Protesting students in the Central University of Rajasthan are being subjected to repression by the administration of the university, unfair diktats being only the tip of the iceberg. Cracking down on the students, the administration has issued a letter asking them to abstain from putting up posters, organising themselves or even posting on social media criticising the university administration.
The row at the university premises began on October 9, when female students broke the hostel gates at night to protest against the administration. Students present in the university told NewsClick that the protests were just a culmination of pent up anger against the university and the administration. The students said that in the name of student’s safety they were being subjected to “unnecessary surveillance, harassment and torture.”
Biometrics, Harassment and Breach of Privacy
A student, on condition of anonymity, said, “For the smallest of things, the university administration tries to involve our parents. The Central University of Rajasthan is a residential campus, students live and study in the campus peacefully but the administration unnecessarily imposed unauthentic rules on the students, such as biometric for girls, not allowing more than five personal things (books, registers etc.) in the library, girls cannot access the library after 10 p.m, guards harass the students at every nook and corner of university in the name of I-card and security.”
The students said instead of actively engaging with the students on their demands-- removal of the biometric attendance, non-interference, respecting students’ privacy-- the university has instead cracked down on their legitimate protests. Some students told NewsClick, that a meeting was convened on October 10 wherein they were expecting concrete solutions to come out, however, the meeting was an absolute failure. Not limiting to that, the university administration went ahead and declared that a consensus has been reached.
‘Divide and Rule’
As the student protests continued, the university stepped up attempts to create fissures in students’ unity. The protesting female students were told not to get influenced by what the male students were propagating. The administration also identified the protesting female students and asked them to issue an apology, threatening them with strict disciplinary action if they did not adhere to the demands.
However, the students have not backed down and are continuing their protest.
A PhD scholar said on condition of anonymity, “The students are being forced to not cover their faces during the protest. If the students don’t conceal their identity, their parents are informed and they are issued threats. As the male students refused to remove cloth from their faces, the struggle between them and the administration intensified further on the night between October 11 and 12. After this, the male students protested by removing their clothes as they were not being let inside the hostels by the administration.”
The momentum of the protest against the administration has picked up quite a pace after the increased crackdown. Some students told NewsClick, “As the University’s location is in a remote area, in place of providing 24x7 security and proper transportation system to the students at the highway, the administration harasses students in the campus in the name of security. Instead of providing proper library and reading facilities in the campus, the administration is busy imposing biometrics and issuing colourful I-cards for every semester to be shown to the guards every now and then. Rather than providing proper medical facilities, water and sanitation system to the students, the administrations’ priority is to call and message parents of female students and informing them about every single step of their daughter in campus.”
The students have also issued a charter of demands which highlights the need for the administration to recognise a student’s right to privacy and a conducive environment for education.
Currently, India is witnessing a surge in student protests against unfair hostel norms and gender discrimination. The new wave of agitation is bringing with it a message that is loud and clear that the students need to be treated as responsible adults, and their freedom and expression cannot be restricted in the name of “safety”.