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Kanhaiya, others reject JNU probe panel report; to go on hunger strike

Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested on charges of sedition in February in connection with an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
April 26, 2016 8:34:33 pm
kanhaiya kumar, JNU, JNU row, JNUSU president, Pm modi, kanhaiya in pune, indian express mumbai Kumar was speaking at an event, ‘Rohit Act and Constitution Conference’, organised by 28 different student organisations in the city.

Defiant JNU students who have been punished in connection with a controversial event on campus on Tuesday asserted they will not pay fine and vacate hostels as ordered by the university and will go on an indefinite hunger strike from tomorrow demanding withdrawal of orders.

“We have rejected the so called high-level enquiry committee right from the day it was set up as an undemocratic and biased one so there is no point accepting the punishment meted out to us on basis of its findings,” JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar told reporters.

Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested on charges of sedition in February in connection with an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. They are now out on bail.

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The university on Monday rusticated Umar for one semester, Kashmiri student Mujeeb Gattoo for two semesters and Anirban till July 15. As per decision, Bhattacharya has been barred from pursuing any course in JNU for next 5 years. Kanhaiya has been penalised with Rs 10,000.

13 other students have been let off with varied fines. The campus has been made out of bounds for two former students — Banojyotsana Lahiri and Draupadi — while hostel facilities of Ashutosh Kumar and Komal Mohite have been withdrawn for a year and till July 21 respectively.

“We have decided that none of the students will pay the fine or vacate their hostels. We demand that the university administration withdraws these orders as we have maintained right from the beginning that we do not have faith in this enquiry panel and it should be reconstituted,” JNUSU Vice President Shehla Rashid Shora said.

“We will begin an indefinite hunger strike from tomorrow after staging a protest march from varsity’s Ganga dhaba to administration block. The decision has been well-timed by the university officials to avoid any protests as summer break is about to begin but we will not bow down and continue our fight,” she added.

JNUSU reasons for not accepting probe panel report 

1. On the advice of the then Registrar, Bhupinder Zutshi, who has been exposed as an RSS puppet and whose removal the JNUSU & JNUTA demanded, the newly appointed VC had picked three members, Prof. Suman Dhar, Prof. H.B. Bohidar and Prof. Rakesh Bhatnagar, who is also the Head of the Committee, to conduct the enquiry. Zutshi is also the person who allowed the police to raid the hostels, and banned the entry of media into the campus.

2. The then Chief Proctor, Prof. Krishna Kumar, had resigned over the way in which a Proctorial Committee was first formed, and then dismissed within four hours of its formation. As a matter of routine, all matters involving students are looked at by the Proctor’s office. However, in this case, the Proctorial committee was dissolved arbitrarily and replaced by a “high level” committee, headed by Prof. Bhatnagar who is a known anti-reservationist. He continues to be the authority responsible for raising funds for the rabid student group, “Youth for Equality”.

3. No woman, no SC/ST/OBC/minority teacher, no one from the Social Sciences was included in the committee, whereas the defendants all hail from poor and marginalised backgrounds, include women and are mostly from the Social Sciences!

4. The CVO, Chief Vigilance Officer, is the final appellate authority of the University, but he himself is part of the HLEC. Prof Suman Dhar, who happens to be the CVO, is a member of the Committee. Hence, we cannot even appeal against this decision!

5. When all these questions were raised, the VC added two more members to it. These are simply token additions, as they were added after the entire enquiry process was over. We demanded that, since the composition of the enquiry committee had changed, a fresh probe must be started, as the newly inducted members did not get a chance to cross-examine the witnesses and evidence. This is a legitimate demand, but it was not accepted. Even in the enquiry committee that handed out punishments to Rohith Vemula and his friends, a token Dalit member was added in the end. This is a shamefully cosmetic move and does not make any difference to the enquiry process.

6. Due to all this, the students refused to participate in the enquiry process. Based on one-sided depositions of ABVP members, the enquiry committee has come up with massive fines, rustication, draconian out-of-bounds orders and what not? This shows how scared the government is of dissenting voices.

7. The HLEC has randomly punished people. One of the students, Anirban, has been punished with rustication and out-of-bounds orders for five years! Around 14 students have been fined for Rs. 20,000 each and threatened to pay the fine by 13th of May or face hostel eviction. Former JNUSU President, Ashutosh Kumar has been evicted from hostel for one year and fined with Rs. 20,000. Such punishments are unheard of, and reek of extreme vendetta against student activists. This is clearly a war bugle sounded by the Central government.

8. Nowhere do the punishment orders mention the exact crime committed by the students. All the orders cite a statute that reads, “Any other action deemed inappropriate by the Vice-Chancellor.” This cannot be the yardstick to measure the legality of any event. The administration, in these orders, repeatedly says that “taking part in a march”, “raising slogans” is unbecoming of a JNU student. This is ridiculous and unacceptable. In order to punish anyone, a three-step link has to be established by any enquiry committee:

a) Establish the exact action for which punishment is being handed out.

b) Justify how that particular action violates a certain University statute.

c) Justify how a certain violation attracts a certain amount of punishment.

The committee hasn’t bothered to do any of this, and has arbitrarily punished students for holding political opinions that they may not like.

9. The scope of the enquiry committee was never clarified. If it was constituted to look into slogans, why have the provocative slogans being raised by the right-wing student groups not been accounted for? If the enquiry report itself says that outsiders raised the slogans, why are JNU students being punished? Why is there no enquiry into the reason why Zee News was called by JNUSU Joint Secretary, Saurabh Sharma, of the ABVP, an hour before the programme? Why is there no enquiry into the reason Zee News and Times Now circulated doctored videos, even though the Delhi govt has also filed cases against these channels on these very issues? If mere speech and slogans are to be criminalised, why is there no action against Prof. Amita Singh, who has called Dalit and Muslim teachers as anti-nationals? Why is there no enquiry committee looking at the violence unleashed by ABVP members on 13th of Feb against Rajya Sabha MP, Anand Sharma on JNU campus? Why has the complaint of misbehavior filed by the teachers residing at Paschimabad against ABVP members, not been taken up? Why is JNU administration, despite repeated communications from the JNUSU Vice-President and the JNUTA President, not acted against Amit Jani, who threatened to kill Kanhaiya and Umar, and whose brother has been arrested for planting arms in a JNU-bound bus?

10. why has GSCASH representative, Aishwarya Adhikari, been fined with Rs. 20,000 even though her name is not even there in the enquiry committee report?

11. The HLEC had submitted its report one and a half months back to the VC. However, the VC has waited till the onset of holidays to make the punishments public, showing how scared the VC is of students’ protests. But we want to remind the new VC here that, many struggles have been fought by the student community during the time of exams and vacations. The struggle to implement Mandal-II (OBC reservation in higher educaiton) saw a 34-day hunger strike in JNU during holidays. In the summer of 2014, under the Dera Dalo movement, students and workers together occupied the Ad Block for 14 days in blazing heat, to demand hostels and workers’ rights. The 16th December movement and the Occupy UGC movement went on despite holiday, biting cold and water cannons.

12. Why has the VC not held an Academic Council meeting which is supposed to happen every semester? Every year, there are two AC meetings- one in October and one in April. This is a huge failure on part of the VC, who is so afraid to face the students and the teachers that he cancelled the AC meeting scheduled on the 19th of April and hasn’t reconvened it. The reality is, that without consulting the students and teachers, sweeping changes in admission policy have been brought about by the new administration. It is shocking that, without discussing the issues of reduction of deprivation points for women and BA applicants, and introduction cluster system in BA entrance exam, these changes were brought into the prospectus. Also, bypassing the High Court order to provide relaxation to OBC applicants at two stages, the administration has decided to grant the relaxation at only one level. Not only will we oppose the punishments, we will also raise these issues through our hunger strike.

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