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JNU back on the boil: students plan fresh protests against punishments

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST
The order
  • On Monday, the JNU administration had punished those allegedly involved in the controversial 9 February event
  • The order was based on the report of a high-power probe committee
The spark
  • On Tuesday, the JNUSU, led by president Kanhaiya Kumar, burned the university order
  • The students are now planning protests and hunger strikes, beginning on Wednesday, 27 April
More in the story
  • The questions Kanhaiya and Co. have raised over the probe report
  • JNU\'s upcoming summer break - will it impact the protests?

A fresh round of student agitation is likely to begin on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in New Delhi from Wednesday, 27 April. Night-long protest rallies and 24x7 relay hunger strikes are expected to begin just as the university breaks for a two-month holiday. Similar events were organised followed the police crackdown on university students through February and March.

This time, the students are taking on the university administration, which recently fined and suspended several students it found guilty of organising the 9 February demonstration on campus.

On Tuesday, the students, led by JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, who has also been fined a sum of Rs 10,000, burnt a copy of the university order.

Some questioned the logic behind slapping a fine of Rs 10,000-20,000 on students who pay just Rs 250 as their tuition fees for each semester. Others questioned the timing of university's implementation of the report of the high-power probe committee, which had been filed a month and a half ago.

Photo: Suhas Munshi/Catch News

Questions raised

The students have called for a protest rally on Wednesday evening, after which they will begin a relay hunger strike till university takes the order back. The proposed protests also have the backing of the JNU Teachers' Association.

Students had gathered outside the university's administrative block to protest the punishments, and also questioned the vice-chancellor's authority to order an inquiry, pronounce the verdict and punish students against whom cases are already going on in court.

"Isn't the case sub-judice?" asked Kanhaiya while addressing the media. "The same report which blames outsiders for shouting the objectionable slogans reserves the harshest punishments for Umar [Khalid] and Anirban [Bhattacharya]. What about contradictions in the report?"

JNUSU president Kanhaiya has raised questions about the contradictions in the probe report

Umar, a JNU student who gained notoriety after television channels ran baseless stories of his 'links' with terror organisations, said the same university administration that had set up an inquiry against the students on the day after the 9 February event, held to mark Afzal Guru's death anniversary, had not done anything to secure him and Anirban while they were being threatened almost on a daily basis.

"Anirban and I have been receiving death threats over media regularly. We both went to the university vice-chancellor, along with our teachers, to ask for security on 10 March and they did nothing. Outrageous is the word to describe the behaviour of the university administration," he said.

On 16 April, a letter threatening Kanhaiya and Umar was recovered, along with a gun, from a DTC bus going towards the university. The Delhi Police had asked the JNU administration to enhance security arrangements for both of them inside the campus.

Photo: Suhas Munshi/Catch News

Summer break no roadblock

The administration's order, which was issued just before the end of the semester and the beginning of a two-month long summer break, will be a test of the students' will, which has already been pushed to the limits with the arrests Kanhaiya, Anirban and Umar.

JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid cited protests carried through the summer break in the past to give an idea about the scale of protests that the students are planning.

"In the summer of 2014, we launched a 'Dera Daalo' protest for the rights of contractual workers, and for the outstation colleagues who didn't have hostel facilities. In 2012, all through our winter break, we held protest marches against the 16 December gang-rape. In the summer of 2008, AIIMS students held a protest against reservation, and we held a parallel demonstration for reservation. It's not new for us. In fact, we were anticipating this," she said.

Photo: Suhas Munshi/Catch News

What about academics?

The punishment and the consequent protests will put common students' academics under greater strain, having already suffered through the tumult of the last three months.

For example, Shehla, who has not been indicted in the report, said she had four assignments to submit by 29 April, and a synopsis later. She has no idea how she'll be able to manage all this.

Anirban, meanwhile, has to submit his thesis by 25 July, since he has been asked to stay away from the university for five years after that. There's a follow-up viva he has to appear for, but he has no idea how he'll be able to manage that.

Umar's one-semester suspension means his thesis submission will get pushed to December 2017, instead of July.

It's hard to tell whether these students will be able to muster the sort of support they received during the protests in February and March, and continue their fight against the administration.

On the other hand, one can't be sure if the administration will stick to its guns this time as FTII Pune did under chairman Gajendra Chauhan. But both the sides are surely preparing for a long haul now.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

First published: 26 April 2016, 11:12 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.