Two V-Cs and campus unrest

Rohith Vemula's suicidebecame a rallying point forstudents across the country.  

What is common to the VC of Hyderabad University Appa Rao Podile who is currently on leave, and the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Mamidala Jagadeesh Kumar? Scientists both, they have also earned the collective wrath of their students and teachers for letting them down in abdicating their responsibility and failing to protect them. Not just that, in both universities, two students Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar have emerged as symbols of resistance and a rallying point for all students in the country.

Prof. Mamidala Kumar had taken the day off when his students and teachers marched along Mandi House on Thursday, to protest the arrest and assault by lawyers of one of their own — Kanhaiya Kumar — on the court premises. He has been charged with sedition. The venue where the students and teachers of JNU marched, along with students from Ambedkar University and Delhi University, was apt for, it is here where the performing arts — theatre, music, dance and letters — thrive in an atmosphere of freedom unfettered by the state.

Prof. Kumar’s arrival on the campus comes at a time of ferment similar to the one Prof. Podile faced in Hyderabad.

Unlike Hyderabad University which escaped being targeted by members of the political class, the threat that JNU faces is imminent. It has been unfairly bestowed with a terror, largely because of its Left-liberal atmosphere in the times of a majoritarian right-wing government. And right from the start, colleagues say Prof. Kumar misread the situation on February 9, when students had allegedly chanted anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans. For one, he should not have called the police in merely on the basis of a complaint by a rival student group and an FIR by a BJP MLA of Delhi. The VC, who goes by the rule book, quickly appointed a three-member committee which decided in great haste to suspend eight students without giving them a hearing. Allowing the police to arrest student leader Kanhaiya Kumar did not go down well either with the students or their teachers. The JNU Teachers Association passed a resolution criticising the administration for mishandling the situation.

The resolution not only questioned the decision of the VC but also faulted it on several grounds. It said: “The decision to summarily suspend eight students from participating in any academic activity before giving them any opportunity to present their case is indefensible on grounds of either natural justice or logic and has only served to bring into question the credibility of the inquiry process initiated by the university administration. The GBM demands that the current process be replaced by a credible one which inspires confidence in all sections of the university community that the truth will be uncovered.”

Prof. Kumar’s colleagues say he is a stickler for punctuality and is even known to carry a clock with him.

Perhaps, the man who follows the rules, at the first sign of deviation and a formal complaint made to him, decided to call in the police. The subsequent arrest and the disquiet in the university have found an echo on other campuses, one that will be hard to stamp out.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 2:51:48 PM |

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