SAU expels two more students amid protest. Students call admin 'insensitive'; Shashi Tharoor responds

A student who was earlier rusticated by the varsity for participating in the ongoing hunger strike has been admitted to a hospital since November 22 following a seizure and a heart attack
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

The South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi, has issued orders of expulsion to two students in light of the ongoing protests on campus. This comes after an earlier round of Proctorial orders which expelled two students, rusticated two students for a year and suspended a student from Bangladesh for one semester.

Expulsion notices were sent to two students on November 25, and show-cause notices were sent to five other students of the university for entering the office of the Acting Registrar and making it "totally dysfunctional/paralysed". One of the expelled students, Bhimraj M, had been rusticated for one year earlier by the university for participating in protests by the students raising demands to increase scholarships for Master's students, stipends on par with the Junior Research Fellowship for PhD students and for student representation in the Internal Complaints Committee. Umesh Joshi, also a PhD student like Bhimraj, had also been expelled by the university on November 4, when students launched an indefinite hunger strike and Proctorial orders were issued in response, expelling two students, rusticating two students for a year and suspending a student from Bangladesh for one semester. 

Following this order, one of the rusticated students, Ammar Ahmed reportedly requested the Acting Registrar to revoke his suspension. After his requests were denied, Ahmed suffered a seizure on November 22 and was hospitalised. He then suffered a heart attack and was moved to the ICU. After this incident, the university mitigated the action taken against the five students earlier, reducing the expulsions to rustication, the rustication to suspension and the suspension to a fine. 

However, Bhimraj, along with 100 other students then visited the Acting Registrar's office on November 23, demanding that the punishment meted out to Ahmed be revoked entirely. With these students refusing to move from the Acting Registrar's office until their demands were met, the local police from the Chanakyapuri Police Station were called in to disperse the students, as per sources. According to the by-laws of the SAU, local police is not allowed on the campus, which is an international university established under the 'Agreement for Establishment of South Asian University' signed by the eight SAARC nations on 4 April 2007. 

On November 25, Bhimraj and Umesh were sent expulsion notices for entering the Acting Registrar's office. "They did not give us an opportunity to defend ourselves. It shows their insensitivity. I have personally written an email to the Acting President, telling him that I am having suicidal thoughts and requesting him for a meeting. In his reply, the Acting President said that he was busy and he will look into the matter 'tomorrow'. He still has not reached out to me," Bhimraj tells EdexLive. 

Meanwhile, the student, Ammar Ahmed, who is still admitted to a private hospital in the area suffered another seizure two days ago, on November 27. Students present at the hospital, who spoke with EdexLive claimed that Ahmed suffered the seizure after the Acting Registrar paid him a visit. "We are trying to get him shifted to AIIMS Delhi. The hospital is extremely expensive and we do not believe it is providing Ahmed with the care he needs," a student told EdexLive on the condition of anonymity. 

The SAU administration on the other hand has claimed in the past that it has met the students' demand to increase the Master's scholarship from Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000, after which the students hiked their demand to Rs 7000. The students claim that this is absolutely false. "The university offers four types of scholarships. Out of these, the Freeship offers a full tuition fee waiver with a stipend of INR 5000. This year, the administration arbitrarily reduced this amount to Rs 4,000. This is when we demanded that the amount be increased to Rs 7,000. After the protest, the university reverted this amount back to Rs 5,000 and claimed that they had met our demand," a student told EdexLive on the condition of anonymity. A copy of the order dated September 27, reducing the stipend amount for day scholars awarded the Freeship from Rs 5,000 to Rs 4,000 is with EdexLive. 

Additionally, the students are also demanding active representation in the Internal Complaints Committee. In response, the university granted students representation as observers in the committee, as per the university by-laws. "They never agreed to our demand of active representation. They have been saying that for these changes to be made, the governing body of the varsity has to meet. However, this governing body has not met since 2017," a student claimed.

Students have also now revealed past cases of mental harassment by the faculty and the absence of a grievance redressal committee. Even after the formation of this committee, they claim that justice is not being served. "One of the members on the proctorial committee, who takes decisions, is also serving on the grievance redressal committee, which is supposed to address any concerns raised against these decisions. This in itself is against the course of natural justice," claims a student.

Sources also told EdexLive that the Dean of the Social Sciences department of the varsity also allegedly resigned last week, citing "discrimination" against the Social Sciences department and the lack of representation in SAU's administrative body. The university has not had a full-time President since 2019 and Ranjan Kumar Mohanty from the Department of Mathematics has been serving as the Acting President since. 

Now, the two students who have been expelled have also been asked to vacate their hostels. The university sent them an email regarding the same on November 27. An additional message was also sent to all students warning against providing shelter to these students on campus. 

On Twitter, in response to a tweet by Bhimraj and Umesh regarding their expulsion, Shashi Tharoor Member of Parliament from the Lok Sabha, said, "Shocked to hear this. Please do write the full details in a latter to office[at] & I will take the matter up with the authorities."

EdexLive has reached out to the SAU administration for a response via email and on call. This article will be updated accordingly.

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