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SFI Demands Pondicherry University to Revoke Decision to Debar 11 Students for Anti-fee Hike Protests

The debarred students had participated in peaceful protests demanding revoking of fees hiked for various courses from the academic year 2020-21.
SFI Demands Pondicherry University to Revoke Decision to Debar 11 Students for Anti-fee Hike Protests

Image Courtesy: The News Minute

The Left-affiliated Students Federation of India has slammed the Pondicherry University for debarring 11 students and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on them for participating in anti-fee hike protests in February - March 2020. The students’ organisation has called for justice for the penalised students saying attempts were being made everywhere to turn Indian universities into prisons.

The debarred students had participated in peaceful protests demanding revoking of fees hiked for various courses from the academic year 2020-21.

Deputy registrar (academic) told the Times of India that the 11 students had been debarred from admission to any courses offered by the university for the next five yearsThey are also prohibited from entering the university campus for the next five years starting the current academic year. The deputy registrar further informed that the university had imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each of them without which they could not obtain their degree certificates. The university would also withhold the caution money deposits in the respective departments, library and hostels till the fine was paid. 

The students' council 2019-20, the SFI and several political parties condemned the university’s decision to debar the students and staged a protest in front of the university on Monday. 

On Thursday, the SFI said in a statement that the students were debarred strategically right ahead of the campus reopened as “the motive is to threaten the students from questioning any autocratic moves by the administration.” 

The SFI said that PU students had already begun protests against the administration’s and demanded the authorities to revoke the decisions to debar protesting students in different campuses, including Pondicherry University and Kurukshetra University. 

It said, Even during the distressing period of COVID lockdowns, several students were targeted and punished, for exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression by participating in movements such as the protest against CAA-NRC and the struggles against fee hikes.  

The struggle against the fee hike initiated by the previous Students’ Council (2018-19) right from its proposal, and continued by the following Students’ Council, was part of a larger struggle across the country against the commercialisation of education – which is also an undeniable outcome of the proposed National Education Policy (NEP) 2020,” the SFI said. It also underlined that thcriminalisation of student dissent” as was done in PU was not a first and 19 students were debarred from Kurukshetra University and three from Visva Bharati University for protesting against fee hikes as well. 

The 11 penalised PU students include Parichay Yadav, the President of Pondicherry University Students' CouncilAbhijeet Sudhakaran, the Unit Secretary of SFI during this period along with others  SFI leaders and membersThis is a move seldom heard in the history of any premier educational institution in the country,” the students’ organisation said. 

The SFI also slammed the NEP, claiming that the policy had been designed to commercialise the education sector and make profit. It is not only intended to “make education inaccessible for marginalised sections but also bestow authorities with the power to crack down on any voice of resistance,” the SFI said. 

Underlining the gravity of the college drop out issue, the SFI also announced the launching of the "Anti Drop Out Squad" campaign to bring back dropped out students to the campus and survey the key reasons for their drop out. The Anti Drop Out Squad is an initiative which fights for a society of equality whereby the problem of economic hardships, digital divide can be overcome, the drop out students can be brought back to the institutions,” it said, noting that the present online education model has resulted in the further widening of the digital divide in access to education with stark class difference in access to internet and mobile devices. 

Asserting that university campuses have held up the torch in the fights for democracy and constitutional rights in the recent years, the SFI said that, “this has provoked the authorities to further intensify the attacks on the democratic rights of the students and suspend any space for descent and debates inside the universities.

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