MPs from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha expressed anguish over the alleged destruction of the university under the Vice-Chancellorship of Prof. M Jagadesh Kumar and demanded the removal of the JNU VC over his policies that have been severely detrimental to the university.
New Delhi: In a boost to intensify the struggle on campus and outside, fifty members of Parliament submitted two memorandums to the HRD Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar from Lok Sabha (45 MPs) and Rajya Sabha (5 MPs) expressing anguish over the alleged destruction of the university under the Vice-Chancellorship of Prof. M Jagadesh Kumar and seeking immediate action. The MPs have demanded the removal of the JNU VC over his policies that have been severely detrimental to the university.
Addressing a press conference on issues plaguing the higher education, which was organised by the JNU Teachers’ Association and the Students’ Union, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha on Friday said that the MPs have also moved a notice for a short duration discussion on JNU in Parliament.
The JNUTA and the JNUSU have been at loggerheads with the administration over several issues like compulsory attendance for teachers and students, library fund cuts.
The JNUTA conducted a survey among universities across the world to explore whether marking attendance is a global practice that is followed for academic accountability, said its secretary Avinash Kumar.
“No university/institutes of higher learning in 75 premiere and highly ranked universities spread across 21 countries except one has the practice of faculty signing daily attendance register or using biometrics,” he said.
Jha said, “February 2016 is when the first voice of opposition was raised from JNU and today there are many voices. The JNU has become the focal point of dissent.”
The major issues raised in the letter are violation of the constitutionally mandated Reservation system and the CEI Act 2006 and Seat Cut, prioritisation of security and surveillance over promotion of academic activities, violation of the JNU Act, Statutes and Ordinances and autocratic governance, undermining the Integrity of the Faculty Selection Process, harassment and victimisation of teachers and undermining Students Safety and Welfare.
It has been highlighted how JNU’s progressive admission policy has been done away with and reduction in student intake particularly for the reserved categories (In 2018-19 there was a deficit of 124 in reserved seats and that of 98 in total admissions while in 2017-18, 131 seats were left vacant). Secondly, the skewed priorities of the administration that are clearly aimed at negatively impacting the teaching and research environment- library fund cuts, discontinuance of several journals- in the university has been raised. Thirdly, the violation of JNU Act, Statues and Ordinance under the Jagadesh Kumar administration has been emphasised. The bypassing of democratic decision-making bodies such as the Academic Council and the Board of Studies, to bring about crucial policy changes that will have an impact on the academic and social environment of the university such as Online Entrance Examination and others, is continuously being done under the current administration.
“The Vice-Chancellor has also undermined the integrity of the faculty selection process by appointing underqualified individuals bypassing decisions of the selection committees. Further, the VC has been discriminating against faculty members belonging to marginalised social background denying promotions of SC, ST, OBC faculty members. The harassment of teachers at the hands of the Vice Chancellor through circulars, enquiries, denial of leave, prevention from international collaborations has also been raised. Besides these, the dismantling of GSCASH putting at stake gender justice on campus has been taken up by the MPs. The Members of Parliament have also raised how the VC showed no regard for the Parliament by conducting the JNU Court meeting on December 5, 2018, without a single Member of Parliament, who are the nominated members,” a statement by JNUSU said.
Tensions in the university have escalated with rise in conflicts between the VC, JNUSU and the JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA), which was enraged when Kavita Singh, the Dean of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, won the Infosys prize and wanted to receive on Jan 5 but was denied leave to attend the event in Bengaluru. The Infosys Science Foundation organises the annual award that includes a gold medal, a citation and a prize worth $100,000 (or its equivalent in Indian rupees). In her acceptance speech, Prof. Singh, who was honoured for her work on Mughal, Rajput and Deccan art in the Humanities category, touched upon the current issues and climate of instability within JNU. She said, “I have to thank JNU, an institution that until a few years back was a great place for researchers to continue their work unbridled and free. But things are bad now. How bad? When I checked my email this morning, I found that the leave that I had applied for receiving this award had been rejected by the Vice-Chancellor. My presence here is illegitimate.”
Rajya Sabha MP Kumar Ketkar said the attack on JNU is part of the larger conspiracy.
“All mediocre people, all the fascist people hate scholarships, universities and research… Even Ronald Reagan tried to sideline universities and research. Donald Trump is doing the same. In India, we have a democratically elected semi-fascist system,” he said.
Congress leader Amee Harshadray Yajnik said the government wants to capture “invisible spaces”, asserting that there is a need to collectively fight against it.
L Hanumanthaiah, Rajya Sabha MP, also echoed similar views as the others and said the varsity’s vice chancellor is acting “like a dictator and not listening to the academic council and other such bodies”.