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Is Bennett University violating students' right to protest?

Dubbing protests as "anti-national", the private institution run by the same group that owns the Times of India, asked students and parents to sign an undertaking that they will not participate in protests

Sabrangindia 17 Mar 2022

Times Group owned Bennett university

Two years after the Yogi-led Uttar Pradesh government passed an ordinance, Times Group owned Bennett University asked students and parents to sign an undertaking to never engage in “anti-national” activities including “unlawful gathering or protest” inside or outside the campus. This is a clear overreach by the University as it attempts to not only usurp the agency of students and their parents, but also violates their right to protest peacefully. It is noteworthy that the term "unlawful gathering or protest" is rather nebulous and open to interpretation, in this case by the University.

In 2019, the UP government introduced and passed the State Private Universities Ordinance to be applied across at least 27 of the 29 universities in the region. Officials said the idea was to bring it in line with “best practices of international universities.” Universities were given a year to adopt the provisions as per the laws. In 2022, following the two years of Covid-19, Bennett University is now among the first private universities to enforce this law with an additional interpretation.

Their undertaking specifically asks parents and students not to participate in unlawful gatherings or protests. Registrar (Retd.) Colonel Guljit Singh Chadha told Scroll.in that this directive was in keeping with the directions of the state government.

However, the law in question does not explicitly mention protests or even define the term “Anti-national”. The university authorities took it upon themselves to describe “anti-national activity” as one “which is unlawful in the opinion of the university” and likely to “lead or incite violence”.

Effectively, the private institution realised the worries of many experts who, at the time, voiced apprehension at the lack of a definition in the law. Students, alumni and people in the media have accordingly responded to the news with eye-rolls and criticism.

 

 

Prevalence of law and social realities

Earlier, SabrangIndia pointed out that the introduction of this law (then Ordinance) coincided with growing crackdowns on educational spaces around July 2019. Student unrest was growing by the day. On June 27 of the same year, Allahabad University students started a relay hunger strike against the institutional decision to do away with Student Union elections and replace the body with a Student Council.

In February 2019, as many as 14 Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students were charged with sedition after a clash with the ABVP and Hindu Yuva Vahini for vandalism of premises. Elgar Parishad accused Anand Teltumbde was also arrested around this time.

Later, the anti-CAA protests led majorly by students also highlighted the great dissonance between students and the state government. Although the law could not be enforced at the time, the police aggression and alleged attacks concretised the adversarial relationship between the state and studying students.

Nowadays, youth protests are only growing with students demanding employment, re-opening of schools and other basic demands. Further, the country also protests by young Muslim girl students in Karnataka who were being denied their right to wear a hijab inside classrooms. Such instances have also been reported in UP. For the last two years, police declared prohibitory orders under Section 144, if groups continued to protest despite warnings.

However, as the Covid-19 pandemic finally cools down, and colleges re-open, the government has once again called for an enforcement of this Act. In the case of Bennett University, Scroll.in said that a person found indulging or supporting “anti-national activity” including protests will be considered to have committed a “major violation”. The penalty for this can stretch as far as expulsion. Officials claimed the university has an “unfettered right” to report such activity. The affidavit even urged signatories to report any student or professor involved in “anti-national activity”.

Related:

Walkouts, objections, after Karnataka HC verdict on Hijab, but BJP netas hail it

Centre excludes overseas humanities and social science courses from SC/ST scholarship

How the UP Pvt Universities Ordinance clamps down on fundamental freedoms

Is Bennett University violating students' right to protest?

Dubbing protests as "anti-national", the private institution run by the same group that owns the Times of India, asked students and parents to sign an undertaking that they will not participate in protests

Times Group owned Bennett university

Two years after the Yogi-led Uttar Pradesh government passed an ordinance, Times Group owned Bennett University asked students and parents to sign an undertaking to never engage in “anti-national” activities including “unlawful gathering or protest” inside or outside the campus. This is a clear overreach by the University as it attempts to not only usurp the agency of students and their parents, but also violates their right to protest peacefully. It is noteworthy that the term "unlawful gathering or protest" is rather nebulous and open to interpretation, in this case by the University.

In 2019, the UP government introduced and passed the State Private Universities Ordinance to be applied across at least 27 of the 29 universities in the region. Officials said the idea was to bring it in line with “best practices of international universities.” Universities were given a year to adopt the provisions as per the laws. In 2022, following the two years of Covid-19, Bennett University is now among the first private universities to enforce this law with an additional interpretation.

Their undertaking specifically asks parents and students not to participate in unlawful gatherings or protests. Registrar (Retd.) Colonel Guljit Singh Chadha told Scroll.in that this directive was in keeping with the directions of the state government.

However, the law in question does not explicitly mention protests or even define the term “Anti-national”. The university authorities took it upon themselves to describe “anti-national activity” as one “which is unlawful in the opinion of the university” and likely to “lead or incite violence”.

Effectively, the private institution realised the worries of many experts who, at the time, voiced apprehension at the lack of a definition in the law. Students, alumni and people in the media have accordingly responded to the news with eye-rolls and criticism.

 

 

Prevalence of law and social realities

Earlier, SabrangIndia pointed out that the introduction of this law (then Ordinance) coincided with growing crackdowns on educational spaces around July 2019. Student unrest was growing by the day. On June 27 of the same year, Allahabad University students started a relay hunger strike against the institutional decision to do away with Student Union elections and replace the body with a Student Council.

In February 2019, as many as 14 Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students were charged with sedition after a clash with the ABVP and Hindu Yuva Vahini for vandalism of premises. Elgar Parishad accused Anand Teltumbde was also arrested around this time.

Later, the anti-CAA protests led majorly by students also highlighted the great dissonance between students and the state government. Although the law could not be enforced at the time, the police aggression and alleged attacks concretised the adversarial relationship between the state and studying students.

Nowadays, youth protests are only growing with students demanding employment, re-opening of schools and other basic demands. Further, the country also protests by young Muslim girl students in Karnataka who were being denied their right to wear a hijab inside classrooms. Such instances have also been reported in UP. For the last two years, police declared prohibitory orders under Section 144, if groups continued to protest despite warnings.

However, as the Covid-19 pandemic finally cools down, and colleges re-open, the government has once again called for an enforcement of this Act. In the case of Bennett University, Scroll.in said that a person found indulging or supporting “anti-national activity” including protests will be considered to have committed a “major violation”. The penalty for this can stretch as far as expulsion. Officials claimed the university has an “unfettered right” to report such activity. The affidavit even urged signatories to report any student or professor involved in “anti-national activity”.

Related:

Walkouts, objections, after Karnataka HC verdict on Hijab, but BJP netas hail it

Centre excludes overseas humanities and social science courses from SC/ST scholarship

How the UP Pvt Universities Ordinance clamps down on fundamental freedoms

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