When issuing circulars and appeals discouraging students from protesting at the University administration block didn’t work, the JNU administration has come out with another move to stop them. The varsity has now installed iron grills at the gates of the administrative building. The students noticed the grill late on the night of December 11 during a protest march against the “token punishment” given to ABVP members in the matter of a scuffle that preceded the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmad. The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) President Mohit Pandey has said that this will not stop students from protesting at the site.
The administrative building, popularly called the ad block, has been a regular site for protests, hunger-strikes, public meetings and lectures inside the university. The site saw huge protest gatherings and was termed ‘Freedom Square’ in February this year after students from the university were arrested on charges of sedition. After Najeeb Ahmad went missing, the Vice Chancellor and other officials were also reportedly confined inside the building by students to protest the University’s inaction during Najeeb’s disappearance in October. Since then the university has termed activities like “staging protests, sit-ins, confinement of officials and obstructing the flow of traffic” near the Administrative Building ‘a violation’ of both university rules and rules of the Supreme Court.
The President of JNU student union Mohit Pandey issued a statement stating that installing iron grills would not stop protests at the site. “…but this shows JNU VC’s idea of a University where instead of talking to students he wants to save his face by erecting structures of iron, cement and so on (sic),” the statement read.
“On every occasion, JNU admin has tried to stop protests in the ad block on Najeeb’s issue citing the wrong reasons. We have received many notices and threatened with dire consequences for protesting. When we refused to budge, they intentionally started parking cars meant for the sit-in space. The VC and his henchmen grilled the sit-in site secretly after hundreds of students marched against the university’s inadequate action in Najeeb’s case yesterday,” Pandey said. He added that to become an insider, the VC needs to start engaging with students and that he should not try to destroy ‘the culture of JNU by his might.
Speaking to YKA, Pandey said that the VC wants to portray the university as “a corporate-type university” where “PR exercise will be the only way of talking to students”. He added that the installation of the grill was a tactic to deflect difficult questions students are asking.
Shehla Rashid, ex-Vice President of JNUSU, told YKA that old students of the university were “emotionally hurt” by the move. “We remember all of those movements that happened there. And we think of it with a sense of nostalgia,” she told YKA. “The previous Vice Chancellor would actually come to the place to meet the people on hunger-strike,” she added.
Rashid told YKA that the move is “lacking in imagination” and termed it a provocation to create confrontation with students like on the day of the gherao on October 19. “In the gherao, it wasn’t as if the students had locked him (JNU VC) up or anything. He was free to go out but the thing is that he tried to portray to the media how unruly JNU students are,” she said.
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