ABVP Ransacks Universities in Uttarakhand
The ABVP indulged in serial incidents of violence on 1 and 4 August respectively at the H N B Garhwal University and Kumaun University in Uttarakhand. ABVP – the student wing of the ruling BJP had given a call of ‘University Gherao’ in both Universities on those dates. But what happened in the two prominent Universities was not just a ‘gherao’. At the H N B Garhwal University at Srinagar (Garhwal) on 1 August, some four dozen ABVP activists entered the Vice Chancellors office to submit a demand letter. But in spite of submitting the memorandum, they immediately started breaking the furniture, fans, AC, etc. They ransacked the VC office with utmost ease despite the presence of the local police headed by the SHO. After all, how could the administration act against a student organization patronised by non other than the state government headed by a ‘strict’ ex-military officer? The University lodged an FIR naming four ABVP leaders and others. But the next day ABVP was again in full swing claiming that they did all this in the interest of the students, and that ‘their’ state government would allocate funds to the university to replace the broken furniture. The teachers and non-teaching staff went on indefinite strike until the culprits were arrested. AISA organised a public meeting on the campus against ABVP’s goondaism, and after the meeting, more than a 100 students marched in a procession up to the VC’s residence demanding strong action against the culprits. The next day a ‘chakka jam’ (road blockade) was held against the State Government’s attempts to shield the culprits.
But all this opposition of students, teachers and non-teaching staff did not stop the ABVP from repeating the same hooliganism in Kumaun University, Nainital just three days after their display of muscle power in Garhwal University. They ransacked the University administrative building for full two hours breaking whatever they could find there including computers, furniture, fans, ACs etc. According to an estimate the total damage amounted to Rs. 50 lakh rupees. Here too, the local administration played mute spectator. Nearly three hundred policemen with three Sub Divisional Magistrates witnessed the incident but all they did was to videotape the ABVP activists ransacking the University. AISA held a public meeting on the campus to protest the incident’; ABVP tried to hold a parallel meeting nearby but failed utterly and cleared out within just five minutes.
ABVP is the only student organization whose main office bearer – the President – has to be a teacher. Prof. Arun Bahuguna – professor at Garhwal University – is the Uttarakhand State President of ABVP and also happens to be the Assistant Chief Proctor of the University. Naturally, he took no action against activists of his own organisation. On the contrary, some onlookers saw ABVP leaders marching to the University administrative building from the official cabin of Prof. Bahuguna. After students protested against Prof. Bahuguna’s inaction and demanded his removal from the proctorial board, he resigned from the post of Assistant Chief Proctor.
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand B C Khanduri who holds the portfolio of higher education maintained a tight-lipped silence over the whole episode for nearly a week. When finally he broke his silence, he said that he was trying to understand the whole situation from the higher officials and he would try to find solution of the student unrest. Two mainstream universities of this small hill state remained closed for nearly ten days, print and electronic media was overflowing with the news of this incident. It was very clear from the very first day that these incidents didn’t occur because of any student unrest but the hooliganism of ABVP was responsible for it. Isn’t it strange that in a small state like Uttarakhand, the Chief Minister who is claimed to be the most efficient administrator by the ruling party doesn’t understands that what has happened in the two universities of the State?
Riding on the waves of people’s anger against the misrule of Congress, the BJP came to power in Uttarakhand in 2007, with tall claims of providing corruption free, crime free rule under the able leadership of retired Major General B C Khanduri. But since then, a spate of incidents has belied those claims. A year ago, when Khanduri gave a cabinet berth to Madan Kaushik, BJP MLA from Hardwar, Kaushik was greeted with gun salutes in Hardwar by the liquor mafia. Madan Kaushik’s name was again at the centre of a controversy when the dead body of one Neelam Sharma was found in a park in NOIDA. Neelam Sharma from Hardwar was allegedly murdered at Kaushik’s behest because she was blackmailing him for his links with a call-girl racket and land mafia.
A girl called Gita Kholia committed suicide in Pilibhit (U.P) and her mother alleged that Ajay Tamta – a Minister in the Khanduri Government – was responsible for her suicide.
A patwari (revenue police man) was thrashed up and his clothes torn by BJP leaders in the Rudraprayag Collectorate in the presence of the DM, SP and a large number of policemen on 23 March 07, as the honest patwari was proving to be a barrier for the BJP leaders’ illegal activities. Not even a formal FIR was lodged by the district administration in such a serious incident of a government servant being assaulted by a mob led by the local leaders of the ruling party. The patwari himself had to get the FIR lodged. An year later, acting on the FIR of the patwari, the revenue police arrested the culprits. But when the revenue police team was heading towards Rudraprayag, goons belonging to the cabinet minister Matwar Singh Kandari stopped them, man-handled them and got the accused free from revenue police custody! The same story was repeated in Dehradun by yet another cabinet minister – Trivendra Singh Rawat who forced the police to release a man held for selling illegal liquor. The muscle man BJP MLA Arvind Pandey also got a criminal held in a case of attempted murder, freed from police custody. The High Court of Uttarakhand took self-cognizance of these incidents of bullying by the ministers and legislators of the ruling party.
But the notice of the high court did not stop the BJP from holding law and order to ransom. In July 08 a dalit girl was gang raped in Dehradun and the name of a special invitee to the BJP state committee also figured in the list of gang rapists. Last year when Jitendra Rawat alias ‘moni’ was elected President of the Students’ Union of DAV (PG) College, Dehradun, his organisation ABVP was out in the city vandalizing petrol pumps, hotels and whatever else they could find. As a result the President of the Students’ Union had to spend his first night after election victory in the police lock-up. But the police had to bear the brunt for restraining the young guns of the ruling party: the SHO was immediately sent to police lines by the strict and discipline-loving chief minister.
Khanduri introduced the draconian new Universities Act, but the students, teachers and employees resisted this Act intended to curtail the autonomy of the universities. It is quite possible that this ransacking of universities by the student wing of the ruling party may have had the intention of teaching a lesson to the university community which dared to oppose Khanduri’s autocratic Universities Act.
What happened in the Garhwal and Kumaun Universities on 1 and 4 August are no isolated incidents; rather they are part and parcel of the whole package which the BJP has in store for Uttarakhand. It is amply clear after one and half years of the retired major general’s rule that all claims of fighting corruption and crime were eyewash. Rather the term ‘crime free’ appears to mean that the ministers, MLAs, and leaders of the ruling party are free to commit any crime.
- Indresh Maikhuri
Victimised Women Students Victorious in Kashi Vidyapeeth
In February 2007, AISA had mobilised students, mostly women students, of Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi in a militant march to the VC’s office in protest against sexual harassment of a woman student by a teacher and insensitivity of the campus Women’s Cell members, who had intimidated the victim to try to make her withdraw her complaint themselves rather than investigate the allegation against the teacher. The protestors were demanding a democratically constituted and accountable Complaints Cell on sexual harassment according to the Supreme Court Visakha guidelines on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, as well as action against the accused teacher. The VC had personally led the assault on the protesting students and even representatives of the media, and had slapped the leading student – AISA activist Sarita Patel. Later, public outrage had forced the VC to apologise; but the University Administration retaliated by denying admission the next year to two of the leading activists – Sarita Patel and Shikha Pande. Last year, all this had happened under the Mulayam Singh regime and the incident had been condemned by the BSP; but now that the BSP is in power, Mayawati did not lift a finger to ensure justice for two women who were stripped of their right to study in University for the ‘crime’ of protesting against sexual harassment on the campus. Mayawati’s claims of providing security for women proved hollow. AISA began a relay hunger strike at the District HQ on 10 July; on the same day, state-wide protest demonstrations of students were organised and a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister. Sarita Patel later started a fast unto death; on the fifth day, she was arrested from hunger strike spot. A Protest Meeting was organised at Vidyapeeth against the arrest. AISA held a protest march and road blockade, and the arrest became a big issue in the city. Faculty of BHU, Vidyapeeth and other Varanasi intellectuals met the Vidyapeeth VC and demanded admission for the victimised women students. Under pressure, the University Administration was forced to relent and allowed admission. After the assurance of admission, AISA-RYA held a victory procession in the city. Sarita broke her 8-day hunger strike, accepting juice from former AISA General Secretary Sunil Yadav. A major victory has been won; now, the struggle for a democratically constituted Complaints’ Cell, and for campus democracy, continues.
- Sarita Patel
AISA’s Student Assembly in Patna
There is a total impasse on academic processes in all the universities of Bihar, with the Nitish Government ignoring the just demands of universities’ employees. Even in the monsoon session of Bihar Assembly no attention was given at all to this crucial issue. Against this shameful silence by the State Govt. on the issue of the futures of so many students, the All India Students’ Association (AISA) organised a Students’ Assembly at the main gates of Patna University on 4 August to give a platform to the students’ resentment. The Assembly exposed Nitish Kumar’s much publicised education model which is in reality contractualisation of primary education and privatisation of higher education leading to ouster of most students from economically weaker backgrounds. About 50 percent teaching and non-teaching posts are lying vacant in the universities, and all along big but hollow promises were made about implementing academic calendars. What Nitish’s educational reforms have done is demolish the educational processes of Government institutes and open the way for private players to set up educational shops. AISA declared that it would intensify struggles against the Nitish Govt. if it does not concede to the just demands of the striking employees and resume the academic processes in the campuses.
JNU Students Struggle Against Anomalies in Admissions
JNU Admissions this year (the first year for implementation of the OBC Reservation Act) were marked by major anomalies, including non-fulfilment of the OBC quota as well as SC/ST quota and the quota for the physically challenged. The JNU Administration, in a distorted interpretation of the HRD directive on OBC reservation, had fixed an arbitrary, high and illogical ‘cut-off mark’ for OBC students, due to which OBC seats were not being filled and were being converted into general seats. The JNUSU led by AISA held an 11-day fast unto death (AISA activists Vismay, Anandi and later Sucheta, as well as JNUSU President Sandeep Singh and Joint Secretary Mobeen Alam were among those who sat on indefinite fast.) The Administration which had been vague on the exact principles and procedure followed by it for admissions, provided a position paper on the same as demanded by the JNUSU. Eventually, the Administration was forced to concede that their interpretation of the admission laws might be flawed. The Standing Committee on Admissions agreed to set up a special committee to look into the implementation of the OBC reservations in JNU. Also, it was decided to set up another expert committee comprising representatives of JNUSU, JNUTA and the Equal Opportunities Office to review the overall admission policy, and explore the merit of the old ‘offer’ system as against the ‘waiting list’ system introduced this year, while retaining intake number as the basis for implementing OBC quota. Another major achievement was that the Administration agreed that this year’s unfulfilled seats in the categories of SC/ST/OBC/PH will not lapse but be carried forward to next year’s admissions.