NEW DELHI: No classes are currently going on at the South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi, for the last month after a deadlock between students and the university administration. According to the students, four types of scholarships are offered by the university for master’s and doctoral students—Presidential Scholarship, Silver Jubilee scholarship, Merit Scholarship and Freeship.
For Presidential and Silver Jubilee scholarships, Rs 7,000 is offered and for Merit and Freeship, Rs 5,000 is offered. On 10 October, the Freeship scholarship was slashed to Rs 4,000. After this step, students’ representatives met the University administration to demand an increase in stipend for Merit and Freeship scholarships to Rs 7,000.
Apart from this, SAU students are demanding adequate representation in redressal committees. South Asian University is an International University, which was established in 2010. The University is sponsored by eight member nations of SAARC Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
“We demanded that the University administration increase the living allowance for Merit and Freeship scholarships and apart from this, we also demanded to fix criteria for eligibility for Freeship,” a students’ representative said. According to students, there are no fixed criteria for dispersing freeships to students. The students have now demanded an economic slab system for freeships. The students are also demanding representation in redressal, grievances and gender sensitization committees. “We need students’ representatives in these committees as members, not as observers,” a protesting student from the Department of Sociology said.
The students are also demanding stipends like Junior Research Fellows for International students. “International students are not eligible for JRF or SRF, a stipend on the parity of research fellowships should be given to non-Indian students,” a protesting student said.
On 10 October, students submitted their demands to the administration, but they got no response. Then students went to SAU President Professor Ranjan Kumar Mohanty with their demands, but according to students, police were called by the administration. After this, a General Body meeting of students, faculty and administration took place on 17 October, but nothing came to conclusion. On 1 November, students started a sit-in protest on the administrative floor of the campus. In response to this protest, the University administration said they will not talk till students end their sit-in protest.
Last week, two students from the sociology and international departments were expelled. Apart from this, a Bangladeshi student was suspended for one semester and two students were suspended for one academic year. According to students, the due process was not followed and students are wrongfully expelled and suspended by the administration. Now, students have started an indefinite hunger strike and currently, eight students are sitting on a hunger strike. According to students, they will end their strike when the university revokes orders against expelled and suspended students.
The Sunday Guardian contacted the university administration to know their take on the matter. While refuting allegations made by students, the university said: “The University followed the proper procedure laid out in the University Rules, Regulations and By-laws, while taking action against students.” According to the university administration, they have agreed to increase the stipend amount from Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 and the mess subsidy, as was the initial demand. But this amount was not a match of Rs 7,000 asked by the students. Asked why the police were called inside the campus, the university administration said: “Under Article VIII of the Headquarters Agreement with the University, the Host country has undertaken to take such steps as may be necessary to protect the University premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the university or impairment of its dignity.” On the fifth day of the strike, five more students joined the hunger strike. Both administration and students are accusing each other of not cooperating with each other.