The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is likely to intervene in the stand-off between the University Grants Commission and protesting students over the safety guidelines issued earlier in April by the autonomous body.
A well-placed source in the MHRD said: “The ministry has take note of the protests over the safety guidelines. We do not intend to speak formally to the UGC because it is an autonomous body. But the ministry might intervene informally to break the deadlock.”
On its part, the University Grants Commission held a discussion earlier this week with student leaders agitating over new safety guidelines for university students, in order to resolve the issue.
Students and teacher bodies, especially those on the left, have been vocal in opposing these guidelines which prescribe measures including using the biometric system to track attendance, constructing boundary walls high enough to make them impossible to scale, putting up CCTV cameras on university premises and opening new police stations inside universities, among others.
Protests have been organised recently against the new guidelines which are yet to be implemented, by student and teacher groups. On Thursday, a nationwide protest was held by the ulyra-left All India Students Association against the proposed implementation of the guidelines. A protest demonstration was held at the UGC office as well by students of DU, JNU, Jamia and other universities on the same day.
“The delegation was told that the guidelines were formulated after two students hailing from Himachal University lost their lives trying to scale the boundary wall of their college,” said Sandeep Saurav, who was part of the delegation. However, no assurances were made by the UGC officials that the guidelines would be rolled back. Sources in the delegation said that they were hoping the UGC would continue to involve them in a dialogue before going ahead with implementing any proposal. “They told us that our memorandum would be placed before the committee which formulated the guidelines and a meeting over the issue would be held in a week or so,” Saurav added.
No one from the UGC could be contacted despite attempts made to speak to officials in person and over telephone.
Anant Prakash, former member of the JNUSU, and an AISA leader charged that the main intent of the guidelines appeared to police the behaviour of the students. “The students have been at the forefront of the opposition to the current government, visible in the FTII strike. Hence, it appears to be another attempt to stifle dissent in universities,” alleged Prakash.
Prakash added that the JNU administration had floated a proposal of its own a few months ago which said that no public meetings which purported to hurt the feelings of any group could be held on the campus. “This came right after the controversies related to worshiping Mahisasur and the visit of Professor S.A.R Geelani,” he said. Dalit activists on campus were in favour of worshiping Mahisasur, the demon slain by Goddess Durga, instead of the latter as per the norm. Geelani is a Kashmiri professor who was arrested earlier by the police over charges related to terrorism.
“We opposed that proposal too and it was withdrawn,” Prakash said, linking the two as part of an “over-all design”.
JNU PRO P. Kudaisya declined to make any comments to any questions when contacted.
A student activist who did not want to be named said that the move to appoint Subramanian Swamy as the JNU VC was also part of the same “design”. “It is all part of the same package. They are taking one regressive step after another,” the activist alleged.
Meanwhile, student organisations in JNU are gearing up to oppose Swamy’s proposed appointment as JNU VC. A student leader told The Sunday Guardian that technically, Swamy was over the prescribed age to become the VC. “You have to be under 65 for that. He is older,” said a student leader.