Campus Watch
(All over the country students are waging struggles on India’s campuses. A brief update on these ongoing struggles follows.)

Court Stays JNU Punishments, Students End Hunger Strike

JNU students lifted their heroic hunger strike after the Court stayed all punishments and directed the JNU VC to respond to the appeals.

The JNU VC had, quite literally, been running away from facing the demands by JNU students and teachers that he review and revoke the punishments recommended by the 'High Level Enquiry Committee (HLEC)'. In spite of 52 Academic Council members passing a resolution to this effect, the JNU VC fled the Academic Council meeting rather than implement the resolution. Thus, he became the first Vice Chancellor of a Central University to jog away from an Academic Council meeting. In spite of a 16-day hunger strike by students peacefully appealing that he revoke the HLEC punishments, he refused to respond.

What the High Court order of 13 May 2016 does is to firmly tell the JNU VC to face the students’ appeals rather than run away. The JNU VC had been trying to hide behind the fig-leaf of the HLEC process and punishments being ‘subjudice’, claiming that the University cannot revoke the punishments since the matter is in Court. This is what the ‘Urgent Appeal’ by the JNU Administration on Day 12 of the hunger strike claimed. The High Court order clearly indicates that the JNU VC’s claim was a lie. The High Court orders the VC to hear and respond to the appeals made by students – and stays all punishments until the appeals are heard. Not only that, the Court order states that in case the VC rejects the students’ appeals, he cannot implement the punishments for two weeks after the rejection; students can approach the Court for relief in those two weeks.

After the Court order, the hunger strike was ended on its 16th day. Comrade Chintu Kumari and Anant Kumar of AISA had remained on fast for 16 whole days, while the JNUSU General Secretary Rama Naga had withdrawn from the hunger strike on the 15th day after his medical condition severely deteriorated. Teachers and students celebrated the end of the hunger strike and the stay on the punishments, and the hunger strikers accepted juice from the parents and sisters of Chintu Kumari and Umar Khalid. The parents and sisters also addressed the gathering, with Comrade Chintu's father Comrade Ramlakhan Ram speaking about the struggle for rights and dignity of oppressed people in Bhojpur, where Chintu was born.

While the hunger strike was underway, the fasting students have received support from several quarters. JNU teachers’ association has been consistent in its support for the students and have also joined the relay strike, with teachers taking turns to sit on relay hunger strike with the students. JNU alumni and several other cultural, political and social activists have joined the students at the Freedom Square to express their solidarity and also perform cultural programmes. On 8th May, when mother’s day was being celebrated, several mothers and grandmothers decided to join the striking students on a relay hunger strike, under the banner – ‘Mothers with JNU’. Delhi University teachers’ Association too has expressed solidarity with striking students and their representatives met the students at freedom square in JNU.

Protests opposing the punishment meted out to JNU students were held in Tenali (Andhra Pradesh), Gohana (Sonepat, Haryana), Jadavpur University, Allahabad University, and several other universities. In several universities, student and youth have sat on solidarity hunger strikes. In Jharkhand, AISA activists burnt the copies of HLEC at Albert Ekka Chowk. RYA and AISA activists also sat on solidarity hunger strikes in Dhanbad and Giridih. In Giridih, they were joined in their one day solidarity hunger strike by ex MLA and CPI (ML) leader, Com. Vinod Singh.

In Bihar, AISA activists joined solidarity hunger strikes in Begusarai and Patna. AISA and RYA activists together with AISF, SFI, AIDSO, and other groups also organised a rail roko (blockade of railways) in Patna, Bhojpur, Darbhanga, Nawada, Samastipur, Gopalganj, and other areas in solidarity with JNU students. Villagers of Comrade Chintu Kumari’s village Kaulodhri in Bhojpur, Bihar held a dharna in support of the hunger striking JNU students at the Collector’s office and sent a memorandum to the President through the Collector.

Move to Evict HCU Students

HCU students are being forced to vacate their hostels by the administration on pretext of a water crisis. HCU students have declared that they will neither vacate the hostels nor the protest spot – termed the ‘Velivada’ – which Rohith and his comrades had occupied when they were evicted from the hostel. JNU students demonstrated in Delhi in solidarity with the HCU students.

Dalit and Adivasi Nursing Students' Struggle in Odisha

Subhadra Murmu, an Adivasi nursing student, was held by her hair and slapped twice by her principal on May 7 at SCB Medical College in Cuttack, one of the biggest medical colleges in Odisha, for not wearing her head scarf. The principal allegedly told her: "You, Adivasis, are illiterate and have no manners. You deserve to be ill-treated. You survive on our dole outs."

100 Dalit and Adivasis nursing students began protesting against the principal demanding her suspension. The administration, however, responded by declaring "sine die" on the campus, forcing all the protestors to vacate their hostels on May 13. The students succeeded in filing an FIR with the police against the Principal Kajal Rani Sinha.

Students Struggle in Tripura University

After IIT-Madras, UoH, JNU, this time it was the turn of Tripura University to target to students from deprived and disadvantageous contexts and push them towards exclusion from higher education. A shocking decision was recently taken by the administration of Tripura University, a Central University, whereby, it was notified in the prospectus that every Indian candidate would have to deposit 780 rupees for entrance examination. The notification did not exclude students from ST, SC and PWD categories who until now were granted entrance fee concessions. The university decided to do away with measures that would encourage students from these contexts to apply in the university.

Strongly condemning this move, the Tripura unit of AISA mobilized students and on 12 May, organized a massive rally. Several students joined the rally and protested against this anti-constitutional move. A memorandum was submitted to the Joint Register, Nodal Officer for SC/ST/OBC/PWD & Minorities of Tripura University and as a result of the pressure exerted by the protests, they were forced to agree with the demand to revoke the move. The protests were led by comrades Koushik Das, Malasree Debbarma and Deharjoy Reang have led the Protest and deputation.

Dharna Against Branding Of Student Leaders As Terrorists

AISA leaders held a one-day dharna in Patna against the Patna University administration witch-hunting students and student leaders on the lines of JNU. Addressing the dharna, AISA national executive member Akash Kashyap said that on the one hand students of the Arts and Crafts College were victimized by the administration; on the other hand Patna University has accused AISA State Secretary Tariq Anwar and 3 other student leaders of being involved in ‘terrorist activities.’ Clearly, PU and the Bihar government are following the same path as the Modi government at the Centre. The dharna was also addressed by Ravi Prajapati, Manish Kumar Singh, Ramji Yadav, Parmanand Kumar, Anjum. Azad Chand of the Jan Adhikar Party also addressed the meeting.

Ramji Yadav said that PU has issued notices to Tariq Anwar, Pankaj Rai, Gautam Anand and Azad Chand accusing them of being involved in criminal, undisciplined, and terrorist activities. Accusing the student leaders of terrorism is ridiculous; the truth is that the students had been agitating for the past several days for their legitimate demands. The action of the PU administration is totally undemocratic.

Manish Kumar Singh said that the Modi government as well as the Nitish government are anti-student. One is victimizing students by calling them seditious; the other is victimizing them by calling them terrorists.

Repression in Universities in Assam

Severe repression has been unleashed on students of Assam University, Silchar and National Law University Assam.

Students of Assam University were asking for a change in exam dates because power cuts resulting from cyclonic storms had made it impossible for them to study. But students agitating with this demand were brutally beaten up – women students too were abused and beaten.

In the National Law University Assam, students launched an indefinite strike against fee hikes. Two battalions of police and paramilitary were deployed inside the campus to stop the protesters.

The students were charged Rs 2, 14,000 for the first year and then Rs 1, 76,000 per year – but the services they were promised in return were non-existent. The students therefore demanded a refund. Instead they were subjected to repression and a militarised environment.

Protests Against BJP Leader's Sexist Remarks Against Jadavpur Women

AISA and AIPWA joined by many other groups held a street corner meeting in Kolkata against the comments by BJP State President Dilip Ghosh justifying the sexual harassment by ABVP men. Dilip Ghosh had said that Jadavpur women are “shameless”, and ‘Why do they go to University and to protests if they did not want to be sexually harassed?” Some other RSS and ABVP elements sought to send sanitary pads to women students who protested against the RSS. The meeting ended with a rally to Jadavpur University Police Station where the effigy of Dilip Ghosh was burnt.

AISA Struggle Restores Scholarships in BBAU

The Administration of the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in UP had delayed scholarships to students for two years, but AISA led a successful students’ agitation that forced the Administration to release 21 months’ worth of scholarships. The Administration promised that it would release 3 months worth of scholarships every month till the dues were cleared.

Moral Policing in BHU

The saffronisation of campuses brings with it an attack on the rights of women. In the Banaras Hindu University, the Vice Chancellor himself has taken to moving about in the evening forcibly separating male and female students who are sitting or walking together. Students are vocally expressing their protest against this attempt to curb social interactions on the campus. Actually such moral policing betrays the RSS’ deep-seated fear of inter-caste and inter-faith relationships and of women’s freedoms.

Women's Representation in Garhwal University

Garhwal University, Srinagar in Uttarakhand is one where student politics is very vibrant – yet there have been hardly any elected women students in the students’ unions. For the past several years, AISA had been demanding women’s representation in the students’ union. The Academic Council of the University has now agreed to this demand of AISA’s in principle. In the next elections, there will be a Women’s Representative post in the Students’ Union.

Second Phase of Utho Mere Desh Campaign Launched

A joint meeting of the national leadership of AISA and RYA was held in Delhi on 8-9 May. It was decided to launch a second phase of the Utho Mere Desh (Arise My Country) movement, focusing on asserting the legacies of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh against the communal-corporate fascists; demanding a ‘Rohith Act’ against caste based discrimination in educational institutions and resisting the Modi Government’s war on campuses. This campaign will also survey Dalit hostels and educational institutions to see if proper scholarships are given and if reservations are being fulfilled in campuses. This phase of campaign began on 10th May (Anniversary of the 1857 First War of Independence) and will culminate on 9th August (Anniversary of the Quit India movement). An AISA RYA Booklet ‘Utho Mere Desh has been published for this campaign.

The second phase of the Bhagat Singh-Ambedkar Sandesh Abhiyan began in Bihar with tributes to Pir Ali in Patna and Babu Kunwar Singh in Ara. Programmes were also held on 10 May in Jehanabad, Gaya, Nawada, Daudnagar (Aurangabad), Beguserai, Siwan, Gopalganj, Darbhanga and other places.

In Patna AISA-RYA and CPI (ML) activists took out a march from Bhagat Singh chowk,. Slogans against imperialism and communalism were raised during the march. Slogans such as ‘Babu Kunwar Singh Amar Rahe’, ‘Pir Ali Amar Rahe’, ‘Long Live all martyrs of 1857 struggle’, ‘Long Live the Heritage of the 1857 Revolutionaries’, ‘Down with Saffron Nationalism’, and ‘JNU se PU tak Sangharsh Hamara Jaari Hai’ rent the air.

The march culminated in a meeting at Pir Ali park, which was addressed by CPIML PB member Comrade Dhirendra Jha.

A march was held in Jehanabad on this occasion from the CPI (ML) office culminating in a meeting at the station complex. A march was also held in Arwal.

Women’s Movement Leader Disinvited in Haryana

Organisers of a panel discussion at the Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya (BPSMV) in Sonepat, Haryana were forced to disinvite leading women's rights activist Jagmati Sangwan of AIDWA, allegedly 'on Haryana CM's orders'! The Haryana CM ML Khattar loves Khap panchayats and dress codes for women. This RSS man has interfered in a University to prevent students from interacting with a women's movement leader.

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