On Saturday, February 16, a circular was issued by the proctor’s office of Delhi University, banning any kind of protests or demonstrations on the university campus. The circular read: “All students of Delhi University are advised not to occupy premises of departments, library and administrative blocks for protests and dharnas. These acts cause disruption in academic activities as well as day to day functioning of the respective offices. The students found violating the ordinance can be expelled, rusticated, fined or debarred from taking the examinations.”
Students Federation of India (SFI) has vehemently opposed the move, and has demanded immediate withdrawal of the advisory, calling it ‘anti-student’ and ‘anti-constitutional’. Vikas Bhadauria, President of SFI Delhi, told Newsclick, “This order is in clear violation of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which gives all Indian citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, and the right to form associations or unions.”
Bhadauria said, “This is an attempt to curb the protests that have been happening for the past few years against the attacks on higher education because of the neo-liberal policies and reforms of the government.”
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Earlier, Jawaharlal Nehru University had also issued an advisory to the students threatening with disciplinary action if they occupy the premises of the university departments, library, and administrative blocks for demonstrations or protests.
SFI said in a statement: “The fact that university students and teachers have become threats for administration and the Government show that "anti-people and anti-student reforms" are being protested and taken down. Such orders which say that there should be no politics in educational institutions is an encroachment on the rights of the students. Engaging in organised political activity is a constitutionally guaranteed democratic right of students. The immense contribution of students led activism in campuses and outside, from the time of the freedom struggle to the emergency in 1984, cannot be forgotten.”
As per the official notification released by the university, disruption of the academic function of the university system amounts to an act of indiscipline as per the ordinance XV Para 3 (i), Delhi University Act, 1922. A few days ago, another advisory was released by the university, asking the students and teachers to avoid usage of loudspeakers, drums, sound amplifiers, public address system within a 100 metres range of the university's Campus.
SFI said in their statement, “The imposition of the consumer model onto students in the education system must be rejected if we are to safeguard the critical and engaging character of the University. SFI vows to fight tooth and nail against such repressive and authoritarian Vice-Chancellor and undemocratic order of the university administration till it is taken back.”
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All India Students’ Association (AISA) has also rejected the advisory, calling it “dictatorial attitude of the Delhi University administration”. In a statement, AISA appealed to all the students of the university to reject the circular.
Newsclick tried to reach Delhi University’s proctor Neetu Sehgal for comments regarding the matter, but received no response.