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JNU to Begin Proctorial Probe into Violence, Enraged Students ask VC to Meet Victims First

Ravi Kaushal |
Mess Committee of Kaveri Hostel picks holes in ABVP challenges.
JNU Administration’s Conduct Partisan, say Students After Officials Skip Meet

New Delhi: Three days after the violence in Kaveri Hostel over food imposition that left 16 students injured, Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor Shantisree Dhulipudi Pandit on Wednesday ordered a proctorial enquiry into the matter.

Speaking to reporters in the campus, Pandit said the committee would conduct the enquiry and recommend actions.

“JNU is a secular campus and as a university it does not force any food choices on its students. They are free to consume as per their choice”, she said, after meeting students groups that had sought an appointment to talk to the administrators on the matter.
However, office-bearers of JNU Students Union (JNUSU) said they were unconvinced after meeting the vice-chancellor. Talking to NewsClick, Aishe Ghosh, president, JNUSU, said the proctorial enquiry will have no meaning if the onus of the administration remains on ‘disrupting’ the Ram Navami havan which actually never transpired.

“When we met the officials, we were told that a section of students tried to disrupt the ritual at the Kaveri hostel. However, the hostel residents completely deny any such event. It’s an established fact that the chicken vendor was stopped twice at Kaveri hostel from delivering the chicken. Our simple demand was that the university should revoke the press statement dated 11.4.2022 which tries to give whole incident a communal colour whereas the issue has been single pointedly about choice of food curtailed in the campus of a central university.”

The press release by the administration had noted: ”There was a scuffle in the JNU campus on 10th April 2022 between student groups. It was the occasion of Ram Navami and a hawan was organised by the students in Kaveri hostel and there were students who were objecting to this. The wardens and deans of students tried to pacify the students and hawan was concluded peacefully. Despite this, some group of students were not happy with this and soon after at the time of dinner a ruckus was created over there and heated arguments were followed by altercation between both groups of students. The wardens clarified on the spot and issued a notice when the ruckus was going among students that there is no bar on serving non-vegetarian food.”

Ghosh said they told the vice-chancellor that she should meet the victims first, which the administration did not do even after three days of assault.

“We made it clear that we are finding that six to seven members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad have indulged in violent activities time and again and named in several FIRs. I think it is high time that administration took note of it and took appropriate action. These people enjoy such impunity that they went on threaten a girl student in the reading room of School of International Studies. The VC instructed the Dean of Students to ensure check on such incidents,” said Ghosh.

Meanwhile, the mess committee of the Kaveri hostel also came up with its statement refuting charges levelled by ABVP and maintained that the acts of violence were “a disappointing consequence of administrative callousness; suppression and politicization of the Right to Choice of Food.”

“The mess committee is a democratically elected body which decides the mess menu in a democratic manner. The hostel serves non-veg food, along with vegetarian food on 4 days of the week- Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The menu for any single day cannot be changed unilaterally without such dire reasons as that of supply shortage of raw materials. If it must change, such a change should be incorporated through a General Body Meeting (GBM) amongst the residents of the hostel, and must be of a permanent character. During the days of Navratri, the menu remains unaltered with consensus of the student community. Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian food was cooked and people ate according to their preferences.”

On ABVP allegations of some students objecting to the ritual, the committee said: ”The ABVP, unfortunately, has been able to produce no evidence whatsoever that any organisation or hostel committee or residents had objected to the pooja in any manner. In fact, there are videos to prove the contrary. Navami pooja began at 4 pm and concluded around 7pm, while iftaar took place at 6:45pm, with preparations beginning 30 minutes earlier. The pooja happened side by side with the iftaar quite seamlessly. Residents of hostel as well as other students participated. Hence, their first claim is falsified.”

“Secondly, there are videos to prove that ABVP activists, many of them not residents of Kaveri hostel, actually threatened the chicken meat supplier not once but twice, and sent him away- the first time was around 2 pm; the second time was roughly around 3:30 pm. There is the official statement in the news of the chicken meat supplier present as well to support this claim. We see that ABVP has made two false claims and tried to twist the narrative toward a communal direction, when in essence, the issue was about freedom of Right to food. At the same time, non-veg food was cooked in other hostels without hassle. Therefore, only Kaveri was chosen as the site for mischief, hiding behind such baseless reasons.”

The committee also maintained that the wardens of the hostel could not intervene timely to stop the rampage in the campus.

 “The Warden(s) attempted to impose unilaterally that non-veg food should not be cooked on 10th April since there is a pooja in the hostel premises on occasion of Ram Navami. This was done through a Whatsapp message to the Mess Secretary on 9th April, in the evening. The Mess secretary demanded that such a decision cannot be imposed upon the mess committee. The Warden(s) cannot interfere with the mess menu. Despite such repeated requests, nothing was given in writing by any official presiding over Kaveri hostel. The mess secretary also offered to accept Warden's conditions, provided that the Warden be present at the mess to answer/confront the students' questions as to why only veg food was being cooked. The Warden did not even accept this proposal. Neither did any Warden try to intervene at the scene when the chicken meat supplier was being threatened and sent away, even after being requested by the Kaveri residents to help in the situation. The information about a potential fallout reached the administrative ears long before matters got extremely violent. Yet, no official intervened. Hence, the official press release is filled with false claims from the administration's side, and we demand that it is urgently taken back.”

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