Undeclared Emergency in University Campuses

Tapas Ranjan Saha

Brazen violation of democratic rights and freedom of expression appears to be seamlessly institutionalized as a norm in university campuses across the country. As the UPA govt bulldozes its commercialization agenda to restructure the existing universities, curbing students’ rights, student organizations and student unions has become its overriding priority to pre-empt all organized protest from the student community. Campuses are in a state of undeclared emergency – student unions remain virtually banned in all major Central Universities. Introduced in the name of ‘cleaning up of student politics’, Lyngdoh recommendations became another tool to restrict student activism, stall elections in a vibrant campus like JNU, while its recommendations of mandatory student union elections in all campuses is given a quiet burial, reaffirming Lyngdoh Committee’s hidden intentions. In this context it is important to highlight the recent developments in some of the prestigious campuses of the country.
Suspension for Criticizing Administration on Internet

Continuing with a spate of authoritarian and draconian suspensions of students, the AMU VC has suspended one more student, Mohd. Adil Hossain, of M.A. (Previous) Mass Communication on 3 June, 2010, ostensibly for “incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet”!
Mired in numerous charges of financial and administrative corruption and facing high-level enquires, the corrupt VC is seeking to quell criticism in any form. For this the campus has virtually been turned into a prison camp with 57 CCTV cameras, night-vision devices and other high-tech gadgetry worth Rs.10 crore have been installed for a 24x7 vigil on the campus. All kinds of posters and notices have been banned. The earlier notice board at the entrance of Maulana Azad Library was also removed.
Clearly, there is no way a student can register dissent on campus – neither through posters and leaflets nor through holding signature campaigns or rallies as that gets them suspended from the university. To cap it all, the spy network in the campus called the ‘Local Intelligence Unit’ (LIU), costing the university Rs 1.2 lakhs per month (that too without any official sanction in the university budget), has been made omnipresent. Its criminal role in the invasion of privacy and suspension of the senior faculty member Dr. Siras (hounded for being homosexual) is well known by now. In this backdrop it is obvious the real reason of Adil’s suspension arise from the fact that Adil has been raising concerns over Siras’ suspension, surveillance on the campus and shrinking of democratic spaces through sustained RTIs and write-ups in blogs.
However, Adil is not the only victim. He is the 149th student to be suspended or rusticated during the term of the current Vice Chancellor. Recently, another Mass Communication student, Mr. Afaq Ahmed has also been suspended from the university since April 22, 2010 for the ‘crime’ of filming the experiences of the student-managed Dining Hall system at V.M.Hall. 
What is most unfortunate is that in this reactionary game of the AMU administration, it has found support from the powerful Prof. Irfan Habib lobby of ‘progressive’ CPI(M). In a shocking stance (reported in Tehelka, UP edition, 30th April), Prof. Habib has justified the presence of spies and LIUs in AMU – since “such agencies free teachers from administrative chores and enable them to concentrate on academics”! It is indeed shocking that such a defence of blatant violation of civil rights in a university campus has come from a historian of Prof. Habib’s stature. The fact that he commands considerable sway in the AMU campus and draws clout from CPI(M)’s political establishment, makes his stance doubly detrimental and goes against the struggle for democratising the AMU campus.
Adil’s suspension is just the last example in a long list of autocratic decisions that the VC of AMU has taken since his term started including sine die closure of the university and suspension of 6 students for protesting against poor security conditions and the murder of a student last September. Student Union Elections remains banned on campus and clearly so is speaking out against the administration.
Violent Police Action on Students in BGSB University, Jammu
On 13th June J&K Police unleashed an unprovoked lathicharge and indiscriminate teargas shelling on students who were on hunger strike for last 5 days seriously injuring around 50 engineering students of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Jammu. This police highhandedness took place when the students were raising some of their basic academic demands like the implementation of the grading system, allowing a few grace marks etc.
In typical Jammu and Kashmir style, police entered the campus under the stewardship of Dy. SP (operation), Farooq Ahmed Qaiser, a specialist in counter-insurgency operations. Without any prior warning the police force started baton charging the students, even female students were not spared and a large number of female students were seriously injured. These injured students were not allowed to be taken to the hospitals, and many of them were left bleeding for hours till the near-by villagers broke the police cordon to take them to the nearby hospital. The university has been declared closed indefinitely and the hostel students asked to vacate the hostel.
This crackdown on the students in J&K is not anything new. We can remember how a few weeks back the Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) was banned. Not content with this the KU administration went on to seize the office and the furniture of KUSU. In the crackdown on BGSB students the District Administration offered the shameful explanation that the trouble in BGSB University was only because of the 12 Kashmiri students who are a part of the Engineering College: a ploy of pitting Kashmir against Jammu.
All the campuses in J&K have been turned into virtual police camps, with people from army and police on most of the administrative posts, and in a recent development Jammu University has allowed a police post inside the campus. This is very evident in the BGSB university case also, where the engineering college has a large number of teachers from an army background and the College Principal himself is a retired army colonel. Also the VC of BGSB is not a known academician, but a former IPS who has received a President’s Police Medal, and has served in some strategic positions in the police department including that of DIG and Director of J&K Police Academy. 
PEC Chandigarh Suspends Students for Taking up Workers’ Cause
The Management of the Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh illegally suspended five students and fined one woman student for raising the issues of mess workers who have long been compelled to work on exploitative terms. Most of the suspended students belong to the dalit community. These students are also activists of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA). It is to be noted that the mess workers’ agitation had been going on for long for gaining basic democratic rights and minimum wages. These six students were also part of the agitation for workers’ basic rights.
The management has long been using the police to clamp down on workers to the extent that on 23rd March – Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary – the police were all over the campus to stall any celebration and association of workers and students. The immediate context of the latest suspension and fining of these students was the launching of a signature campaign by these students to mobilize for a referendum against termination of the current mess workers and contractualisation of the whole mess system. The management had decided to adopt the contractual system from the new session of 2010. The institute was closed for summer vacation, most hostels empty and hence there were few students when the suspension order was announced.