Students fight over the right to Facebook on EFLU campus

Far from the usual protests that play out on campuses, a section of students in the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), a Central varsity, are fighting a battle to secure their claim on Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The right to free speech and expression, even as it pertains to the social media.

The trigger for the mass protest, “R.I.P - EFLU”, that included a late night vigil and a blindfold rally, was a show-cause notice that the varsity administration issued to a student, Arjab Sarkar, for putting up a post that critiqued a clean-up drive on the campus.

The student in his post had criticised a campus campaign, Clean India, Clean EFLU for being oblivious of the plight of “sweepers” who clean up the “real filth”.

The post titled “Obscenities in EFLU” was followed by another one in which Mr. Sarkar criticised the fencing up of a campus haunt and heritage structure, the Heritage Well.

Calling the post a “defamatory Facebook comment against the university,” the EFLU administration served a memo on October 5 asking Mr. Sarkar to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.

However, putting the administration in the dock, a group of 300 students held a cultural protest ‘Requiem for EFLU’ on the campus on October 14. On Thursday, the students announced an indefinite protest for justice.

Interestingly, protests have found resonance on the very social media platform that elicited university’s show cause notice. Apart from R.I.P EFLU profile pictures, the students have served an online show cause notice to the university asking the administration why it, “should not be considered guilty for curtailing my freedom and undermining my existence as a student”.

Frequent show-cause notices

The protest has spiralled out with students demanding the university to call for student union elections as they want their representatives to voice their concerns. “This is the second show-cause notice issued by the administration in three months. The administration is monitoring social media to target students. Any form of political or social observation on university matters is suppressed using memos and notices,” said K. Kanagaraj, a research scholar and a student leader of EFLU.

The first show-cause notice was served on August 10 to a member of Students Federation of India (SFI) for pasting posters that announced a movie screening under the SFI banner without university's permission. Earlier in 2013, EFLU had served notice to a student for putting up a post criticising two administrative officers.

In what the protesters call a complete clamp down on their right to political opinion and expression, the varsity administration had earlier banned any events, posters and flyers of student outfits on its campus. “Social media is the only space for expression that is now available,” said another student, S. . Sarath.

‘Will act on

provocative posts’

The EFLU administration, however, maintained that it cracks the whip only on posts which are provocative in nature.

“Action is taken based on the nature and language of comments. If the posts attack specific people, then we serve show-cause notice. Some students have a history of being provocative,” said Prakash Kona, Proctor of EFLU.

EFLU students protest authorities’ show-cause notice over social media post

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 5:08:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/students-fight-over-the-right-to-facebook-on-eflu-campus/article7768306.ece

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