Mumbai: February is the cruellest month for Jawaharlal Nehru University.
In February 2016, JNU witnessed several protests where ‘anti-India’ slogans were raised. Two years later, in 2018, JNU is experiencing demonstrations all over again but for a different reason. On December 22, 2017, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor issued a circular making 75% attendance compulsory for all students, including those pursuing M.Phil and Ph.D.
On January 4, 2018, students led by JNU Student Union gathered in large numbers near the administration block to meet with the Vice Chancellor and submit a memorandum against the circular.
Members of the student body were fined of Rs 10,000 each for ‘protesting’ as they had violated the court order. In 2016, Delhi High court had issued an order prohibiting students from protesting or holding demonstrations within 100 meters of the administration block.
The deadline for the fine payment is February 24, 2018.
Based on the recommendation of the attendance committee, the circular was introduced as undergraduate students weren’t attending classes. The circular also said that if one fails to maintain minimum 75% attendance, they would be barred from enrolling into the following semester. Additionally, violators will not be entitled to their fellowships, hostels or any other facilities from the university.
Bhaskar Jyoti, a research student at JNU, said “As far as undergraduate student attendance is considered, it’s fair enough but for students like us, who are pursuing M.Phil or Ph.D. which requires research, it’s unfair for us. We need time to research and complete our thesis but with this new rule of the university, it seems almost next to impossible to complete our work within the specific period of time.”
He also added that the minimum requirement was higher than in other institutions such as Delhi University.
On February 15, 2018, when the students saw that no authority is ready to listen to them or discuss the matter to come to a common ground, they decided to take things into their own hands.
Students formed a human chain around the building and blocked each and every of the five exits of the building in the hope to meet VC or any other authority so as to be able to address the attendance issue.
The university has alleged that the students “blocked the way” of officials, and “chased” them back into the building when they tried to leave.
The students “gheraoed” the campus from 11.30 am in the morning until 11.30 pm in the night, not allowing any officials of the university to leave the campus.
According to reports, the students’ unabashed act even made one of the rectors sick, who complained of nausea and high blood pressure.
Apparently students blocked the ambulance that had been called to the campus for the rector as they cried, “let him die”. The rector was taken to the hospital later around midnight.
Amita Singh, chairperson at Special Centre for Disaster Research and one of the teachers who had gone to the get their “confined colleagues released,” said that students insulted her with the “most shocking abusive wild sloganeering... which as an academic most of us had never heard from students,” and that two of the faculty members were “pushed.”
For once, all the student bodies and the teachers are together against this circular. In fact, teachers also decided to boycott the university’s decision and they are holding classes in the lawns, or outside the campus. The JNU Teachers Association had said it was “unproductive” and would lead to the teachers doing and “meaningless” form of bureaucratic work.
The university also lodged FIRs against students as they were protesting within 100 meters of the campus. Court also gave the liberty to the university to call Delhi police and paramilitary forces if they required to so as controlling the protestors. The police and forces were called on Friday but no one was detained or hurt. Police were called for security and safety purposes but no actions had been taken against anyone.
It doesn’t look like that the university body is ready to roll back the attendance or negotiate with students or professors. JNU has for long maintained a culture of self-regulatory attendance and has in fact been known as the university where students are given the freedom to pursue their courses as they deem fit. As such, with these new rules JNU may be stepping into a new era, consequently drawing a lot of criticism from its student body....