Friends of JNU, Please stand with us in the wake of intensified repression: An Appeal from JNU Students’ Union

JNU Students’ Union

An Appeal to Friends of JNU

In the Face of Fresh and Intensified Attacks on JNU, Unite to Defend What We Know This University Stands For – Social Justice, Inclusive Academics and Right to Dissent!

Friends,

27th January, 2016 was when Prof. Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar took over as Vice-Chancellor of JNU. Within weeks of his joining, the campus witnessed an unprecedented crisis with Delhi Police being given a free hand to raid the campus, witch-hunt political activists, arrest at will without the VC demanding to even see the evidence or any warrant before allowing such action. The VC was welcomed with a strong resistance by students and teachers which introduced him to the spirit of JNU. He understood that, in order to convert JNU campus into an RSS shakha, it is imperative to destroy the structures and policies that make the campus an inclusive and egalitarian space.

That is why a fresh round of attacks has been unleashed by the VC –

  • Najeeb Ahmad, a minority student disappeared from the campus after facing violence from a group of communal lumpens. The VC has shown complete inaction in finding Najeeb. He has given green signal to ABVP lumpens to freely indulge in violence and intimidation by refusing to punish Najeeb’s assaulters even after they have been proven guilty of assaulting and threatening Najeeb in the Proctorial enquiry.

  • 11 students from marginalised communities have been suspended by the VC without any chance of defence being given to them.

  • Prof. Nivedita Menon has been served with notice for voicing opinion and showing solidarity with the suspended students.

  • Threats and intimidation of student activists for protesting at the Administration Block.

  • 142nd AC meeting was totally disrupted by the Vice-Chancellor. The AC meeting was concluded without any discussions being allowed.

  • A major change in admission policy was made by unilateral imposition of 5 May UGC guideline, increasing viva-weightage to 100% – without any discussion.

  • Fee-hike in entrance exam passed in the AC meeting in an abrupt, arbitrary and undemocratic way.

  • Notice Raj: The highest number of notices ever served in the past year to student activists, including former and current Union office bearers at each instance of protest, including, burning of an effigy of Gaurakshaks and the Gujarat Government, observing May Day among other protests.

  • Attempts to conduct surveillance on public meetings – on guest speakers as well as student participants in such meetings.

The Academic Council meeting (Part A) of 23 Dec. was used by the VC to trample upon all the agenda introduced by the JNUSU:

  • The student community has been fighting for reduction of viva weightage since 2012, to address the issue of structural discrimination in the entrance exam. The latest viva committee which had JNUSU representation came out with a positive recommendation of reduction in viva weightage from 30 to 15. But the VC and his team made a complete mockery of all norms and procedures by refusing to implement the recommendations of the Viva Committee and impose instead his anti-student and partisan agenda. At one stage, the VC bypassed the Viva Committee recommendations in an abrupt manner, by showing a UGC circular of 5 May. However, when JNUSU forced a discussion, the VC decided to leave it to the ‘discretion’ of individual centres, despite the majority of the AC voting in favour of reduction in viva weightage.

  • Fee of the JNU entrance exam was hiked arbitrarily during the Academic Council meeting of 23 Dec.

  • VC’s brazen double-standards during the conduct of the recent AC are all too obvious. The well-researched recommendations for reducing viva weightage, which was a pro-student and pro-social justice move, was scuttled by resorting to every trick in the book. On the other hand, the anti-student proposal of fee hikes, which lacked any clear rationale or details, was adopted swiftly and with scant discussion!

  • The VC is repeatedly tampering with the autonomy and quality of the University in deciding course curriculum through his insistence on imposing courses dictated by the partisan views of the government of the day. For example, while JNU has no specialisation or departments related to areas like AYUSH, the VC forced the decision that the ‘AYUSH fellowship holders will be allowed to take admissions’ and also that the ‘AYUSH degrees can be considered for equivalence by centres’, without offering any academic rationale as to which centres and faculty will admit such students! In a situation where the already existing academic infrastructure is crumbling down, where no new hostel has been constructed for students, the sudden moves to introduce such spurious proposals is nothing but a toast to the loyalty of the JNU administration to the political agenda of the RSS-dictated government, at the cost of academic rigour and the inclusive infrastructure of JNU.

On the Academic Council meeting of 26 December, where Part B of the AC agenda was to be discussed (where there is no JNUSU representation), the JNU VC took his agenda of  tampering with the decision making process to a new low:

  • First of all, the minutes of the previous AC meeting that was circulated, carried several errors, misrepresentations and falsities.

  • Most alarming amongst them was the VC’s sly move to manipulate the constitution of the faculty selection committee, which as a general norm is decided upon by individual centres. This is nothing but a clear attempt to push through political and saffronised appointments under dictation of the BJP-RSS, at the cost of a free and fair selection process.

  • In spite of strong opposition from the AC members, the VC tried to leave the meeting in a hurry after declaring the minutes to be passed unilaterally. When he faced resistance from the AC members, the registrar read the rest of the agenda and the VC announced all the items as ‘passed’. This is a gross and brazen mockery of the institution of the Academic Council.

  • The UGC 5 May notification was declared to be accepted by the JNU VC without any discussion being allowed on this crucial issue. According to the UGC notification, the written test in entrance exam will only be a qualifier and viva voce will determine someone’s selection in the merit list. This is a total U-turn from the proposal of the viva committee that recommended the reduction of weightage of viva voce to deal with structural discrimination. If the UGC notification is applied and viva becomes the sole criterion for inclusion in the merit list, it will be a death blow to inclusion of students from deprived sections in JNU.

Suspending Students Alleging “Disruption” of an AC Meeting that He Himself Disrupted:

After unilaterally passing all agenda in the AC meeting, the VC has suspended 11 students alleging disruption. All these students belong to marginalised social communities. Within 24 hours of the Part B of the AC meeting, the VC has suspended these students without even any chance of self-defence being given to them. A replica of HCU VC Appa Rao’s model of victimisation and vengeful action is being seen in JNU under Jagadesh Kumar’s regime. After chalking out policies of shutting door to marginalised communities, this is how the VC wants to criminalise activism and punish students from marginalised section who have made it to the university.

Prohibition of Protests; Grills at Freedom Square:

The Ad Block, which has been a site of historical struggles of the JNU community has been declared a ‘no protest zone’. Grills have been constructed at ad block and a notice has been erected warning everyone of not protesting there. All this has been done after students demanded actions by the VC to find Najeeb and punish his assaulters. A VC who has turned the university into a free zone for communal lumpens to unleash violence on a student belonging to the minority community, wants to silence and shut out demands for justice.

Threat, Intimidation and Victimisation of Teachers:

The VC has decided to silence every possible differing opinion in the campus. Through a press release issued after the AC meeting of 26th December, he had threatened faculty members of AC who expressed opposition to unilateral decision-making inside the AC with disciplinary action. On 30th Decmeber, Prof. Nivedita Menon was issued a notice for voicing opinion and solidarity with the suspended students at the Ad Block.

Friends,

In any University, it is the students and faculty members whose entry into the University and academic work passes through rigorous processes of academic assessment. Their academic work defines the University. It is students and faculty to whom JNU owes its academic credibility – JNU has been known for decades as one of the best Universities, both nationally and internationally. Just last year, JNU has been recognised as the best university in the country by the NAAC and other governmental yardsticks. On the other hand, it is the Vice Chancellor, the Registrar and their team who, being handpicked by the govt of the day, are political appointees. Can political appointees be allowed to use their ‘power’ to play havoc with the academic credibility and democratic functioning of the University – by showing contempt for the decision-making processes of its Academic Council, destroying the socially inclusive academics, suspending and punishing students who express dissent, and threatening to likewise punish dissenting faculty members?

It is now more than clear that the present VC is clearly with an agenda of destroying everything that generations of students, teachers and the JNU community built up through historic struggles. We must say loud and clear that if anyone needs to be removed from JNU for ‘disrupting’ the processes of university functioning, it is the VC himself, not the students.

We appeal to everyone who stood up against Shut Down JNU conspiracies in the month of February in 2016, to join hands again, this time to save the university from destruction by its own administration.

Mohit, President, JNU Students Union

  • K SHESHU BABU

    Situation of the universities, especially JNU, is disturbing. The authorities and the VC are functioning as political affiliates rather than academic or student friendly colleagues. There has been a strong disconnect between students and teachers on the one hand and VC and administration on the other hand. Regrettably, dictatorship and autocracy have replaced freedom and democracy. This is a gloomy situation not only for JNU, but other institutions also. Hence students and teachers all over the country must protest this tyranny