By Tania Kar:
At around midnight on 16th October, I got a call informing me about police presence on campus. On coming in front of the Amrita Pritam International Women’s hostel, I was met with a fairly large crowd of students. Apparently, a man had been viewed inside the hostel by one of the residents. She had informed the security guards, and within no time two police men from the nearby Osmania Police Station had arrived on a motorcycle and went straight into the hostel to ‘investigate’. They were accompanied by Gohartaj Beguman, the caretaker of Amrita Pritam.
This is not the first time that police from the nearby Osmania police station have graced the EFLU campus with their presence. Truckloads of police were sent on campus to manage ‘unrest’ among students on 20th August when a peaceful gathering was conducted by the students to show solidarity to the students’ movement in FTII. Police presence on a university campus is not only unwarranted but also disturbs the atmosphere of the space. In this particular case, it seemed to have created major resentment among the students, who had already had enough of their freedom being breached by the administration. Sreejith, a Masters scholar, questioned why policemen were allowed to enter a women’s hostel, while Ashfaq, a Bachelors student questioned the very presence of state police on campus. “We have a huge force of security guards, both male and female, on top of that we have many faculty living on the campus, and then of course there are the students. Why was our help not sought first?”, he stated. Moreover, the whole campus is under CCTV surveillance.
More concerned students gradually joined in the growing agitation, some taking the trouble to get down from their fourth floor rooms, on hearing that their fellow international students’ security had been breached. However, most of them were still very angry about the fact that police had to be called. By the time the crowd grew bigger, the police had left the building. Resentment among the students rose on knowing that the police had demanded entry into the women’s rooms on pretext of conducting a search for the trespasser. “On what grounds can policemen knock on women resident’s doors at twelve in the night? Why were no policewomen accompanying them in spite of knowing that the incident concerns a women’s hostel?” asked Ushosi, a B.A English student.
The Head of Security personnel of EFLU soon arrived at the scene and students demanded to know on whose orders the police were called. Mr. Mahender, a police officer, ridiculously denied any knowledge of the whole incident. Apparently, no one knew who had called the police. The students decided to gherao (encircle) him and demanded an answer. After almost an hour trying to negotiate with students, a call was made to Sujatha Mukhri, Deputy Proctor and Warden of Amrita Pritam who resides on campus. She came down and tried to pacify the agitated students by publicly ‘scolding’ the Security Chief for letting police inside without informing her when the incident happened. She claimed that Gohartaj, the caretaker was the person in charge, who had already left the scene by then.
Repeated calls to Gohartaj’s phone went unanswered. However, the students were far from relenting. They were clearly agitated by repeated police interference in matters of the university and matters relating to them. They demanded an immediate enquiry into the night’s incidents and also proper action against the people found guilty.
Such incidents only show the will of the University authorities to allow the state police to intrude in an academic space; instances of which are galore in the recent past throughout the country – Presidency University, Jadavpur University and Burdwan University in Bengal, FTII in Pune, Delhi University, and of course my own university. Such intrusion is only an expected move as we can recall the UGC guidelines for enhancing security in Higher education institutions. It is a concerted move to ensure that the university space is transformed from a space of organic learning producing intellectuals who can be mechanized individuals, abstaining from critical thinking, staying removed from politics, voicing their opinions in public and from participating in movements of resistance. In brief, the model of higher education is in a phase of radical transformation, where trained and disciplined subjects are to replace creative and hence troublemaking students. In accordance, the climate and space of the institutions are in need of reinforcements; boundary walls are to be raised, corridors to be armed with CCTVs and campus grounds to be patrolled by armed policemen; all in the name of welfare and security of the juvenile student who are yet to come of age and are in need of being disciplined. Hence in such spaces, as in the universities in my country, to have an opinion or to dissent is a cognizable crime which requires police intervention.
For us who are in the receiving end of this draconian law, we just have our independent spirits and slogans to hold on to. Student’s movements in the form of protests, sloganeering, strikes or gheraos are instruments by which issues are brought out in the open, crossing the high walls of the public universities.
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