Co-authored by Shristi Sinha:
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication is situated in the laps of nature in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. It is considered to be one of the premier institutes of journalism in India. It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and provides postgraduate diploma in journalism, advertising and public relations.
The institution made it to the headlines last year when the Director, K G Suresh invited the former IG of Bastar, Chattisgarh, S R P Kalluri for a seminar. The former IG of Bastar has been accused of driving journalists and media houses out of the region among other things. Several faculty members and students had protested against this invitation.
Starting on February 2, 2018, the students at IIMC began protesting against the administration. The students have been demanding a men’s hostel, round the clock access to the reading room, good internet connectivity and library timings to be extended till midnight. Currently, the library is open till 8 pm on weekdays and 5 pm on Saturdays. Students protested with placards reading #NotInMyName and #WeNotRapists.
From an ambulance taking students who were on a hunger strike to the Safdarjung hospital to a Fast Response Vehicle with cops keeping an eye on the protest, and media organisations barred from entering the premises, a lot has happened over the last week.
Since the beginning of the academic year, outstation male students have been raising the demand for a hostel – that despite the 2017-18 prospectus clearly stating that the facility wasn’t available for men.
On its inability to provide a hostel facility for men, the administration touted ‘women’s security’ as the prime reason. They also pointed out that the number of female students in all the PG Diploma courses, who were from outside of Delhi had increased considerably.
A student enrolled in the Hindi journalism course said, “the reality is, there’s a decline in the number of outstation female students from 129 last year to 115 this year.”
The erstwhile men’s hostel, which has now been provided to the women can accommodate 47 students but is occupied by only 21 women at present – with most of them being Delhi residents. The men who are from outside of Delhi have been compelled to spend hefty money in rented accommodations outside the campus.
One of the students, on the grounds of anonymity, said, “It is clearly mentioned on the official website that one more hostel for 42 students is under construction. But it seems like a blatant lie, as we have never witnessed such a development. Besides that, the administration keeps saying that they haven’t gotten the requisite permissions from the National Green Tribunal to clear the concerned area of trees and construct a hostel.”
The course began in August, and since then, the students have held a lot of meetings, signed multiple petitions and submitted numerous applications. Shyam Singh from Hindi journalism confirmed handing in applications to the administration.
He said, “Akhir hum kyun majboor huye? Pata hai hum 6 applications de chuke hai.” (Why have we been compelled to do this? Do you know we have already submitted six applications?)
Murari Tripathi, a student of Hindi journalism, expressed his resentment over the poor connectivity of WiFi in the reading room. He also said that their group has demanded an extension in the library timings and round the clock access to the reading room. He pointed out how the administration had enough funds to install a camera within hours to put us under surveillance but didn’t have the money to enable the WiFi in the reading room.
During the time of admissions, the students were made to sign on a ‘code of conduct‘, declaring that they will neither speak nor write anything against the institute on social media. Shyam Singh pointed out how the ‘code of conduct’ violates Article 13 of the Indian Constitution. The article says, “The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void} and it also violates article 19(1), which provides freedom of speech and expression.”
Shyam Singh and other protestors said that they’ve tried everything and protest was the last resort.
Subsequently, this party said that it had tried everything but was left with Hobson’s choice at the end, with protest as the last resort.
For almost a week, a group of students, including the likes of Shyam Singh and Murari Tripathi, had been protesting against the administration. Another group of students became apprehensive about the protests. According to this second set of students, such protests might affect the credibility of the institution and lead to problems during placements scheduled in March – April.
The second set of students started protesting against the first group. They accused Shyam Singh and Mandeep Punia from the first group of protesting students as having political motives and how they wanted to spread propaganda.
The second set of students held placards that read: “Padhayi chahiye, hungama nahi. Naukri chahiye, drama nahi. (We want to study and not protest. We don’t need drama, we need jobs.)”
Ajay Singh, a student of Hindi journalism, said, “We came here to become journalists, they (first set of students) came here to become activists. They are from a rich background and don’t see a career in journalism, but we have always dreamt of journalism, and they are affecting our growth.”
Both sets of students were protesting in front of the main gate of the college.
The administration – including the Director-General, Dean of Student’s Welfare and professors of the institute – have tried negotiating with the students over the week.
The library timings were extended within two days, but other demands continue to be under process. Recently, the students were handed two circulars addressing the issues of hostel facility, library and reading room. The circulars clarified that IIMC shall make necessary hostel arrangements for boys of the upcoming batch to avoid any inconvenience, the reading room shall remain open till 10 PM and books shall be issued till 6 PM.
While on the one hand, this pacified the protesters to an extent, the effect was equal and opposite on the women residing in Rani Gaidinliu Hostel of the college.
The circular also stated that, “if the girls staying in Rani Gaidinliu hostel are willing to voluntarily accommodate them (Ambedkar Hostel girls), the administration has no problem whatsoever in accommodating the men as per the merit list in the Ambedkar Hostel for the remaining part of the semester.”
With Rani Gaidinliu hostel comprising of only single occupancy rooms, the proposed solution did address the woes of the men, albeit by shifting them over women.
The students turned pale and fragile, doctors frequented the campus several times as the protests lasted for over a week. The entire episode finally came to an end when the Director-General, Dean of Students Welfare, and professors gathered in front of the students and accepted the demands of both sets of protesting students.
An official circular was released soon after.