New Delhi: Students from the Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, who have been protesting since September 25 against the alleged maladministration and corruption of Vice-Chancellor Dr. Sukh Pal Singh, went on indefinite hunger strike from Monday morning.
“Our demand is equivocal and singular -- the resignation of Dr. Sukh Pal Singh whom we no longer recognise as our Vice-Chancellor,” said the executive council of the Student Bar Association in an ‘Appeal to the Nation’. The students also demanded access to the audit report of the university, and institution of a review commission of the University as per the provisions of the HNLU Act.
Also read: Why Students Are Up In Arms Against the VC of Chattisgarh’s HNLU?
Singh has been at the centre of controversy since a professor who was accused of sexual harassment had been allowed to teach without taking note of the mass protests of students.
Earlier on August 27, the Chhattisgarh High Court, in the case Dr. Avinash Samal v. State of Chhattisgarh, had quashed the extension of Singh’s tenure. Following the judgement, the student community had come out and camped overnight in the open inside the campus from 10:30 p.m. the same day, demanding that the judgment be “respected” and that Dr. Singh should step away from the post of VC. “The VC was initially supposed to have a five-year term, he went on to get an illegal extension. Since we cannot go against the orders of the court, the only option left for the protesting students is to build pressure on him to quit,” Achyut Tiwari of the Student’s Bar Council had told NewsClick earlier.
On the third day of the protest, the Chancellor of the university appointed Ravi Shankar Sharma, the Principal Secretary, Government of Chhattisgarh, as the interim Vice-Chancellor of the University. However, the Supreme Court on September 20 stayed the High Court order and soon Dr. Singh was reinstated as the VC.
Highlighting the maladministration, corruption, complete apathy and indifference towards the sexual harassment complaints, issues of differently abled students and welfare of all the student community in the campus, the students, so far have met the Chancellor of the University and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister with their demand charter.
“Now that all the doors have been tried by the protesting students, we are compelled to seek our last resort in a hunger strike starting from October 1, 2018, at 8 A.M.”, the executive council added.
VC Threatens Sine Die Closure
The VC, on September 30, appealed the students to call off the protest immediately and attend classes from Monday. Instead of resuming dialogue in response to the declaration, VC said that the students would face consequences, which may include closure of the of the University sine die “to restore the normalcy in the University”, if they proceed with the hunger strike.
The reason behind the student protests
The issues and protests against the VC have been going on for a while, notably, after the sexual harassment complaints had surfaced. The accused professor had allegedly been demanding sexual favours from multiple students, and he had even asked one of the students to dance for him in class. Since then, multiple students had come out to highlight the magnitude of the issue. Though more than 50 students had come out with their testimonies against the accused, no preliminary enquiry was ordered against him.
“The VC just reprimanded the professor and tried to brush the issue under the carpet by casually asking him to keep his behaviour in check. The female students have also come forth to highlight that the faculty of the university also asked them to deal with it, and not get worked up,” Achyut said.
Appealing to the academic, political and legal fraternity to stand in support and solidarity with the protesting students, the executive council said: “Law students being deprived of justice and their basic rights is not only ironical, but also goes on to pose bigger questions about the present and the future of this country.”