Following a meeting earlier this week with students, who were protesting against the decisions taken in the March 26 meeting of Jawaharlal Nehru University Provosts, Associate Dean of Students Dr. Sachidanand Sinha has announced some changes in the decisions.

It was decided at the March 26 meeting that screening of films without Central Board of Film Certification approval would not be allowed, public meetings deemed to be “sensitive to national integration/national harmony” would be prevented and a week's notice to hold any event in the JNU hostels would be required.

According to the revised rules, students would have to give a notification of two working days to hold any event. In case of an impromptu event, the hostel warden would take a decision. Also, conditions which were previously applicable to holding public meetings would no longer hold. Regarding event details, the applicant would have to give the name of the speaker/title of the film, date and time and signature.

Elucidating on the background of the March 26 meeting, he said: “We did not make the original decisions of our own accord. These were proposals by certain hostels which were lying in the files. I decided to place the matter before the Provosts as a number of RTI applications have been filed asking for details of numerous events which were not on record. No formal procedure exists for organising these programmes and different hostels follow different formats.”

There was a need to formalise the procedure, he added. The revised rules are reportedly based on the format followed by the Tapti hostel.

“The students did have some genuine concerns. Free and frank discussions should take place on the campus. The aim is not to curb expression. Rather it is to simply maintain a record. The other aim is to facilitate coordination between various agencies for aspects such as security, lighting and sound. If large crowds of people are to attend an event, arrangements have to be made,” Dr. Sinha stated, adding that resources were often misused in the absence of a proper procedure.

On the question of banning films which did not have a CBFC approval, Dr. Sinha would not say if this move too had been changed. “There is a difference between what can be shown to the public and what may be shown to a private and select audience. We could be questioned about why films are being screened which do not have a CBFC approval and may be subject to litigations. There should be no suppression of the visual or other arts, but we have faced questions in this regard.”

Meanwhile, a memorandum of protest against the initial rules was signed by 57 JNU teachers including the likes of Prabhat Patnaik, Romila Thapar and Amit Bhaduri and was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor. The teachers objected because the Provosts were reportedly not empowered to institute such sweeping changes without discussion in the wider JNU community and also attempts to censor freedom of expression on the JNU campus were unacceptable.

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