AS PROTESTS continue to rage across Punjab and elsewhere against the massive and unprecedented fee hike effected at Panjab University, Chandigarh, listen closely to the apologetic voices in the discourse of resistance.
Quick-fix 'where's-the-bloody-press-release' kind of journalism has ensured that news reports about the protests, within hours of the brutal assault, were published as boilerplate items, with all nuances thoroughly killed -- either due to inept journalists or rank dishonesty.
Prof Manjit Singh is now leading the Solidarity Committee for Panjab University and College Students, ostensibly formed to support the students’ demands. This group's brightest idea is to organise a candlelight march on campus on Monday.
Someone asked a university professor at the protest if he will be at the court with a photocopy of his car's RC to bail out a student, particularly since he has already paid loan instalments on his vehicle and has an NoC, the don said: "Baa'd vich barra bakherra ho jaanda ae. Authe pehle bee barre lok hon ge."
A senior journalist who had come to witness the protest suggested that the demand should be that the university should stand as surety for the bail of the 50 plus arrested students. The VC should land at the police station and at the court with registration records and land deeds of university properties since he claims to be a father figure and stresses ad nauseum that the students are like his sons and daughters. No one has so far asked him, or demanded of him, to put his money where his mouth is.
In the syndicate and the senate, it is a fact that the sham of dissent notwithstanding, most of the faculty members, widely seen to be in the camp of the VC, are in favour of the fee hikes.
With students of Panjab University, Chandigarh in the thick of an aggressive struggle against a sharp fee hike, many among the solidarity warriors are actually striking clearly apologetic note in this discourse of resistance. Some did it in Chandigarh's Sector 17 plaza.
A large number of faculty members were part of a bizarre -- shockingly, widely publicised and hailed -- exercise in which senior professors and some students sat together, watching videos and classifying students on the basis of "innocent" or "guilty." They actually told the media that the names of the innocent students were being passed on to the police so that no action is taken against them. Anyone with an IQ of above 12 can guess what the corollary means.
Besides, since there is a law school inside the university, may be this is a new jurisprudence pedagogy being developed. Watch videos, catch guilty, sentence them. You will find placements in Kashmir valley where the Indian state needs you.
God help you, with such solidarity warriors.
The PU authorities have now announced that on April 19, access to the university will be shut down to all outsiders - "outsiders" being defined as people not having duly issued identity cards. That makes parents and guardians of students, relatives of hundreds of teachers and non-teaching staff members residing on the campus and anyone invited by a professor for a cup of tea, persona non grata.
"Mitro, vice chancellor sahib ki bhee majboori samjho."
Thank you. We thought you had come to the town square to stand in solidarity with the students who faced the brunt of police lathis and water cannons. Now we know who you represent.
So far, not a single voice of protest has emerged from the PU faculty. Not one professor has said you dare not stop my girl's boyfriend, who is coming to pick her up for a date, at the gate. Not one faculty member has said he or she feels under house arrest. The fact is: They don't. The solidarity with the vice chancellor seems complete.
"So many outsiders keep roaming in the university," goes the explanation. Right. So many outsiders keep roaming in Sector 17 plaza. Just issue people shoppers' cards, that will check all protests.
As the Indian Express of April 18 has reported, a student shouted at a meeting the VC had convened of the research scholars on April 17: "You are saying this is a market, not a university.” And another student said it was the right of students that taxpayers’ money should be spent on them. Mark Grover's answer: "I cannot give you that right. You have to go to some other place for that.”
What do you think this vice chancellor is telling the mandarins of the Union HRD ministry?
Please tighten your seatbelt for further shocks.
On the fee hike, the VC said: "It is not going to generate a great deal of money but this is a long-term solution and once this is in place then thereafter, examination and tuition fee will only increase by 10 per cent every year.” (as reported in Indian Express, April 18)
So, at the peak of the fiery protests when some of the students are still in custody, the VC is announcing further hikes for even the years to come. And he thinks 10 per cent is a decent figure. The Punjab government's much hyped bill to regulate private schools' fee hikes caps these at 8 percent.
Also, on Monday, Panjab University authorities removed all stones meant for beautification outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office. That signifies the level of trust.
Hyper talk on the part of the VC and pusillanimous stance on the part of the so called solidarity warriors have throughout marked this phase. At a meeting of the Left parties and some other activists, former registrar of Baba Farid Health Sciences University, Dr Pyara Lal Garg, minced no words when he said: "Your business should be to help the students, not to try to guide them and tell them how to run their agitation.”
Representatives of CPI, CPI(M), CPI-ML, Students for Society (SFS), and many activists, journalists and lawyers attended that meeting in Sector 21 office of the CPI.
Dr Garg said the focus should be on withdrawal of cases and making the VC realise that he should not consider himself off the hook and will have to face music for what happened.
"Besides, do not try to go into determining who was wrong by how much. All that is for later. The fact is that these are politically aware students and are not criminals,” Dr Garg said. Student agitations are a fact of life and woebegone the country that does not witness students’ exuberance on contemporary issues.
"The VC got hyper and walked out” is now staple stuff at meetings reported by Panjab University campus beat reporters. This is a line that occurs in para 13 of most stories.
On Monday, April 17, many students were showing library cards and reeling out names of their teachers to prove that they were the students of the university. Remember the last time you read warnings telling people to carry their identity papers with them at all times? That was in Turkey, the day President Erdogan won the referendum. It was the same day, Monday, April 17th, 2017.