New Delhi: Former vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Sudhir Kumar Sopory has said the current administration failed in its duty, and that he has never seen “disturbance of such scale” at the institution.
Sopory, who was at the helm until 2016, just before incumbent M. Jagadesh Kumar took over, is of the opinion that the situation could have been avoided had the administration communicated with students on time.
Speaking to ThePrint, he said, “The administration should have anticipated that situation could go out of hand because things had been brewing for the last three months,” Sopory said. “They should have established a dialogue with the students, they should have heard the students and solved their issues, but they did not.”
Sopory also said the administration, including the vice-chancellor, should speak to all students, irrespective of their political affiliations.
“All kinds of ideologies exist on campus and they should be allowed to… The administration should speak to all students irrespective of their political affiliations,” he said.
“I have never seen disturbance of this scale in the university… schools were shut down, centers were closed, academic activity was hampered for a long time and then a mob ran riot in the university. Whatever happened is unacceptable and it breaks my heart,” he added.
Asked if he would have handled the problem any different way, he said, “I always established a dialogue with both students and teachers when I was the V-C. I heard what they had to say and always took decisions only after taking a consensus from everyone, including teachers, students and staff.”
Sopory also spoke about the culture of protests in the university. “I made it very clear to the students… they can protest, it’s their right but the academic work should not hamper,” he said. “Never during my tenure was academic work hampered because of protests.”
A V-C under fire
Incumbent Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar has been under fire from various quarters, particularly after Sunday’s violence that saw a mob wreak havoc in the university.
A number of teachers ThePrint spoke to accused Kumar of taking arbitrary decisions.
“Some faculty members including me have had to barge inside the V-C’s office after he refused to give us time despite repeated requests,” a senior faculty member told ThePrint on condition of anonymity. “He does not even let teachers speak in council meetings…he shuts them up.”
The JNU Teachers Association has also publicly spoken out against the V-C and accused him of not talking to them.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also asked the V-C to be more communicative with the students.
Another vice-chancellor has also expressed displeasure at the current state of affairs. Yoginder K. Alagh, who was the V-C from 1992 to 1996, has written in The Indian Express that an institution such as JNU should not be destroyed.
“Instead of destroying the one great university we have, we should realise what a great university JNU is and focus on building many more such centres of learning,” he wrote.
Protests on the JNU campus had been going on since October after the administration proposed to hike the hostel fee, from Rs 20 per month for a single room to Rs 600, and Rs 10 per month to Rs 300 for a double room, along with an added service and utility charge of Rs 1,700.
Veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi criticised V-C Kumar on the fee hike issue, and said he should not be allowed to continue in his post.
Joshi, a former HRD minister, tweeted Thursday: “Reports are, that the HRD Ministry had twice advised the JNU, VC, to implement certain reasonable and working formula for resolving the issue of enhanced fee in JNU. He was also advised to reach out to teachers and students. It is shocking that the V-C is adamant for not implementing the government proposal. This is deplorable and in my opinion, such VC should not be allowed to continue on this post.”
— Murli Manohar Joshi (@drmmjoshibjp) January 9, 2020