How The JNU VC Is Forcing Students To Accept New UGC Norms

Posted by Satarupa Chakraborty in Campus Watch
February 21, 2017

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration’s statements, in recent times, in the name of making an ‘appeal’ has surprised me every time. Many of those, particularly since Professor M. Jagadesh Kumar has taken charge of the administration as the vice-chancellor (VC), have effectively given us nothing except false blames on students-teachers-karamcharis. He has been systematically targeting various sections of the JNU community, curtailing everyone’s right to protest, their freedom of expression and democratic rights. When ‘appeals’ are vindictive or threatening, they cease to be ‘appeals’. In fact, they have never been ‘appeals’. The ‘appeal’ that JNU administration has dished out on February 18 is no longer surprising. It is atrocious and a farce! However, what does the ‘appeal‘ say?

The ‘appeal’ titled – Occupation and Blockade of Administrative Building Must End, dated February 18, 2017 – an unsigned release – starts by accusing the students, who have been, indeed, waiting for the VC to meet the students and address their queries regarding the future, of being the reason for ‘financial loss’ and ‘adverse impact on various stakeholders’.

The JNU administration, as it stands today, is a bag of lies. The JNU administration, which has been systematically undermining the interests of the entire JNU community of students-teachers-staffs, all of a sudden shows its concern about JNU! The VC and his administration are the reasons that JNU’s progressive and inclusive admission policy is under severe threat today!

In the name of ‘request’ and ‘appeal’, the JNU administration has given us continuous letters of threat ever since the students started asking questions on the recent nefarious UGC Gazette notification (appeared on May 5, 2016). The ‘appeal’ letter that the administration made public on February 18, reads more like a political pamphlet than an ‘appeal’.

As a student representative of the Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union (JNUSU), I would like to highlight a few points and would genuinely request the administration to stop spreading blatant lies in public. Such lies show insincerity on the part of the administration, to say the least.

First, the VC must correct himself, as he has bypassed all the norms, showing total disregard to the act of legislation, which gave rise to the university. The question of UGC notification bearing enormous implications on JNU admission policy was never discussed in any detail at a JNU Academic Council meeting. The academic council is the highest decision-making body of JNU. The JNUSU sent several letters subsequently to the VC, seeking appointment to discuss the UGC Gazette. The JNUSU submitted memorandums detailing its oppositions, apprehensions and critical analysis regarding the UGC Gazette 2016.  Those were continuously and systematically ignored by the administration. We have requested the VC repeatedly to reconvene the 142nd Academic Council Meeting, where he tried to impose the UGC Gazette notification without discussion. Any decision regarding admission policy which affects the students, cannot be taken without proper discussion in the Academic Council – the highest decision-making body, to decide JNU’s admission policy.

What did the VC do to the university? How did he show his disregard to the norms of JNU, and the JNU Act itself?

Professor Jagadesh Kumar did not keep UGC Gazette notification as part of the agenda in the last academic council meeting (142nd meeting). In the Part A of the meeting, of which the elected student representatives were a part, the UGC notification was not on the agenda. Further, it was never properly discussed during part B either! The VC never allowed a detailed discussion to proceed. Various statements issued by JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) and public statements by many academic council members post December 26,  2016, clearly articulated their opposition to the manner in which the VC conducted the 142nd Academic Council Meeting. Hence, neither the UGC Gazette nor any reduction of intake was approved by the academic council or any statutory body.

Secondly, despite repeated appeals, when the VC refused to come forward and initiate any dialogue with the JNUSU and other sections of the university community, we were left with no other option but to take this issue to the streets, where a massive resistance was built up through democratic demonstrations and protests. We have conducted various public meetings, marches, resistance vigils, etc. to ensure that the UGC Gazette notification, which has far-reaching consequences in the entire country’s academia, must be debated in the country. The JNUSU organised a university referendum in which 98.35% of JNU students rejected the UGC Gazette. Students sat on hunger strike, which is now on its 21st day! A mass delegation of students from different batches, different centres, waited in the administrative block to meet the VC to air their concerns! The VC has no time, except for lying through his teeth through 140 characters on Twitter. He refused to meet the students; well, except the ABVP; for they share the brotherhood of the Sangh!

The VC now terms these protests ‘unlawful’! The JNU administration and the ABVP went ahead in filing an FIR against JNUSU and some student leaders to penalise them for asking for their rights, for standing up to save the university and for putting up a resistance to save higher education at large.

Interestingly, the politically threatening letter from the JNU administration speaks about the loss of contractual labourers and the interest of students-teachers. It is the same administration which did not ensure salaries and bonus of labourers in the recent past. Further, its dirty past is marred with firing the security guards and other workers, who asked for bonus and salaries for their own hard labour. The JNU administration, which so far, failed to provide hostels to its own students, suddenly wakes up and realises that this critical struggle that is going to shape the future of the students’ admissions on campus, is coming in the way of laying bricks of the hostel! Indeed, the VC is constructing his bricks of lies; the struggle for social justice, for inclusion, for upholding democracy and autonomy of the university would surely raze the castle down to dust.

Image source: Saumya Khandelwal/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images