sport which looked very dull and boring but generated passions I had never seen in my hometown. Every time the game ends, the streets would be flooded by countless people with music and firecrackers and slogans in the background. Sometimes we could see fireworks even from our balcony, and some other times we would be locked inside our homes. Only thing we knew was ‘situation is tensed outside’. The game was Cricket and my hometown was Jammu. Jammu has always been RSS’s stronghold, and there are two Muslim-majority areas in Old City, Jammu. The whole tension surrounded these two areas only. Even that time slogan shouting was the test of your love for your country. The more violent and high-pitched your slogan is the more cheers you receive from the crowd. Continue reading NIT and the Never Ending Story of Kashmir: Jagjit Singh

Some thoughts on love in times of hate – from a JNU student : Pallavi Paul

Guest Post by Pallavi Paul

As I comb through the deluge of responses and opinions  that have been circulating on television, social media, newspapers and conversations  over the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, there is one particular fear that sticks out repeatedly. The fear  of JNU being a ‘transformative’ space. Where young and innocent minds are changed. The question that follows then is- changed into what? Even as we see ABVP students vociferously defending police action on all media platforms, the Sanskrit department continuing with classes in spite of the call for strike in support of Kanhaiya and faculty members like Hari Ram Mishra (CSS) issuing media statements against the student agitation currently underway- the simple formula that JNU transforms its students into ‘anti-national’ elements (going by the current interpretation of the term) begins to appear erroneous. In addition to having a culture of critical thinking, debate, questioning and radical left politics – JNU has also had an equally dynamic history of Hindutva and Brahaminical politics. For every protest on Afsal Guru there is a Guru Dakhshina Karyakram, for every Sitaram Yechury addressing students there is an Ashok Singhal (who visited the campus in 2002 even amidst intense protests). This fear then, if seen clearly begins to appear more and more abstract. It bases itself on a ‘sense’ of the campus- rather than its actual political fiber. Infact if one hears carefully it is the larger fear of things changing, things changing irreversibly.

Continue reading Some thoughts on love in times of hate – from a JNU student : Pallavi Paul

UGC Guidelines on the Safety and Security of Students in Higher Educational Institutions – Protecting Students or Building Walls ? Sujata Chandra

Guest Post by Sujata Chandra

The University Grants Commission has issued a set of ‘Guidelines on Safety of Students On and Off Campuses in Higher Educational Institutions‘ in April 2015, which is beginning to be discussed recently by students and faculty in many universities and higher educational institutions (HEI). They begin by discussing the height of walls and kind of barbed wire that are needed to ‘fence’ in higher educational institutions. But the most disturbing thing is the kind of walls and barbed wire they seek to install in the minds of students.

The ‘Guidelines’ feature a number of problematic provisions in the name of assuring a ‘safe and secure learning environment’ for students. These provisions, if implemented, will simply assert the state’s notion of morality and end up transforming students into submissive entities. The vision of ‘students’ in these guidelines is that of infantile beings who require ‘permission’ from authority figures (university administration, law enforcement officials and ‘parents’) at every stage of their life on and off campus.

One of the key provisions relates to the necessity of setting up police stations within university campuses. The presence of police forces within university campuses can only have a ‘chilling effect’ on student life, especially with regard to the quality of political activism and discussion. Universities are meant to be spaces of liberty and autonomy, and the presence of policemen on campus does not bode well for either. One can clearly envisage university authorities asking students to obtain ‘police permission’ to hold meetings, protests, screenings and simple gatherings. Ostensibly, the presence of a police station on campus is supposed to act as a deterrent to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Continue reading UGC Guidelines on the Safety and Security of Students in Higher Educational Institutions – Protecting Students or Building Walls ? Sujata Chandra

Can University Teachers Bend the Sri Lankan State?

The major strike launched by university teachers in Sri Lanka on July 4th is gaining momentum. Their struggles are proving to be the single most sustained and nationally organised movement in Sri Lanka’s post-war years. This strike follows previous trade union action taken last year where the Heads of Departments of state universities resigned from their positions for several months. With the Government unheeding of their demands, the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) has reinitiated a full blown strike that is national in character with state universities from all regions of the country participating. Continue reading Can University Teachers Bend the Sri Lankan State?

Following the Protest Movement in Sri Lankan Universities

Some of the stronger protests and forceful political debates in Sri Lanka are taking place in relation to student rights, university teachers pay, allocation of government expenditure on education and inequalities relating to the Government’s private university bill. University students have been on the boil over issues from militarisation of the universities, including compulsory military training for entering university students last year, to attempts to ban student unions. University teachers carried out strike action for months last year extracting promises of higher pay and input into educational policy which were not carried forward with the Budget, leading to a token strike on January 17th. I wrote an article on the neoliberalisation of university education in the Sunday Island on Jan 15th discussing the larger project at work with the backing of the World Bank and IMF. Kumar David has written an article in the Jan 22nd issue of the Sunday Island explaining the z-scores scandal – about the Advanced Level exam results which are used for university entrance – and its relationship to the protests against the private university bill. The Young Asia Television in their episode of Connections today has documented the recent protests including some interviews with student leaders and university teachers. The uteachers blog is an excellent resource to find more articles and presentations by academics involved in the recent protests and actions. Historically, the universities have been a hot bed of protest as well as social and political change in Sri Lanka, and those in solidarity with progressive forces struggling for social justice in Sri Lanka may want to follow the protest movement gaining ground in the universities.