By Chetna Kuanr:
The 21 students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) found guilty by the university’s High-Level Enquiry Committee (HLEC) for the Afzal Guru event row and the incidents following it, got embroiled in a fresh controversy on July 18. Notices have been sent to their respective schools blocking their registration for the upcoming Monsoon semester. The Delhi High Court had, in May, stayed the punishments awarded to the students by the HLEC, pending hearings on their appeals against the punishment, on the condition that they end their hunger strike going on then.
The circular that has been sent out has a handwritten note, signed July 18, by the Registrar, Mr. Pramod Kumar. It reads, “The registration of following students should be blocked till further order (sic).” Of the 21 students listed in the circular, 18 are going to be directly affected, as failing to register oneself for the semester leads to the cancellation of a seat in the University. However, since Anirban Bhattacharya submitted his PhD thesis this week, and Banajyotsna Lahiri and Draupadi Ghosh are not students of JNU, they are less likely to be affected by this order.
The affected students have since decided to consult their lawyers to see if they can approach the High Court. Further, they believe that this circular is a direct violation of the HC order, which asked the VC to decide on the student’s appeal after providing them interim relief from the HLEC recommendations. The VC had set no deadline and has not decided on the appeals, and hence the punishments were, so far, on hold.
Speaking to YKA, former JNUSU President, Ashutosh Kumar, who had been asked to vacate his hostel for one year and fined Rs. 20,000, alleged that this is a “direct targeting of politically known leaders in the campus to curb their freedom and academic right.” He further drew parallels with the Rohith Vemula case in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and has decided to protest politically and legally against this fresh order. He says that it has been decided that a joint letter from these students, regarding the order, will be soon forwarded to the VC. Contents of this letter would be decided in an all-party meeting.
JNUSU General Secretary Rama Naga alleged while speaking to YKA that “higher powers from outside” were dictating those in the administration. JNUSU has released a statement condemning the order.
Public talks have faced stricter scrutiny since the February 9 incident, and the administration has increased the frequency with which it labels these talks as ‘sensitive’. A public meeting titled “Death of Rationalism: Families of Dabholkar, Pansare Speak Up” on the killing of Kalburgi, Pansare, and Dabholkar, scheduled to be held on February 19, was also prohibited by the administration for being ‘sensitive’. Interestingly, this happened after Sushil Kumar, president of the Periyar hostel, where the event was to be held, withdrew his consent for holding the event in the hostel. He is known to have links with ABVP. The venue, at the time of writing this report, had been shifted to Lohit Hostel.
A student on campus on being asked their opinion on the latest controversy wondered, “What does the administration even want to prove at this point? The regular students feel this issue has been dragged enough.”
Rama Naga, the JNUSU general secretary, told YKA that attempts to contact the administration has led to the single response that this blocking of registration was on the directions of the Appeals Committee (HLEC).
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