New Delhi: Days after higher educations institutes in the national capital were allowed to resume physical classes, student groups demanded immediate reopening of Delhi University. On Monday, they gheraoed the office of varsity's Vice-Chancellor in protest, following a recent university order that directs for online teaching to continue for now.
Following its meeting last Friday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) allowed for several COVID-19 curbs to be eased in the city and asked the higher education institutions to resume in-person classes for all batches and streams for the first time since the pandemic had begun in March 2020.
Following Friday's order, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was reported as saying that all higher educational institutions, colleges, ITIs, polytechnic and skill institutes will be directed to only conduct offline classes, starting from Monday.
To be sure, only access to libraries and labs for practicals for final-year students was allowed until now as part of the limited reopening of the universities in the national capital to restrict the spread of COVID-19 cases that has put additional strain on the health infrastructure in the city. The capital is home to several prominent central and state universities.
On Monday morning, hundreds of students gathered to demonstrate at DU VC's office to demand reopening of the varsity following the revised DDMA guidelines. They were led by unions including the Students' Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students' Association (AISA), among others.
The aggrieved students complained that the closure of physical classes is leading to irreparable loss to their education, which the online classes are failing to compensate for.
"The frustration of students is quite evident. You can see it in their faces, hear it in their voices. VC must address the situation in the next two days, or else we would have to break the locks on our classrooms ourselves," said Ankit Birpali, secretary, SFI - Hindu College unit on Monday.
Support to the protesting students also came from the teachers who observed a boycott of online classes in over 53 departments across the varsity on Monday.
"Many of us are not in Delhi right now, so we couldn't join the protest called by SFI. But we decided that we must send a message that students, in general, support the demand of reopening the campus. Hence, we boycotted online classes today", said Arushi Sharma, a student of Miranda House.
Meanwhile, '#reopendu' remained trending on social media platforms throughout since previous evening, as thousands of students condemned "administration's indifference."
Monday's protest of students came even as DU VC Yogesh Singh has hinted – at least while speaking to media – that the central varsity will consider the option of reopening classes for students of all years.
"We will examine the guidelines, and if it enables reopening without any conditions, we will certainly do so. Since we have students from all around the country, if we find that we can reopen, we would want to give them some notice period — perhaps a week or 10-15 days," Singh was quoted as speaking by The Indian Express.
Likewise, DU dean of colleges Balaram Pani has been quoted as saying by Hindustan Times that the university will decide on reopening for in-person classes only after taking into account various aspects such as hostel preparedness, among others.
Crucially, higher education institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), IP University, and Ambedkar University have reopened campus for physical classes from Monday onwards.
Meanwhile, the DU unit of SFI has announced a 'Sadak Pe Kaksha' (classroom on the street) campaign from Wednesday, February 9, until the university reopens.
Abhishek, co-convenor of SFI DU, said, "Classrooms on the street is a message to the administration that both teachers and students want to begin offline classes. If they have any respect left for us, they should open the classrooms immediately."