JNUSU is issuing this appeal in the face of a massive administrative crackdown on the on-going student’s movement in JNU. For the first time in JNU’s history, three JNUSU office bearers have been rusticated and declared out of bounds for leading a movement against a slew of commercialization measures in JNU.
JNUSU President Sandeep Singh has been rusticated and declared out of bounds for 2 years and Vice President Shephalika Shekhar and Joint Secretary Mobeen Alam have been rusticated and declared out of bounds for 1 year each, as have senior student activists Roshan Kishore and Renu Singh.
The issues at hand:
For the past one month, the students of JNU have been engaged in a protracted struggle against a whole package of commercialization measures unleashed on JNU by our present Vice Chancellor B.B.Bhattacharya and his team, with the explicit objective of changing the fundamental character of JNU. With several limitations, we believe that JNU still holds a ray of hope for the poor and deprived sections of society to access affordable higher education – a tradition struggled for and built up over the decades by sections of its conscientious students and faculty. Driven by the Manmohan-Montek mindset, the present VC is hell-bent on dismantling all this at any cost. A brief look at some of his recent policy offensives:
- The administration is indulging in massive misuse of public funds in the form of fraudulent book purchases in the Central Library with administrative connivance (books worth several lakhs have been purchased which have not been ordered for by any student or faculty), plasma TVs in the school corridors relaying superfluous “information”, innumerable and irrelevant signboards and reflectors, hundreds of benches placed where students never sit, and unnecessary electricity poles (costing Rs 50 lakhs). Clearly, the administration is neck-deep into a huge corrupt nexus of corporates and contractors.
- The JNU administration has started the new system of installing electricity meters in individual rooms (starting with the upcoming Koena hostel), with the express intention of imposing user charges for electricity usage by students. Clearly, this marks the beginning of commercializing basic student facilities on campus.
- The administration has arbitrarily increased the cost of the JNU prospectus by 67% (from Rs 120 to Rs 200 and by post to Rs.300). The administration has increased the cost of JNU prospectus claiming that it does not have funds for conducting the JNU Entrance Exam. However, according to the administration’s own records, the money it collected through selling of the prospectus even last year was far above the amount it required for conducting the Entrance Exam. Therefore, this argument of “shortage of funds” does not hold any water. We also believe that a fees hike will go against JNU’s long established traditions of opening its doors to students from all sections of society, particularly students from deprived backgrounds.
- In its quest for commercializing JNU’s spaces, the administration has gone on a massive deforestation drive, destroying JNU’s fragile ecology in many parts of the campus. It has even gone to the extent of burning and completely flattening out the famed Parthasarathy Rocks (PSR), and announced that this locale would be rented out for commercial purposes like shooting films, serials and advertisements for a sum of Rs 30,000 each day.
- It appears that our Vice Chancellor is in a mad competition with his counterparts in other anti-reservation “elite” institutions like the IITs to scuttle the newly announced OBC reservations as far as possible. For this, he has even gone to the extent of flouting the relevant MHRD Directives on the modalities of implementation of reservations, completely stonewalling all the hard logic and facts offered by JNUSU pointing out the anomalies.
All these issues have been compounded by the fact that in recent times, the current administration has completely ignored the voice and the viewpoint of the student community at all deliberative fora. Making calculated use of the Supreme Court stay order (based on the Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations) on the JNUSU elections, the JNU administration, neither calls JNUSU to any decision-making body, nor does it reply to JNUSU’s queries or inform JNUSU of any policy-level decision of common concern. While the JNUSU is fighting the case in the Supreme Court, the JNU administration is using the time to implement its anti-student and anti-poor agenda.
In sum, what we are struggling to retain is the basic ethics on which a higher education institution like JNU will function: will JNU continue to be socially-inclusive and accessible, or will JNU be run like a commercial enterprise based on crude considerations of amassing profit?
It is indeed heartening that the JNUSU-led student movement with these demands and this perspective saw unprecedented student participation. Literally thousands of students participated in series of protests gatherings, general body meetings and demonstrations. Due to the strength of our movement, and some timely negative publicity in the media, the administration has had to backtrack on some of the issues like renting out of PSR. After some dilly-dallying, the administration was forced to declare that it will not levy user charges for electricity from students.
However, on the important issue of the sharp 67% increase in the cost of the JNU prospectus, the administration refused to rollback the rise, instead to maintain a pretense of being “pro-poor”, the VC all of a sudden introduced a clause that “applicants from below poverty line (BPL) families would get the prospectus free of cost”.
To any social scientist, it is very clear that such a proposal is completely farcical and nothing but an eyewash, as children from BPL families are unable to avail even primary education In other words, this is nothing but an image makeover exercise by this crafty Vice Chancellor, thoroughly exposed by the present movement for his crass commercialization moves.
Thus, far from being pro-poor, the administration through hiking the prospectus fees is actually squeezing out thousands of potential applicants from those in the social ladder for whom at least JNU remained a source of affordable higher education. Since the administration refused to budge on this issue, we decided to prevent the sale of the JNU prospectus at one counter in JNU in a symbolic protest, through completely peaceful means. But, the administration left with no logic in its defense, chose to immediately rusticate the peacefully protesting students within hours. Five students have been rusticated, and declared out of bounds, including three JNUSU office bearers. There cannot be any doubt that this draconian and harsh administrative response is nothing but its desperation to crush and silence with a vengeance the student movement that completely exposed and partially halted its insidious commercialization moves.
The student movement in JNU has always stood for issues of social equity and against neo-liberal commercialization agenda. We appeal to you to stand with us in support and solidarity to push back the rustication orders and strengthen the struggle against the entire range of commercialization moves in JNU.
Nine students including the rusticated office bearers are on an indefinite hunger strike in protest from February 26 onwards. We appeal to you come to hunger strike spot (JNU administration block), address public meetings here, issue public statements in the media in our support and send petition to the VC and JNU Chancellor (Prof.Yashpal).