The students and teachers of Delhi University must be congratulated for their victory in restoring the 3-year degree programme.
Since last year, March 2013, the teachers and students of DU had been waging a relentless struggle against the DU VC’s hurried and forced imposition of the ill-thought out and disastrous FYUP. The reasoned arguments of the DUTA, students and noted academics and educationists were trampled upon by the VC using important bodies like the Academic and Executive Councils as mere rubber stamps to push through his dubious agenda with the blessings from the UPA Government.
It is the sustained campaign and agitation by students and teachers that made the FYUP an issue of national debate, forcing the new Government and UGC to finally accept the illegality and undesirability of the FYUP programme. Most importantly, the first batch of students affected by the FYUP had, in a historic referendum in August 2013, expressed their rejection of the FYUP and its substandard courses.
By refusing to abide by the UGC order for a week, the DU VC put lakhs of admission seekers from all over the country to immense stress, uncertainty, and trouble.
The Spirit of University’s Autonomy
The DU VC claimed that the UGC instructions violate the University’s autonomy. This is a specious and self-serving logic. The DU VC dealt body blows to the University’s autonomy and internal democracy on multiple occasions. It is in fact the movement of students and teachers that best expressed and defended the University’s autonomy.
To ram down the FYUP, the well-established processes in DU of framing syllabi for new courses and papers – such as departmental councils, and committees of courses – were summarily violated through administrative fiats within a month. Courses were formulated by hand-picked individuals and hastily passed through Academic Councils and ECs called overnight. The result was a bundle of courses of a laughable standard, that would not withstand any serious academic scrutiny.
The FYUP never got the requisite approval from the Visitor or the UGC, yet it was implemented.
The VC’s autocracy cannot pass off for University’s ‘autonomy’. The VC had been violating all internal processes and checks and balances, squashing debates and discussions, ramming down decisions in the face of massive opposition from the University’s main stakeholders (its teachers and students). By doing so, it is the DU VC who has made himself autonomous from the rest of the University community.
The University must have the fullest autonomy in terms of composition of courses, syllabus etc from outside political influence and so on. But a central University like Delhi cannot have a structure that is at odds with the structure (10+2+3) prevalent in the rest of the country. To bring DU in line with an American course structure, while pitting it against the National Education Policy of 10+2+3 cannot be accepted under any pretext of ‘autonomy’.
The DU VC refused to defend DU’s autonomy when it really was attacked by saffron goons.At the VC’s personal initiative, DU meekly removed AK Ramanujam’s scholarly essay ‘300 Ramayanas’ from the English syllabus, against the reasoned arguments of concerned departments, following threats from the Hindutva brigade.
Safeguard the Students Already Enrolled
Students already enrolled under the B Tech programme must be safeguarded, as the B Tech programme runs for 4 years all over the country. All that UGC and AICTE must ensure is that the content of DU’s B Tech programme conforms to national standards and equivalence.
To ensure that those already enrolled in 2013 under FYUP, are able to complete their Honours Degree within 3 years, the coherent and reasoned formula suggested by students and teachers must be adopted.
Onwards to Struggles Ahead
In the days to come, there are likely to continuing assaults of privatisation of higher education and fresh assaults of saffronisation of syllabi. The FYUP struggle has shown that students and teachers can indeed score a victory in the face of all odds. This inspiring example will certainly be wind in the sails of the movement against privatization and saffronization.
AISA’s Role in FYUP Struggle
AISA first protested outside the Delhi University’s Academic Council (AC) and Executive Council (EC) meetings on 7 and 9 March 2013 in which the first draft on FYUP circulated by DU VC was passed.
AISA campaigned outside all the ‘open house meetings’ held by the University with new entrants in different colleges and schools in May 2013, and students who asked questions inside the meetings were snubbed or ignored. Outside the last open house meeting held on 30th May in the Conference Centre, AISA organised a big students’ open meeting – genuinely open to students’ participation and questions – to expose the farcical nature of the ones organised by the University.
AISA then held a protest rally in the North Campus of DU on the first day of sale of forms on 5 June 2013. AISA also protested at the MHRD and were detained while protesting at India Gate in June 2013.
When the campus opened on 21 July, AISA carried out an intensive campaign of two weeks, speaking to new students about their own experience of FYUP, and sharing AISA’s own critique of FYUP. In almost all the colleges, students spoke of the huge chaos and irregularities due to lack of infrastructures, faculties and even books and syllabus. Students were also upset that neither the University nor even the DUSU nor anyone but AISA had come to hear their complaints.
As the problems compounded, AISA conducted a two week campaign, after which AISA called a university wide Class Boycott and massive rally in North Campus on 7 August 2013, in which more than 1500 students participated.
As the situation worsened and the campaign intensified, AISA felt the need to create a platform for students’ own opinions to be voiced. So, at the end of one month of classes under the FYUP, AISA organised a historic referendum on FYUP on 22 August outside more than 20 colleges of DU. More than 10,000 students participated in the referendum, with the vast majority voting strongly against the FYUP. AISA gave the University 10 days to respond to the referendum mandate, after which, on AISA’s call, 5000 students sent submitted postcards to the Vice Chancellor on 2 September after a massive rally in North Campus.
AISA held a Students’ Public Hearing on 4 October, where students testified to the many problems of syllabus, teaching, and evaluation of ‘Foundation Courses’ – which were of a scadalously bad quality. As similar scandals were witnessed in the first semester exams and its question paper, AISA organised an open meeting on 15 January on the experiences of the first semester.
AISA then initiated the ‘Our DU Our Right Our Fight’ campaign on the issues of quality and affordable education, transportation, accommodation. More than 15000 students were approached from more than 20 colleges, who filled up forms about their experience and their demands on these issues. More than 500 students then marched to Delhi Secretariat in a Mass Students’ Delegation to the Delhi CM on 31st January.
On 14 February AISA marched to Sonia Gandhi’s residence, and on 18th February AISA participated in a 2000-strong joint teachers’ and students’ March to Parliament, led by the DUTA.
Against the unresponsive attitude of government AISA decided to make FYUP the biggest students issue in the Lok Sabha elections, and organised a Delhi-wide Yatra from 26 February to 12 March, which ended with a Delhi-wide bikers’ rally which covered more than 20 colleges.
On 9th June 2014, AISA held an Open Meeting on ‘No More FYUP, The Alternative is here’ , in which AISA placed its blueprint for an alternative scheme by which FYUP could be scrapped and the present batch under FYUP could be given an honours degree in the three years. Apart from First year students sharing their experiences of one year under FYUP, the meeting was also addressed by Dr. Nandita Narain, President, DUTA and Dr. Saikat Ghosh, Executive Member, DUTA.
AISA participated in the Halla Bol protest called by the DUTA on 19 June 2014. On 23 June, AISA burned the effigy of the DU VC and held a demonstration outside the MHRD demanding intervention by the MHRD to ensure that the Visitor of DU, the President of India intervene through the powers vested upon him by Section 31(6) of the DU Act.
AISA activists were detained by the Delhi Police and taken to the Parliament Police Station while trying to March to Rashtrapati Bhavan on 26 June (Emergency Day), to demand that the President of India intervene as Visitor of DU. AISA continued its protest inside the Police Station. Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA also came to express her solidarity with the AISA activists protesting inside the Parliament Street Police Station. A Memorandum was submitted to the President.
Later in the day AISA held a Protest Demonstration at UGC protesting against the DU’s last ditch proposal to salvage FYUP. AISA also submitted its own alternative for students of 2013 batch. AISA leaders Om Prasad and Niraj Kumar met UGC Joint Sceretary Jitendar Kumar.
On 27 June, AISA held a victory procession from the VC House to Arts Faculty Gate hailing the rollback of FYUP. AISA also demanded that the current batch of students must be provided a degree in 3 years and that the B Tech course must be made to meet AICTE standards and allowed to remain. AISA also demand that the present VC and his team must not go scot free, and an inquiry must be initiated against the VC and his team to probe the many allegations of financial and administrative irregularities against them.