DU takes a leaf out of JNU, JMI to raise protest banner

Delhi University students during a protest on North Campus in New Delhi on January 8.

Delhi University students during a protest on North Campus in New Delhi on January 8.  

Students, faculty cited fear of violence and pressure of attendance as major reasons for staying away from controversial issues earlier

The ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and violence on universities across the country have triggered unprecedented demonstrations at Delhi University.

Recently, the university’s North Campus witnessed one of the largest mobilisation of students on January 8 when thousands of them took out a rally here.

Boycotting classes

The students of St. Stephen’s College had on the same day boycotted their classes to hold a public meeting where they read out the Preamble to protest CAA. Some students of Jesus & Mary College (JMC) have been holding regular silent demonstrations outside their college for at least a week now.

In protest against the CAA, students of colleges such as Ram Lal Anand College, Ramjas College, Hansraj College, Indraprastha College for Women, Dyal Singh College, Zakir Husain Delhi College also held public meetings.

“At Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU], at Aligarh Muslim University [AMU], we know that there will be protests but the Delhi University has a very diverse composition with a huge number of right-wing members. So, the students of DU holding such protests is very heartening,” said former president of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) Nandita Narain.

‘Seriousness of situation’

With the violence at Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) and JNU, Ms. Narain said: “Some ice had broken. Some students would protest up to a point but not come out on the streets for the same. Now, they are willing to come out because they are seeing how serious the situation is...Because you feel anybody could be a target and they don’t want to lose freedom of expression. If everything becomes a farce, then there is no point in having a university.”

The university, however, has not been a stranger to large scale protests, she said highlighting similar large scale mobilisation during violence at Ramjas College. However, then there were more people from the city as opposed to the number of students, she added.

Other stakeholders at DU also argued that there has been a fundamental change. Aditya Krishnan, a student of MA history at the university, said it the protests erupted as if a powder keg had gone off. He called violence at JMI and JNU “an Enfield rifle moment”. “I came to protests the passing of Article 370 but at that time, there very few people...around 50-70. At that time, I thought India had lost the art of protest. I never expected this,” he said. Commenting on the lack of such mobilisation in the past, student-activist Kawalpreet Kaur said there was a kind of apathy among students which restricted them from taking to the streets.

“Earlier, they did not care what is happening in society,” she said, adding that a change was seen in the last few years. The fear of violence by ABVP members (like the one in JNU) was a cause of concern, she said, adding: “But now the fear has gone.”

“Shaheen Bagh has been a big example. It has been a motivation for the students that people coming out and reclaiming their own spaces, their own streets. It sends out a message that they should not fear anymore,” she said.

Others such as Komal Rawat from Campus Law Centre (CLC) and Amaiya Sharma from Miranda House College said the dominance of the right-wing student group ABVP and fear of violence were reasons for the lack of such demonstrations.

“Now we have seen such attacks right here on the campus and you feel like it might happen to you,” said Ms. Sharma, who was participating in the protests here for the first time. Ms. Rawat said concerns about maintaining a 70% attendance record and the fact that the university is not a closed campus like JNU were hindrances to large scale mobilisation.

Similar protests

Women’s rights activist and teacher at JMC Maya John pointed out at some instances of large scale demonstrations in the past, such as when students came out commemorating violence during the Babri Masjid demolition and others.

But with the current protests, the participation of colleges such as JMC and Delhi School of Economics was unprecedented, she said. She said protests against the CAA and National Register for Citizens (NRC) are very emotive. The continuous protests, debates and dialogues especially in universities like JMI and JNU where students were attacked, had been a trigger for the DU students, she said.

Ms. John believed that the current protests were a culmination of various atrocities allegedly committed by the current government. She said people have been watching this government closely and felt strongly about what it has done in Kashmir, its duplicity...whatever the students have seen in the last two-three months, have agitated them.

Stakeholders of the university believe that the protests will continue. Many said if even if mobilisation does not take place at the university-level, scores of simultaneous stirs taking place across the city would see participation and support from the students here.

A rally has been called for at universities across the country on January 20 ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Act.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 12:23:35 PM |

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