Published: 27th April 2019
Yet another victory for Panjab Varsity Student Council, admin allows 24/7 library, reopens reading room
The students had three basic demands — Open a reading room for students, ensure transparency in hostel allocation, open a cooperative mess for better quality food
The students of Panjab University have successfully brought an end to their protests by getting the administration to address all their demands. The students launched their protest on April 23 and protested for three days, after which the administration accepted their three demands.
The students had three basic demands — Open a reading room for students, ensure transparency in hostel allocation, open a cooperative mess for better quality food. The students protested in front of the administrative office for two days continuously. The students had previously held a long struggle for a reading room for 45 days between October and December last year. Under pressure, the administration had concerted the 'Guru Teg Bahadur Hall' into a reading room and inaugurated it. However, it was not opened for a single day after the inauguration. " "The hall was inaugurated on December 7 and I was also invited for it. We were initially told it would be open only during the day but on December 8, it did not even open during the day. I sent three memos and requested several times for them to inform us about the timings but nobody paid any heed," Kanu Priya, the Student Council President said. Despite repeated requests, Kanu Priya said the VC refused to grant her an appointment regarding the same.
Kanu Priya also believes that the ABVP had a hand in the whole issue, "They did not want the reading room to be opened during my time as President. They did everything to delay the process," she said. She added that, after the inauguration, the management said they would convert the building and use it for other purposes, "They said they would be allocated one floor for teachers and another for re-employed and retired teachers. The ABVP launched a 'battle' against him for this building," she said. According to the student leader, the rooms were filled with chairs and tables but no one was occupying them. The police continued to be on campus and refused to allow students into the reading rooms, "The administration was using law and order to keep us away from the reading room. I took pictures of the inauguration as proof that the room was actually to be used as a reading room. All the boards saying 'Reading Room' was all over, but no one was allowing us to use them," Kanu Priya said.
When they launched their protest for a reading room again this year, the students threatened to open students reading room outside the Vice Chancellor and Dean's office. They demanded that the management reopen the Reading Hall for the students and their second demand was to make the AC Joshi Library open for 24 hours.
In a statement, the Students For Society group said, "It is so shameful that students of such an eminent university as PU have to come on roads every year to avail a "reading space" when we have the required infrastructure but lack the mere will to promote a surrounding of education at all hours of the days. In the coming days of exams, this demand needs immediate fulfillment." The administration has allegedly brought in a lot of police force on campus during the protests, "They broke the chairs and windows and called it a clash between students and the police. But we did not have water cannons in our hands, they did. This is a University and we were asking for a reading room and that somehow called for police to be on campus," Kanu Priya, the student president said.
With regard to the quality of food in the mess halls, the students were demanding that the management use the remaining funds from the Council Funds 2019 and open a Cooperative Mess. "We want a Cooperative mess should be opened in at least one of the hostels and extended to other hostels in the later time," they mentioned in their demands.
Besides this, the students were also on protest to demand more transparency in the process of hostel allocation. They are asking the management to set up an online portal before the beginning of the next session. The SFS had previously put up a statement saying that hotel transparency was the primary focus of this year's student council, "But the Dean Office had shown no promising attitude of implementing the facility of online Portal for transparent hostel allocation from next year." Which was why the students had decided to go on protest. According to Kanu Priya, the students with the highest merit or with contact with the high officials in the University are the ones who can get hostel accommodation, which the student body deems unfair.
The administration has now announced that — Guru Teg Bahadur Hall has been opened as a reading hall, AC Joshi Library's 1st floor has been opened 24 hour, a proposal for Cooperative Mess will be given to the DSW for implementation with the provision of transferring council fund for its initial investment and the online Portal will go live from next session and the recommendations for making it more transparent will be given to the Dean Office. "We are not yet sure about the software that is being used for the online portal. There is no way of saying whether it will actually maintain transparency. So we have to discuss the software with the Dean Student Welfare and then find out if it is what we require," the President said.
While congratulating the students on their victory, the Panjab University, Chandigarh, Student Council President, Kanu Priya said, "Students had to go the extent of occupying Guru Teg Bahadur Hall themselves after protesting various times by giving memorandums and by protesting on the roads since October 2018 in this session itself. The extent of structural violence on students in the form of curbing their rightful places and deploying innumerable police during the protest has been increasing beyond bounds." She went on to say in her statement that the authorities were propagating baseless notions of violence against them. "Two people without IDs were inside the reading room and the police dragged them out. All they were doing was reading and they had a problem with that. But they have no problem when so many male students stand outside and eve-tease us and harass us," she said.
"We have been fighting for our rights and will continue to fight for them. Any kind of structural violence will not be tolerated by the students of Panjab University. This University belongs to students and not to the ideological and political holds of any regressive forces limiting students movements and spaces inside the campus," she stated. This is one of the several successful protests that Kanu Priya has led on campus. So we ask her if she's happy that she successfully campaigned this time as well, to which she says, "I don't think there's anything to celebrate. We are students and we had no place to read and we asked for one and they weren't allowed inside. The administration brought the police on campus to stop us from doing what we have to do as students — read. This clearly points to the bad administration on campus," Kanu Priya said. When asked if the police continue to come on campus, Kanu Priya said that it has become a regular sight now.