On March 23, 2018, thousands of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and teachers of the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) took part in a protest demonstration from the university campus gate to Parliament.
They were protesting against the requirement of compulsory attendance imposed upon them recently by the authorities and the Graded Autonomy Scheme announced recently by the government, aimed at privatization of university education. They were demanding immediate arrest and suspension of a professor, who has been accused of sexual harassment of women students. Their other demands included immediate withdrawal of notifications replacing chairpersons of various departments, who were opposed to implementing the compulsory attendance rule. The JNUTA is also demanding withdrawal of the executive council decision on constitution of a committee to take action against individual teachers.
Students and teachers of Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia University and Ambedkar University also joined the protest.
The protesting students and teachers were stopped by the Delhi police near INA Market in South Delhi. Many of them were brutally lathi-charged and physically attacked by the police. Water cannons were used against them. Their clothes were torn off. Many of them were injured. Journalists covering the protest were molested and beaten, their cameras confiscated. 23 students were arrested by the police and detained for several hours.
Earlier on March 19, the students of JNU had protested at the Vasant Kunj police station, demanding action against the professor accused of sexual harassment. On that occasion too, they were attacked by the police. The JNUTA had earlier launched a three-day ‘Satyagraha’ inside the campus to raise these demands.
The protesting students and teachers of JNU are opposing the requirement of compulsory attendance because they feel that JNU is primarily a post graduate institution, in which the research work requires students to travel to various places. Research students often teach at JNU and other central universities. All this makes it impossible for them to fulfill the criterion of compulsory attendance. They have pointed out that the administration is trying to victimize teachers who disagree with the compulsory attendance rule. They have also spoken of other attempts by the university authorities to victimize teachers and students who question the decisions of the administration.
The recent decision of the central government to give autonomy to JNU and other universities, to start self-financing courses and decide their own course and fee structure, is being widely opposed by the students and teachers, as a move towards privatization of higher education, which will push higher education out of reach for vast sections of the youth.