The administration of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) refused to accept Umar Khalid’s and Aswathi Nair’s PhD submissions on July 23 as a punishment that was given to them in connection with the February 9, 2016, incident on campus where alleged anti-India slogans were raised. Monday was the last day for MPhil and PhD submissions.
Umar Khalid, along with Kanhaiya Kumar and others, had recently been fined by the administration’s Appeals Committee with regards to the above-mentioned case. The Delhi High Court set aside Jawaharlal Nehru University’s move to penalise Kanhaiya Kumar for breach of discipline and said that the order was “illegal, irrational and irregular” and Kumar was able to submit his PhD thesis. However, Umar has not been allowed to submit his PhD thesis, despite a clear ruling from the High Court which asked JNU administration to withhold any coercive action against them up till their submission which is a clear violation of the court order.
Umar Khalid, a student of history at JNU whose PhD is on “Contesting claims and contingencies of the rule on Adivasis of Jharkhand”, said, “We didn’t pay the fine. We have already challenged the order, but we moved court again saying JNU is not complying with the no-coercion order. They were again told to comply. But when I came back to JNU, the proctor refused to accept my submission, arguing that it was not coercion. This is another level of vendetta. I will definitely not pay the fine. I will contest this further.”
Professor Sangeeta Dasgupta, who’s also Khalid’s PhD mentor, had earlier written in The Indian Express, “Umar engaged with Adivasi history and politics with passion and commitment. He was awarded an A for a seminar paper he wrote on the politics of categorising Chhotanagpur as a “scheduled tract” in colonial times. He was also awarded an A for his MPhil dissertation on the Hos of Singhbhum. Through a study of the colonial state’s intervention in Singhbhum, Umar, in his dissertation, sought to question the simplistic opposition between the state and tribal societies. The object of his research was to reflect on contemporary society, understanding the conflicts and struggles of the Adivasis in the past, he believed, would help him understand Adivasi societies in the present. His deep empathy for the marginalised would constantly emerge in the course of discussions. His PhD proposal extends the research focus to the present times, making his study even more socially relevant.”
Umar registers his protest by accusing the administration of taking out a personal vendetta against him. He says that there’s been a history of harassment from the administration, and has been one of its primary targets. Taking to Facebook, he shared a brief timeline of what he calls ‘JNU admin’s ‘love’ for me over the last two years!’
A brief time-line of JNU admin's 'love' for me over the last two years!Feb 2016 – Facilitates police witch-hunt…
Aswathi Nair’s PhD is on ‘Political Economy of the Transformation of Zimbabwe from 1980-2013,’ and she was also not allowed to submit her thesis earlier but has been cleared by the court now. She had been asked to pay a fine of ₹ 20,000. “The Chief Proctor has completely paid no heed to any directive from the court. Despite bringing to his notice several times that this was in violation of what the court has said, he did not relent,” she had earlier said.
In the last few years, with the noose of right-wing policing and assaults tightening over JNU, the University that stood for the principles of dissent, cultures of protest, debate, holding the authorities accountable for its actions – has handed out punishments to students for protesting, for having debates and discussions, closed dhabas which were hubs of education outside classrooms, among other things.
The administration issued arbitrary show cause notices to dissenting students citing absurd reasons. Random police cases were registered against students, the sexual harassment cell (GSCASH) was dismantled and replaced by an undemocratic body headed by the administration, compulsory attendance was imposed on students to encourage narrow exam-centred approach and discourage dissent.
Amidst all this, massive seat cuts in MPhil and PhD nearing almost zero seats in some departments happened alongside with 100% fee hike at the mess to almost scuttling reservation for most of the courses. Forged minutes of Academic Council meetings were also circulated.
Autonomy came as the ultimate blow as it would mean the withdrawal of government subsidy and the University will have to look for means to raise money to take care of 30% of its expenditures.
The current government has made sure that everything that JNU has always stood for, meet its end.