3 January 2017: It was on 1 January 2017 that JNUSU had given a call for a protest at Convention Centre where the Executive Council meeting was scheduled to take place. A section of students, led by BAPSA but including others who had earlier expressed their dissatisfaction with the Student Union had also called for another protest at the same place and venue. Needless to say, there was a clear divide amongst the student activists at the protest site yesterday. The two sides–one led by JNUSU on the staircase, and the other on the gates of Convention Centre led by BAPSA, DSU, OBC Forum, and other suspended students. JNUTA arrived at the spot only to face heckles from the BAPSA led side during the address of JNUTA President Ajay Patnaik, who some of them called “casteist.” The protested students later realised that the venue of the meeting has been shifted to Ad Block at the last minute. JNUSU and JNUTA with a few students marched till the Ad-Block and started a protest meeting, while the other faction raised slogans at the Ad-Block main gate near the staircase. The protest in the afternoon termed the EC meeting “illegal,” especially in the wake of student suspensions and disappearance of Najeeb.
JNUSU President Mohit Pandey started the meeting in which he said that it was “shameful” on the part of the Vice Chancellor to call the police to the campus, “and asserted that the Vice Chancellor should have come out to address the concerns of the student community. JNUTA Vice President later joined him to state that the ongoing EC meeting was not conducted according to the norms as many EC members were not informed of the change of venue. In strong words, he reiterated to the media that the statement of the Vice-chancellor on the meeting of 26 December was a “blatant lie.” “No opposition to the minutes of the meeting was taken into account and that it was self-read and self-approved,” said the Vice President.
A number of professors including Nivedita Menon addressed the protesters by stating that this struggle is for the end of discriminatory practices in the Indian education system. She stated that many statuary EC members “were not even called to the recent EC meeting which includes the Dean of SSS.” Pointing to the protestors of the parallel protest, she said that she stood in full solidarity with them. Professor Jayati Ghosh told the students that everyone in the JNU community has to put aside their differences and put up a joint fight against the regime whose “basic intention is to destroy this place.” Ayesha Kidwai, a professor at Centre for Linguistics, highlighted that the UGC notification must not be seen only through the social justice lens but that its implications on the research culture and intake should also be taken into account. She claimed that the UGC notification puts a cap on the number of research students and pointed out that her Centre has about 50-60% more intake than what is permitted by the UGC notification and if this is followed, her Centre cannot enrol any student next year. Later, Janaki Nair read out JNUTA’s letter to the Vice-Chancellor asking for a reconvention of the 142nd AC meeting; it also highlighted the discrepancies in the AC meeting held. Other professors from other departments also joined to address the crowd.
JNUSU General Secretary asked the students to join a protest at Sabarmati Dhaba at 9 PM for UGC circular burning. She also told the students that the Vice-Chancellor has reconstituted the SC/ST standing committee “that does have single SC representative nor anyone representation from the teachers or the students.” After the meeting, students from BAPSA, BASO, Collective and others formed a human chain around the Ad Block, but “not a gherao for the VC could still go out from a gate left unblocked.” Shehla Rashid tried to stop the Vice Chancellor’s car from moving ahead in a bid to force him to speak to the students, however, she was unsuccessful. BAPSA led political groups later criticised her for “disrupting the movement.”
Gargi Binju is an MA student at Centre for Linguistics and works for The Informer.