The DUTA had erected a neon yellow tent with loud speakers and posters that said "Inqalab Zindabad" and officially began their strike at 9 a.m
Despite severe warnings from the University and ceaseless rain, a large number of teachers turned up in support of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association’s 24-hour hunger strike outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office on Tuesday.
The DUTA had erected a neon yellow tent with loud speakers and posters that said “Inqalab Zindabad” a stone’s throw from the Viceregal Lodge and officially began their strike at 9 a.m.
The DUTA members on hunger strike sat on stage, while other teachers made speech after speech. The teachers were especially angry with the university’s letter to their heads ordering them to ensure their attendance and threatening them with no pay.
“We cannot give in to such threats. As teachers, we cannot tell our students to fight for their rights and back-off at the first sign of trouble,” said Madhvi, a history teacher. “We have always staged protests as our democratic right, and nobody welcomed the university authorities suddenly telling us it is illegal,” she added.
Some teachers, especially those from the South Campus, had also come in groups. “The teachers have had a meeting in the morning, collectively decided to skip class and come here together,” said Hany Babu, an associate professor of the English Department.
Another department head reported that he had no intention of coming to the protest but the warning letter had incensed him enough to cancel his classes and mark his presence at the strike. “Those teachers who never come to protests and are only concerned about taking classes and going back home have also showed up, including me,” he said.
“I told my students that I will not be showing up for class because I am on strike, I also made sure they understood why I was skipping class to come and sit here at the Viceregal Lodge,” said DUTA member Vijya Venkateshan, adding that the issue of ad hoc teachers not getting permanent employment for years was more than just an issue for the teachers. “The insecurities that come from being employed temporarily are often rubbed off on the students themselves. Ad hoc teachers cannot even protest because they can be told to leave their jobs at any time,” she added.
Some teachers said they received personal SMSes and emails from their heads asking them to clearly state whether they were going to show up in class or not. “For the first time in all my years as a teacher here, I signed the attendance register,” said a teacher from St. Stephen’s College, who had come for the protest in her lunch hour. However, some teachers also reported that the only notices they saw were that of the DUTA protest and that their heads supported them completely.
“By 5-30 p.m. about 900 teachers had registered their names in support of the DUTA strike. There were several more teachers who showed up but did not sign their names. The ad-hoc teachers have to be especially careful,” said DUTA member Abha Dev Habib who was in charge of the register.
“The university’s high-handedness in dealing with academic issues cannot be tolerated,” said another teacher who was wearing a green and yellow badge that said: “Say no to no say.”
The DUTA strike site was also visited by politicians like Delhi Education Minister and former member Kiran Walia and CPI (M) member P. K. Biju.
The DUTA will be camping overnight in their tent and will be on hunger strike till 9 a.m. on Wednesday. They will continue to with their dharna through out the day on Thursday for the resolution of issues like filling up 4, 000 vacant teaching posts in the university and promotions.
The university, however, insisted that the strike was a failure. “We got a feed back from about 70 principals that all their teachers were present in class and only few very politically active teachers went for the strike,” said a university official.