Campuses Under Attack

On February 21 and 22 this year, ABVP unleashed an organized, viciously violent riot in Delhi University, attacking students and teachers with glass bottles, bricks, stones and hockey sticks. ABVP cadre uttered filthy abuse to women, pulling them by the hair, and they attacked several journalists, snatching and smashing cameras and phones. The Delhi Police stood watching, allowing the ABVP to run riot and indulge in repeated, open assaults.

Ramjas College of Delhi University’s North Campus had called for seminars on ‘Cultures of Protest’ on 21st and 22nd February 2017. On 21st February, JNU activist Umar Khalid was invited to speak on ‘The War in Adivasi Areas’ in the session on ‘Unveiling the State: Regions in Conflict.’ Before the event began, an ABVP mob gathered outside the college and threatened to unleash violence if the “anti-national” Umar Khalid was to speak. The Delhi Police flatly refused to disperse the mob, and instead told the organizers that they would be responsible for consequences if the talk were to proceed. The College Principal then cancelled permission for Umar Khalid’s talk – and the organizers continued the session with the remaining two speakers on the panel. But the ABVP surrounded the seminal hall, locked participants in, and hurled stones into the room, smashing a window, hitting people outside with hockey sticks and rods. The Police did not detain or arrest a single ABVP cadre for this open vandalism and violence. The ABVP triumphantly raised the slogan, “ye andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai’ (It’s an open secret, the police are with us). They threatened speakers at the seminar, “We will disfigure your face in a way that you will be unrecognisable.”

On 22nd February the seminar featured AISA activist Shehla Rashid and several other speakers. Meanwhile, AISA and other student groups had called for a peaceful march from Ramjas College to Maurice Nagar Police station to demand that the Delhi Police do its duty and register an FIR against the ABVP goons for the violence of the previous day. The ABVP goons barricaded Ramjas students and faculty inside the college, so as to prevent them from joining the march. They also attacked the march with bricks, stones, bottles and sticks, singling out women and queer activists for abuse and violence. Professor Prasanta Chakraborty of Ramjas College was attacked just outside the college – ABVP cadre grabbed him from behind, tried to strangle him with his own muffler, knocked him down, kicking and punching him. He had to be hospitalized. Several students were also injured and had to be hospitalized.

Catch News journalist Aditya Menon told a journalist that he had been taking a statement from former JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid when “Two girls and three boys from ABVP attacked Rashid and started pulling her by hair…She tried to hand over her phone to me. This was when four other members of ABVP attacked me from behind.” Menon’s glasses were broken and he was punched and slapped. Several other journalists also were beaten up. But according to Aditya Menon, the rioting ABVP goons greeted the Zee News crew with the words “Hamaray waalay aa gaye” (Our media have arrived).

The Police that watched this rampage, refused to file an FIR. In fact, ABVP mounted atop a Delhi Police vehicle and raised triumphant slogans from there! Protesting students gathered to sit outside the police station, demanding that the complaint that they had submitted be turned into an FIR. Instead, Delhi Police lathi charged the peaceful gathering, taking several away in two buses to drop them far away at Hauz Khas two hours later – even as ABVP goons continued to roam the streets, singling out and attacking students at bus stops, metro stations, and in hostels.

The ABVP (aided by a pet TV channel or two) is of course claiming that “common students” were provoked by “anti-national slogans” raised by JNU students who “want to turn DU into JNU.” On twitter, ABVP leader Saurabh Sharma wrote in Hindi, “India would be a Hindu Nation if it were not for JNU type institutions.” This single statement makes it clear that for the ABVP and RSS, JNU is “anti-national” precisely because it defends secular Indian values and is opposed to the communal fascist project of turning India into a Hindu Nation.

The whole riot was a planned affair, managed by a nexus between the Delhi Police and the ABVP. Delhi Police has registered a case of rioting and assaulting police officers on duty against “unknown persons,” and ordered an inquiry into allegations of police high-handedness, suspending three constables for the same. It has said it will “club” police complaints registered by the common students and the ABVP in the matter – already indicating that it is even now equating the peaceful protest by University students with the rioting by the ABVP. But the question is – whose orders were the constables following? It should be noted that the DCP (North) on whose beat the ABVP was allowed to run riot in DU, is the same Jatin Narwal against whom a case was registered last year for allowing goons to attack JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and several activists, teachers, lawyers and journalists inside the premises of Patiala Court.

Renewed Attack on JNU

Last year, the ABVP slogan was ‘Shut Down JNU’ – but the RSS ploy to shut down JNU failed. This year, the JNU Vice Chancellor is attempting to shut down JNU’s research programmmes, in the wake of a UGC Notification suggesting a certain ratio of students per supervisor.
The Visitor’s Award for the Best Central University has been conferred by JNU this year. But the man who will receive that award on behalf of JNU is Prof Jagadesh Kumar, the VC who is bent on destroying the very research programmes, inclusive admission policies as well as vibrant campus culture of debate and public-spiritedness that have defined JNU’s excellence over decades.

The VC unilaterally announced the decision to scrap seats to research programmes, claiming that the student-supervisor ration is in excess of the UGC-dictated cap. Students whose future was thrown into jeopardy by this decision, gathered at the administrative building asking the VC to meet and speak with them. They also started an indefinite hunger strike. But the VC not only refused to meet students or teachers’ representatives, he communicated all his decisions only through tweets and press conferences. The VC has moreover filed an FIR against the JNUSU leadership and student activists claiming that students have “stopped administrative functioning.” This is false: the truth is that the JNU Administration has refused to come to the Administrative Block and address the concerns of students, as any VC worth his salt ought to do.

The VC first tweeted that the “seat cut” issue was just a rumour spread by protesting students, while a series of Circulars from the Director of Admissions and JNU Website posts in contrast were announcing seat-cuts. Two days later, the VC made a fresh bid to disguise the bare fact of seat cuts: this time by coining a new term – ‘dynamic seats’ – i.e, implying that there will no longer be any concept of annual “fixed number” of seats or “fixed intake” for M.Phil./Ph.D. and that seats will open up for admissions only if the number of researchers under a faculty happens to be less than the UGC dictated cap of supervisor-researcher ratio!

Bypassing Democratic Decision-Making Bodies

In JNU, student representatives get to participate in Part A of Academic Council Meetings – the part in which decisions affecting students directly are supposed to be taken up. The issue regarding the UGC Notification was never placed in any Academic Council as an agenda item in Part A. So, student representatives were deliberately deprived of any opportunity even to express an opinion or present their case in the Academic Council on a decision having such far-reaching consequences on students’ lives and careers.

As per JNU’s Act and Statutes, admission policies and ‘intake/offer’ of seats for admissions are to be discussed and decided through Centre-level, School Level Board of Studies and finally the Academic Council Meetings. The illogical supervisor-student ratio was unilaterally thrust upon JNU by the VC without the deliberation of the University’s statutory bodies like the Academic Council.

The issue of the UGC Notification was placed only in the Part B of the 142nd AC meeting. Teachers have testified in unison from the very day of the AC meeting that the UGC notification was neither “discussed” nor “approved” but bulldozed through without AC members being given any chance to express an opinion, in Part B of 142nd AC meeting. The “Minutes of 142nd AC- Part B”, circulated by the JNU administration, do not record any “discussion” or “adoption” of this specific clause of the UGC Notification.

Violation of The 93rd Constitution Amendment

The present number of seats in JNU has been fixed as part of the implementation of OBC reservation and the concomitant expansion of seats mandated by the 93rd amendment of the Constitution. That amendment, binding on all Universities including JNU, was specifically brought in to ensure that there would be no fall in the absolute number of general category seats even as 27% seats are reserved for OBC students.

The arbitrary reduction of seats in M. Phil/PhD admissions in JNU will mean a reduction in the absolute number of seats and number of students admitted to JNU – and is therefore a brazen violation of the 93rd Constitution Amendment.

Further, the supervisor-student ratio formula will destroy the scope for “reservations” as the so-called ‘vacancies’ for reserved seats in centres/ schools will arise only in very small numbers. The JNU VC swears by the UGC notification which fixes 50% marks to qualify for the written exam without any relaxation for the reserved categories. The VC is also making JNU’s unique system of deprivation points meaningless, by moving it to after the viva stage when the students from deprived backgrounds and areas already lose out in the initial stages.

Even Current Students Are Insecure

According to the VC’s new ‘formula’, continuation in Ph.D. will no longer be guaranteed by the grades scored in M.Phil., as was the practice till now, but will be based on whether the number of students under a supervisor is below the “specified limit.” So the integrated M. Phil/Ph.D programme has been dismantled and those already admitted in the M. Phil programme cannot be sure of continuing in the PhD even if their academic performance is fine. When a student has been admitted in MPhil on the understanding that he or she can continue in PhD if they secure sufficient grades, how can it be ethical or legal to throw them out after MPhil due to an arbitrary and new criteria of student-supervisor ratio?

A Rationale That is Fundamentally Absurd and Politically Motivated

Cutting down admissions is not the only way to ensure a certain “supervisor-researcher ratio” – the answer is to recruit adequate faculty. Why should the students be made to suffer and why should future research avenues be curtailed?

When JNU with its present “faculty-student” strength has been rated as the best Central University and when no teacher is complaining of any “overburden” and are in fact are opposing seat cut, why is the VC so keen to shut down admissions in JNU’s research programmes for several years to come?

Supervisors should be allotted on the basis of students’ area of choice or faculty member’s area of expertise: but with the new policy, allotment of supervisor will depend only on whether a faculty member has fewer students than the UGC specified cap! This will affect the quality of research also by making the supervisor-student match a totally arbitrary affair based on a numbers game rather than a match of areas of interest and expertise. The Delhi High Court has for the moment stayed the new admission policy following a petition by affected students.

It is clear that the Modi Government appointee who heads JNU is taking a hatchet to the institution, to destroy its identity as a research institution and as a place that nurtures questioning, dissent and socially committed academics and politics. 