Published: 16th October 2019
A place where we celebrated democracy: What the JNUSU office means to students and why they won't let it go
Students on campus say that the office is one of the very few spaces on campus that remained for democratic dialogue and debate. Will they be allowed to keep this space?
At 5.30 pm on October 16, the JNU administration will 'double' lock up the JNU Student Union office room. A room that hasn't been shut ever since it the first JNUSU was elected. Late last evening, the Dean of Students Affairs issued a notice saying that the room would be locked since this year's and last year's JNUSU has not yet been notified, according to him. Students are currently holding a protest to stop the locking of the Union room.
Students on campus say that the office is one of the very few spaces on campus that remained for democratic dialogue and debate. The JNUSU believes that locking it is one of the several steps that the administration has taken to 'shun voices on campus'. In the notice, the administration had said that the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations had been violated which is why the current and previous JNUSU had not been notified. Former JNUSU President N Sai Balaji calls the notice itself completely illegal. "If there was any violation that was made then the Grievance Redressal Committee should be the one saying so, not the Dean of Students," he explained.
The current JNUSU President, Aishe Ghosh said that they will be protesting today and will continue the sit-in till the notice is withdrawn by the administration. "The administration has absolutely no right to shut down the office. If they don't withdraw the notice, then we will take it forward legally but we will not budge from here either," she said. Ghosh says that since several spaces on campus that were usually used for debate, dialogue and meetings have been restricted from usage, the students were heavily dependent on the office for their activities.
The room is used for a range of activities from JNUSU meeting, oath-taking ceremonies, student party meetings and any student-related event, Ghosh said. Balaji added that for the student population, the room symbolises democracy. "It is not just a place where we held meetings but it was a place where we celebrated democracy. Everyone from students, teachers, contract workers, sanitary workers have been in that room and showed resistance to anti-people policies from time to time," Balaji said.
Balaji says that by shutting down the room, the administration wants to rewrite history, "Previously, we would meet at the mess, dhabas and other spaces which are all now places that have been restricted to us. So now the only place to meet was the office and so they want to shut down that too. They want to just criminalise every space on campus," he feels.
Any problem should have been discussed democratically, first, he said. "If someone had violated the rules then that person should have first been notified and then called for an inquiry. An investigation should have been conducted and then the GRC would have had to announce its verdict. Not of that happened, so the Dean of Students has no right to issue such a circular, which is why it's illegal," he added.
He also said that firstly, the Delhi High Court had passed orders allowing the JNUSU representatives to participate in all important decision-making meetings. "Secondly, in the case filed in court regarding the JNUSU results, the court had clearly stated that if the LCR had been violated then it was the GRC that had to hold an investigation and ordered the Election Committee to announce the results. And that is what happened," the former JNUSU President said.
Balaji said this is move is part of a larger agenda of the Centre to 'destroy public education', "AMU results were withheld, Allahabad Student Union was dissolved, JNU's elections were meddled with by the administration. The VC was acting like he was contesting the elections himself, the administration was in full support of the ABVP and they want to continue protecting people like Atul Johri," Balaji said.