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“Awaaz Do, Hum Ek Hai!”: Curbing Protests Won’t Break Student Unity In EFLU Hyderabad

Posted on November 6, 2015 in Campus Watch

By Tania Kar:

For a protest organized by the student community of EFLU against the unacceptable show cause notice served to Arjab Sarkar on 15th October for voicing his opinion about the Swachh EFLU program on Facebook, the administration’s comeback has been twelve more show cause notices. The protest was also focusing on other issues, like a demand for elections on our campus, and for serving two show causes to mess secretaries of the men’s and women’s hostel respectively for serving chicken on 2nd October.

EFLU Heritage well poster (1)
Image source: Tania Kar

We have been demanding elections since the inception of this semester in August. However, the administration had successfully avoided the question by initially trying to tell us that all kind of student organizations and bodies formed without prior permission from ‘competent authorities’ were illegal and would be banned from campus. This argument failed for obvious reasons; so they next tried to cite procedural difficulties. However, the growing discontent and impatience of the students was tested when the administration decided to serve Arjab and two mess secretaries with irrational show causes. By now, the autocratic nature of the VC had come to fore amply. Last year, a group of EFLU-ites were threatened with disciplinary action for staging a street play in front of the library, this year a student was given a show cause for arranging the screening of a world-class film for his fellow students. Our feudal VC refuses to meet us, but has her eyes on us through the many CCTV cameras on campus. All these have led to resentment among the students that could not be contained any longer. We, the students, through our unity, proved that we do not need any kind of affiliation to voice out our anger.

On 15th October, the student community protested against the regressive and insensitive attitude of the administration. We gathered to protest the erosion of our democratic rights, the encroachment on our spaces, and the slow deterioration of freedom on campus. The protest was entirely peaceful, and did not disrupt the academic or administrative functioning of the university, did not use any defamatory language or involve intimidatory tactics. It stemmed from the genuine concern of the students to make the university a better place. More than three hundred students took part in the protest march and shouted slogans like “up, up democracy, down, down feudal VC” and “we want elections”.

We know that students’ movements in the forms of strikes, protest marches, gatherings and sloganeering are some of the mechanisms that student communities have been using not only in India but throughout the world whenever they have been denied their basic rights, for we just have our independent spirits and slogans to hold on to. Whereas, our administration, instead of paying heed to any of our demands have been constantly deploying all kinds of regressive and intimidatory tactics to contain the students. Do they fail to understand that a student movement of this scale does not simply happen for no reason at all? Three hundred people cannot be so jobless that they decide to gather and create inconvenience for the VC or the other members of the administration team; nor do any of us have any personal rivalry with the administration.

On 19th October, the administration handed out show cause notices to Arjab Roy (PhD), Geo Ciril P(MA), Abdul Jabbar (MCJ), Mohammed P (PhD), Parameshwaran V (BA), Rohit Nair (MCJ), Rose Sebastian(PhD), Saheer VP (MCJ), Sarath MV (MA), Sreejith PS (MA), Vidya Sukumaran (BA) and Vishnu V(PhD),and hit a new low. However, this was a strategic move. Only twelve students from the huge pool of 300 were deliberately picked out to set an example. They were among the few who realized the need of elections and an elected voice to represent the students. They recognized the threat to the freedom of the student community at large. They were accused of inciting people to protest and creating a disturbing atmosphere on campus.

The reasons pointed out in the notices are baseless and strategic. This mass supply of show cause notices was intended to threaten the student community and thereby reduce the pace of protest and dampen the spirit of unity. All the above-mentioned students decided to face the notices and stick on to the protest.

On 5th November, that is yesterday, memorandums of disciplinary action were served to these twelve people. These students who took part in the protest were rewarded for their troubles with show causes holding them responsible for inciting violence on campus and being involved in anti-university activities (the ‘anti-university’ being a euphemism for anti-VC). The disciplinary actions ranged from reprimands to suspension from the hostel and Ph.D. fellowships for three to six months and restricted entry of the concerned students on campus. Students who involved themselves in issues that concerned the whole university have been targeted and silenced. The disciplinary action even concerns people who were not on campus on the day of the protests and people who were not active in the protests. This shows the blatant arrogance of the administration and their belief that they can implement any decision on campus without being answerable to the students.

On what grounds are the disciplinary actions varying in intensity? What is the scale against which each students’ crimes were measured? Also, it is absolutely obnoxious to ask students to vacate their hostel rooms in a days’ notice. The university decided to stop the fellowship of the PhD students, not UGC. So what is the administration thinking of doing with this money? EFLU is still a public university, and the administration is answerable.

The current happenings on our campus are only an indicator of what is going to happen all over India if the current government has its way. It is high time that the student community of not only EFLU but all of India unites and stands up against all these atrocities that are being committed, and it is high time we identify these issues as our own. For the ones in power want to create fissures in our unity and set examples by picking out the ‘problem elements’. It is time to remind them of the power of the students’ unity, we must all become problem elements for those who find it problematic to treat us as equals, those who commit the fallacy of ignoring our agency; for each time we keep quiet, we empower them. Our legitimate fight for justice and our democratic rights on campus should not end with the show causes or the disciplinary actions that have ensued. “When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty!”

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Editor’s Note: A video accompanying this article was taken down to protect the identity of the students after the University issued a show cause notice to them.