By Arpita Jaya:
Upon hearing reports of demonstrations by faculty as well as students of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), a 10-member fact-finding team, comprising of teachers and students from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) visited MANUU to ascertain the facts. This news came amid a history of allegations by teachers and students of mismanagement, corruption and serious financial irregularities by the administration of the University.
The team based their findings on an interaction with the students and teaching and non-teaching staff on October 14, 2015. Teachers and students spoke about misappropriation of funds, mismanagement and lack of provision of basic facilities such as clean drinking water and functioning toilets, irregularities in recruitment, termination of staff members voicing dissent, selective promotion of staff who are close aides of the Vice-Chancellor regardless of UGC guidelines; gender discrimination, regional discrimination and a shocking coercion of students into illegal acts. Women students and their teachers described shocking instances of public insults in the vein of moral policing directed by members of the administration towards women students, and an arbitrary set of hostel rules that clamp down on the freedom of women students by imposing time restrictions limiting students’ access to academic and social spaces.
On further examination, we realised that students and staff weren’t provided with proper amenities like basic sanitation. Voices of anyone in the University space protesting these violations was clamped down in an undemocratic and regressive manner. Democratic processes were subverted by rendering the University’s internal regulatory bodies dysfunctional and ruthless measures were taken, such as suspension of teachers such as Mr. Abdul Qayyum and others who have been vocal about the problems of the University.
This fact-finding was triggered by a chaotic situation last Saturday (Oct 10, 2015), when some people in powerful positions in the MANUU administration incited a section of students into physically and verbally attacking their teachers who were peacefully and democratically protesting against the unilateral decision of the university administration to invite the former Vice-Chancellor for inaugurating a new building in campus.
Once students realized that they had been used by the administration to attack faculty, they were very upset and they agitated against the administration for this kind of misuse. In the course of their agitation, the administration clamped down on the students and the Chief Warden/Proctor filed police complaints against them. In addition to the use of police force against protesting staff and students, the MANUU administration has also armed itself with illegal and draconian policy measures such as the circular no. MANUU/ER1-1(B)/F.110/2015-16/150 (dated 29th April 2015), which attacks the right of employees and students to go on strike. According to the protesters, the MANUU administration has all this while used all possible measures of co-option, intimidation, and coercion, to ensure minimum dissent against its ruthless policies and corrupt practices.
This includes unconstitutional diktats such as a ban on giving public statements about the University in any kind of media, illegal raids on the offices of faculty members in a bid to ‘frame them with false charges’, suspension of employees, physical attacks and other techniques such as public intimidation, humiliation and rumour- mongering against those who dare to raise their voices.
All this has happened in parallel with the students’ independent ongoing struggle against moral policing and effective curfew on women students on campus. The protesting students have been demanding a gender-equal and democratic campus, protesting repressive rules such as strict hours for women students to return to their hostels by arbitrary deadlines set by their wardens, sometimes as early as 6:30 pm. These measures effectively restrict their hours of access even to the library which is open till midnight, allowing male students several hours of access to libraries that women students are prevented from accessing. When these women students approached the teachers to tackle these issues, the same Chief Warden made extremely misogynist comments questioning their motivation, asking, “Are you here to entertain the professors?” This kind of intimidation and sexism by the Chief Warden has also been a regular issue for students, as she has grilled students who arrive past their curfew and morally policed them by making insinuations. Protesting students tore apart registers being maintained by the administration that were used to curtail freedom and mobility of women students. The effective curfew for women students was extended till 10 pm under pressure of the student protest. The presence of police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) on the University campus further served to create an unsafe and intimidating atmosphere for all students, including women students who felt harassed by the police. The police and RAF’s entry onto the campus, and the administration’s suppression of a peaceful, democratic teachers and students protests is untenable.
The media has also reported a completely skewed version of the events, including a false communal angle, featuring prominently the claims of Prof. Pradeep Kumar, who claimed that as a Hindu, he felt his family was ‘not safe’ on campus, where they currently stay. Prof Pradeep Kumar however, does not live on campus. This and many other distortions of the situation in MANUU, including the demonization of women and minority students and teachers are one of the many reasons that teachers and students from other Universities, civil society spaces and supportive media should visit the campus and observe the democratic nature of the protests for themselves.
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