New Delhi: Students from Jadavpur University (JU) are the latest to “take action” against their own administration as part of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
On 24 December, JU students drafted a letter against their Chancellor, West Bengal Governor Jagdip Dhankhar, to inform him that they “rusticate” him from the position. In doing so, they joined students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) who “expelled” their Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor and Registrar S. Abdul Hamid on 22 December.
Even as a rustication notice by students does not hold any administrative or legal value, students in both these universities have made a point against the administration.
At Jadavpur, the student action comes after Chancellor Dhankhar refused to answer questions about the CAA and the NRC on the convocation day on 23 December. Dhankhar was also not allowed to attend the convocation.
“On 23.12.2019 you were asked a number of questions about the NRC(National Register of Citizens), NPR (National Population Register), CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), the SC/ST Commission, violence unleashed on Muslims and other students and so on. We have found your response to these questions unsatisfactory,” reads the letter drafted by the JU students. “They were as innocent of knowledge about BJP-led police brutality on Muslims and other students as you are innocent of integrity…. Keeping the above in mind you are being informed of your rustication from the position of chancellor of Jadavpur University.”
Debraj Debnath, general secretary of the student’s union at JU, told ThePrint that it was Dhankhar’s actions that prompted them to draft the letter.
“We think Dhankhar is just a political appointee and is not paying any role in the academics of the university. On top of that, he is trying to work his RSS agenda on the campus,” Debnath said. “We asked him questions on NRC and CAA and he acted as if he had no idea about it. He does not deserve to be the chancellor of the university. Hence, we wrote such a letter.”
A faculty member who teaches physics in the university said, “Of course, the letter does not have any legal value but students have made a very strong point with it. They are not happy with the role of governor as the chancellor of the university and they have made it public.”
No response was received in this regard from the JU Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das.
Speaking about the JU incident, Dhankhar said the students who stopped him from entering the university should “engage in soul searching”.
“Protest invaluable gift of democracy. It gets tainted the moment it graduates to intolerance and ceases to be peaceful. In the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji I urge all who obstructed my lawful entry to Jadavpur University for two days in a row to engage in soul searching,” he tweeted.
Protest invaluable gift of democracy. It gets tainted the moment it graduates to intolerance and ceases to be peaceful. In the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji I urge all who obstructed my lawful entry to Jadavpur University for two days in a row to engage in soul searching.
— Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) December 26, 2019
AMU students set precedence
On Sunday, 22 December, after internet services resumed in Aligarh, a notice from the Office of Students surfaced on social media, which said students and teachers of the university are “expelling” the Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor and Registrar S. Abdul Hamid.
But after the notice went viral on social media, the student body refused to take ownership of it.
Faizul Hasan, former president of the AMU student union, said, “No one took the ownership of the notice after it was circulated on social media. We know that it will not hold any legal ground. However, we do want the registrar and V-C to leave the university after what they did during the protests.”
Hasan alleged that the V-C was responsible for police entering the campus during the protests. “The V-C wrote a letter to the district magistrate asking to send police inside the campus when students were protesting. Police vandalised the campus and beat up students,” he said. “This is not how the head of a university is supposed to behave and which is why we want him out. We are trying to appeal to the higher authorities to get the V-C removed.”
A faculty member at AMU said there is a growing resentment, and “students wants the V-C out”. “Whether the notice was fake or not, or it has a legal value or not, does not matter. What matters is that it’s a mark of protest against the administration,” said the faculty member, who did not wish to be named.
V-C Mansoor, however, told ThePrint over the phone that there was no such notice. “There was no notice against V-C and registrar… It’s all fake,” he said. “How can students sack the V-C? The President appoints the V-C… All this holds no legal value.”
On the students’ allegations that he let police enter the campus, the V-C said, “Different students will say different things. We cannot keep answering everyone.”
On 15 December, nearly 70 people including students of AMU, security guards and policemen were injured after a campus protest against CAA turned violent. Students have alleged that the situation escalated because the V-C let the police enter the campus.