JNU students and teachers march to Parliament demanding reforms

Students and teachers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) marched from the JNU campus to Parliament in Delhi on Friday, in a move that the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) and JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) labelled the ‘Long March’. The teachers have spoken out against the institution’s current vice-chancellor, Professor M. Jagadesh Kumar, whom they accuse of trying to “wreck and ruin” JNU “with the help of the media and the political establishment”. The teachers said that “the VC has presided over a massive seat cut in JNU, depriving our ordinary poor and hardworking students of the opportunity to come and study at an institution like JNU.”


They allege that in his two year tenure JNU has known no peace, effective implementation of reservation policy has been violated, safety of women students has been compromised, students and faculty members have been harassed and tormented. “And worst of all, there has been a physical disappearance of one student from the campus in broad daylight and about whom we have not heard for the last year and a half, leading many to the painful conclusion that he may no longer be alive,” they said explaining the reason behind the march. 

Dissatisfaction with the university’s management has been brewing at JNU ever since the student protest of February 2016 when dissenting students were targeted by the state with alleged complicity of right leaning members of the University administration. The disappearance of Najeeb after an altercation with ABVP goons as well as a series of unpopular administrative decisions that appeared to target disadvantaged or dissenting students, lead to growing discontent among not just students but also teachers. The immediate trigger though, appears to be the lax manner in which Prof Atul Johri, who had been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation by atleast 9 young female students of JNU, had been let off with little more than a slap on the wrist. This is especially troubling in light of GS CASH being scrapped leaving female students vulnerable.

The JNUTA has several demands, including the rescinding of notifications replacing chairpersons who were against mandatory attendance. The teachers’ organisation is also seeking the rescinding of an executive council decision on the establishment of a committee to take action against individual teachers, according to JNUTA president Sonajharia Minz. The JNUTA had earlier organised a three-day ‘satyagraha’ movement on the institution’s campus to vocalise these demands. The move to grant autonomy to the university is also being perceived as privatisation in disguise and therefore against the interests of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

18 former members of JNU’s faculty have also released a letter in support of “the current struggle of the teachers and students to maintain the democratic ethos of JNU which has made it an outstanding institution.” The letter outlines the signatories’ regarding issues at JNU, including “the reduction in student intake and blatant violation of laws on reservation for deprived sections; the rampant interference in the selection of new faculty;” as well as “the victimization of student representatives; and the dismissing of massive protests by teachers and students as the mere handiwork of a handful of persons”. It may be read in full here. Signatories to the letter also include historian Romila Thapar, Sunanda Sen, Harbhans Mukhia, Prabhat Patnaik and Zoya Hasan among others.



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