Published: 07th December 2021
When will DU reopen? Students burn new VC's effigy to mark one month of protests demanding physical classes
Students were told the VC will meet with them within the week. ABVP says they have word campus will reopen from January 1, 2022. No clearance yet from DDMA to reopen, says administration
From malls to the metro to wine shops, everything is open, except classes at Delhi University. The government claims that they have achieved 100 crore vaccinations in the country. By that logic, they should push for the reopening of universities as well, says an exasperated Sumit Kataria, President of the Students' Federation of India's Delhi State Committee. December 7 marks one month of the protests being conducted at DU by student organisations under the umbrella of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) demanding the reopening of the campus for classes.
The protesters, on December 7, burned an effigy of the Vice-Chancellor, Yogesh Singh, after their demands to meet him were declined. Instead, a seven-member delegation of the students met with representatives of the VC, including the Dean of Student Welfare, Rajiv Gupta. They were informed that their demands will be relayed, and a meeting will be set up with the VC within the week. They also informed the students that the campus can be reopened only after it gets the approval from the Delhi Disaster Management Association (DDMA). The protestors had been told earlier that a decision to restart physical classes on campus will be taken after Diwali. However, there was no word from the DU administration on the matter.
It is to be noted that the pollution levels in Delhi had hit the very severe mark towards the end of November with a cocktail of stubble burning, Diwali firecrackers and winter smog wrecking havoc with the air quality. Schools in Delhi, which had reopened for higher classes at the start of September, and for the primary classes only on November 1, were shut again on November 13 given the worsening air quality. However, the Delhi Government decided to reopen schools on November 24 even as the air stayed poor. The Supreme Court then reprimanded the Kerjiwal government for exposing students to the hazardous air. However, the Supreme Court during a later hearing on December 7 said it hadn't explicitly asked the government to shut schools. The matter stays ambiguous and in court.
"We cannot relate their reluctance to reopen with safety protocols. We are still here, protesting. The VC meets regularly with a large number of various officials. There are long queues of students who come to DU for various academic chores," says Sumit. "If DUTA elections can be conducted with almost 8,000-10,000 people, why can't they conduct offline classes?" asked Sadhana, a protesting student.
The students have claimed that they have conducted a survey, according to which a majority of the students are willing to return to campus for classes. "The decision to not reopen DU has severely affected the student body. There has been an increase in dropouts. Women students and those who belong to marginalised sections have been one of the worst affected. The university should take cognizance of difficulties faced by the students," said Mahafuz Alam, Vice President, SFI Delhi.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on the other hand, wasn't a part of this protest, because they claim to have an assurance from the administration on the reopening of the campus. On October 29, the students had protested against a 'verbal announcement' to reopen physical classes from November 1. This saw students from 56 colleges demonstrating against the administration. However, when classes did not resume from November 1, the students managed to stay in touch with others in the administration, including the Dean of Student Welfare. "Currently, offline, open book exams are going on, and students have been given preparatory holidays as well. So we were told that classes will resume offline from January 1, 2022, for the fresh semester," says Siddhart Yadav, ABVP's Delhi State Secretary.
He adds that if the situation with COVID-19 stays as mild as it is right now, notwithstanding the threat of the Omicron variant, and a possible third wave, the DU campus should finally reopen for students. However, if that doesn't happen, he does promise that the ABVP will launch another round of protests.