According to sources, at 4:30 pm on August 19, students from Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) and students affiliated to various left-wing parties staged a protest in front of the University of Pondicherry’s Gate Number 1. The protest addressed three issues – a demand for the University to follow the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act in PhD admissions, problems with the “Sanskritisation” clauses in the New Education Policy and what happened recently with the student magazine “Widerstand”.
Approximately 200 students were present at the protest, which received minimum attention from the media. The ASA has conducted more than five protests in the past six months regarding the same issue, and the only coverage it received has been from the local news platforms.
A faculty member has told Campus Watch that students protested against the New Education Policy, because it emphasizes on the imposition of Sanskrit language in their educational culture. The region, in which the University is located, is known to have fiercely preserved and protected the indigenous Dravidian languages since time immemorial. However, with this imposition, people feel that the local languages will take a hit which could lead to an eventual decline of the usage. Moreover, not only the student community at the University but also the local populace, does not identify with Hindi as their common language. The community uses Dravidian languages – Tamil, Telugu and Kannada and Malayalam – as their everyday medium of conversation.
K. Sivachandiran, the President of ASA and also the organizer of yesterday’s protest, shared Ambedkar Students Association’s cause with us, i.e the non-implementation of the CEI Reservation ACT in the University. This cause came into the limelight after the unfortunate incident of Rohith Vemula’s death, and ASA has been fighting for it since the past six months. According to our source, the mass communication department has not admitted a single student from the ST/SC category, since the past 8 years. A student of the organization has also filed a case in Madras High Court. The student was 4th on the merit list for the PhD entrance exam and didn’t get selected in spite of the SC/ST reservation for which, the student was available. The University has already, received two notifications from the University Grants Commission (UGC) asking for an explanation for the same and their answer to both the notices has been constant – which reservation isn’t possible in a department where only two seats are concerned. ASA’s demand is for at least one of those two seats to be reserved for SC/ST students and a similar arrangement of reservation to be made for other departments as well.
The CIE Act, which is allegedly being violated, states that “out of the annual permitted seats for a branch of study or faculty, 15% seats shall be reserved for SCs, 7.5% seats for STs and 27% for OBCs”. According to information secured through the RTI Act, the intake of SC/ST students over a period of 10 years from 2005 was found to be low in many departments at the University – as per a report in The Hindu, on last week’s protest. According to Vijay Kumar, General Secretary of PU of SC/ST Employees Welfare Association, both the issues and the conflict around Widerstand Magazine, were all protested for together as they are cases of social injustice and discrimination. Members of the administration either refused to comment on the matter, or weren’t available to comment.
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