NEW DELHI: On January 7, 49 lawmakers from both houses of parliament wrote to Prakash Javadekar, minister of what’s known as human resource development, demanding the removal of Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor M.Jagadesh Kumar.

The letter expresses concern about the JNU administration’s prioritising security and surveillance over academic activity, and mentions ‘violations’ of the constitutionally mandated reservation system.

‘We write this letter to you with a great sense of anguish and concern,’ it reads, ‘regarding the state of affairs in the governance of Jawaharlal Nehru University under the current vice chancellor Dr M Jagadesh Kumar. Several constitutional provisions as well as statutes have been violated by the current administration.’

‘The administration has worked to destroy the academic environment of research, teaching and learning in the university through a series of diktats that aim to bureaucratise university functioning.’

The letter from MPs comes a few days after JNU students and teachers held a press conference to address the same concerns.

The Citizen interviewed the presidents of the JNU Students’ Union, Teachers’ Association and Workers’ Union, as well as a former student representative on the now disbanded Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment, to discover their concerns.

Urmila Chauhan
President (suspended), JNU Workers’ Union

I have been working in JNU as a sanitation worker for the last 15 years. We filed a case asking for equal pay for equal work - we won the case, but the JNU admininstration was not ready to agree to the court’s decision.

My colleague and I went to the administration to ask them to accept the court’s decision, but instead we were thrown out of our jobs.

Our demand was to get pay equal to what permanent workers get, because we do equal work.

Chetna Trivedi
Former student representative, GSCASH

GSCASH was crucial to ensuring a gender sensitive discourse on campus for men and women alike. It was an autonomous body working inside JNU.

In 2017, GSCASH was dissolved and replaced with an Internal Complaints Committee, with the VC at its head. As in every JNU institution, GSCASH members were elected, whereas ICC members are chosen by the whims and fancies of the Vice-Chancellor.

The absence of GSCASH has definitely led to an increase in cases of harassment, and reduced reporting of the same. People had faith in GSCASH because it was a democratic institution. It may not have been truly autonomous of JNU but it could at least ensure free, unbiased inquiry into cases of sexual harassment or assault.

We cannot expect the same from an institution like the ICC, which is working in administration garb. Complainants have often expressed their apprehensions regarding its working. GSCASH worked as a deterrent force against sexual harassment, but this might fade away with something like the ICC.

It is extremely shameful that the JNU administration should dismantle a body that no other university had even managed to institute.

N.Sai Balaji
President, JNU Students’ Union
Member, All India Students Association, CPI(M-L)L

There has been a systematic attack on JNU because we think, we write, we study. We don’t just have a library named after Dr B.R.Ambedkar, we follow his principles. We are a problem for this government because each JNU student can think on their own. We think and we fight, so we are a problem for them.

They have a single agenda: to destroy JNU. But what they can’t see is that JNU is not a single university, its roots are everywhere in the country. The administration recently imposed an 80% cut in funding for our library. There have been seat cuts, fund cuts, attacks on every community in JNU from teachers to students to workers, and attacks on social and gender justice as well, inside the campus.

Teachers have been facing serious problems under the present VC’s regime. The deans of various departments were removed on the pretext that they didn’t comply with the compulsory attendance rule imposed by the VC without discussion.

We have been moving the courts against every decision of the JNU administration, because they have been taken in an undemocratic manner. The administration hasn’t won a single case so far, and becoming more desperate it is attacking us with greater speed.

We have been served notices for shouting ‘Modi Sarkaar Murdabad’ - Down with the Modi Government - whereas ABVP members enjoy full impunity, even if they beat up students on campus.

(The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.)

You can see a pattern: the best institutions in the country are being destroyed, so obviously JNU is a target. Each and every student has the spirit of Comrade Chandrashekhar (Prasad) inside him or her, and each of us is fighting this fascist government.

If they want to send us to jail for studying in libraries they can happily do so.

Whatever Modi is doing, JNU’s VC is replicating it on campus. For example, protecting sexual offenders. Or like the Rafale scam, the JNU VC has the Online Entrance Exam on campus, where he lied about getting a vendor to conduct the exam but an RTI query revealed he hadn’t.

We have been raising our voice against the government’s policies and also exposing the VC’s various scams. There have been appointments where over half the thesis of the professors appointed was plagiarised. Obviously this will downgrade the quality of the education we get in JNU.

Just as the Centre is not ready to accept Supreme Court orders on Sabarimala, the VC is doing the same. He was directed not to take any coercive action on the compulsory attendance issue while the matter was in court, but the administration went ahead and sent notices to every centre requiring teachers to take attendance.

Atul Sood
President, JNU Teachers’ Association

Recently we submitted a charter to parliamentarians on the key issues faced by public universities, and their systematic destruction. In the past few years there has been denial of reservation, loss of seats as mentioned by the High Court, and the transfer of reserved category funds to the unreserved category.

The JNU administration should decide its priority: teaching and learning or non-teaching activities? On one hand there has been a steep fund cut in the library, on the other the security budget has been increased, and the university now spends almost Rs 2 crore a month on security!

There are many problems in the new online multiple choice question entrance exam. First it’s not at all a good way of evaluating students, and second it goes against the JNU Act, and does not serve the purpose of the Act.

Looking back, in the last three years the quantum of litigation with respect to JNU has been massive. They say that students and teachers have no work to do, so to show activity they are doing these things. The administration is trying to create the impression, that it is our opposition to the VC’s decisions which has created problems in the university.

But we are asking them to explain, with logic, the rationale for the decisions they have taken. What we are doing is constructive work, opposed to the destructive decisions of the VC.

Recently the administration forced a professor to leave the university. He did not get his salary for 10 months, and finally had to go to court and file a case. This is the kind of attack we are all facing.

On the attendance issue as well, the administration is trying to show us in a bad light. We students and teachers are fighting to save this university and its ideas. JNU became one of India’s best regarded universities without the administration enforcing minimum attendance. The VC is unable to give a single reason why an attendance policy will make the university better.