The opposition to Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate course got a big boost on Thursday as intellectuals, politicians and activists – unconnected with the university – publically pledged to help them at a meeting held outside the Arts Faculty gates, amid heavy police presence.
“We will take these issues to Parliament. In case it does not work out, we will take a separate delegation to the Prime Minister,” said CPI (M) Rajya Sabha MP and senior leader Sitaram Yechury, adding that the argument of some that the best thing about the new course was that it set alongside the structure of courses that are offered abroad was fallible.
Furthermore, he said, the argument that “foreign” universities coming to India was a good thing, because education was made cheaper, was also weak. “Everybody knows that students who go abroad are rich kids, who do not get a seat in any of the good colleges here in India, or those with scholarships,” he said.
Social activist and National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy also pledged her full support to the Save DU campaign and stated that she was opposed to the manner in which the new course was being implemented without taking into consideration the opinion of the major stakeholders. “If the Constitution guarantees us sovereignty, no institution has the right to change anything without our consent,” she said, and added: “I will be with you till the end.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Aam Aadmi Party member and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan who said that he had no issues with the four-year course as such but that he was aghast at the manner in which it was being passed. “I am not saying it is a bad thing, but it is such a big change. You have to think of the consequences and go through the procedures. The UGC permission has to be taken six months in advance, the pros and cons have to be considered – all this is not yet done.”
The many teachers in attendance, some without any political affiliations, could be seen agreeing in totality with the speakers. Some teachers said that although they were not opposed to the idea of change as such, it was the manner in which it was being implemented that they were opposed to. “The Save DU campaign will continue to take this issue to the public domain as we understand these “reforms” are anti-people,” said Abha Dev Habib, one of the conveners of the campaign.
Later in the evening, members of the teachers group Academics for Action and Development expressed their reservation about inviting outsiders to support an internal matter of Delhi University. “Such political interference in academic matters of the university is unwelcome,” said AAD member Rajiv Kumar Verma.