Students of Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali have been on an indefinite strike since Tuesday, October 15, protesting against several issues including strict code of conduct, arbitrary yearly fee hike, sub-standard food in hostels/canteen, and lack of proper faculty. The students have also demanded the institute let the students constitute a democratically elected student representative body.
On the condition of anonymity, a student of the institute told NewsClick that around 300 students have been camping outside the academic block for four days now, following the filing of a collective petition concerning the issues that students are facing at the hands of the college authorities. The protest started when the administration failed to respond to the petition even 10 days after it was filed.
The student community said in a statement, “The Institute, once a force to be reckoned with, has now been plagued by administrative inefficiencies, deteriorating quality of the teaching staff and a general sense of unreasonableness and apathy towards the students for some time now.”
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The statement added, “The Institute is run and managed on the basis of a Code of Conduct, which enumerates certain do’s and don’ts to be followed by the students, which is draconian, infringes upon the basic freedom of students, and leaves enough scope for administrative ambiguity and discretion.”
The petition filed by the students listed eight demands, which include amendment of the AIL Code of Conduct, revision of the process of faculty appointments, redressal of grievances over poor cafeteria/mess infrastructure, and removal of the restriction of student movement within the campus post 2300 hours, for both male and female students.
On October 16, the administration sent emails to the parents of seven fifth year students, accusing them of “starting the agitation”. The parents of these students were also asked to meet the authorities to “discuss the conduct of their wards” on October 19. The administration refused to answer questions asked by the students regarding these emails, angering the protesting students even further. The protesters have also accused the administration of targeting the students based on their biases.
In a statement released on October 18, the students’ community said that the Chairman of the Institute met the students on October 17, but to no avail. The statement said, “The session commenced with the chairman’s 40 minute monologue on family values, the importance of friends in college among other frivolities. Instead of letting the eight student representatives reiterate the eight demands outlined in the joint petition which would have expedited the process, each and every student was asked to explain their issues with the management. This led to a situation where almost 292 students were repeating the same phrase, “All eight demands,” over and over again.”
The students have accused the Chairman of refusing to hear out the issues faced by them, and the students, discouraged, left the meeting. However, they went back in after a while, and the meeting was resumed. The meeting, that went on for six long hours, had two results according to the statement – the administration agreed to hear out four student representatives on the following day, and also took back the emails that had been sent to the parents of the students.
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The college alumni have extended complete support to the protesting students, as have several universities across the country, including Delhi University. The alumni said in a statement of solidarity, “The situation that has developed at Army Institute of Law since last night is very disturbing. It affects the reputation of our institution. The students of the college deserve their demands to be addressed, and we urge the authorities to do the same in a democratic manner at the earliest.”
The students have said that their protest will continue until the administration agrees to their demands.