Published: 21st January 2022
UoH hostellers to face disciplinary hearing for stopping surprise "raids" at odd hours
The SFI UoH unit president, Sahana Pradeep, said that the hostel rule book gives excess powers to the authorities, such as conducting "raids" whenever they wish to
Nine hostellers at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) will be facing a disciplinary hearing on January 24 for expressing discontent and stopping a late-night surprise check by their warden. Moreover, the hostel authorities have further warned the students in a disciplinary order that posting about any such matters or administrative lapses "in public/private media through Facebook / WhatsApp etc" will lead to a call for disciplinary action.
While the warden in this case, on the condition of anonymity, denied any such hearing and said that the students misunderstood him, the official order issued on January 18 states otherwise. The warden is in charge of hostel blocks J and K and contrary to his claims, the order from the Office of the Dean, Students' Welfare confirms that the nine students will be facing a disciplinary action for interrupting the warden from discharging his duties.
The order reads, "...a complaint from the Warden, Men's Hostel J&K, states that the below mentioned Students have resisted and obstructed/prevented the functioning of the Warden in discharging his duties on 30.12.2021. The competent authority has directed the undersigned to probe into the matter and make a comprehensive report for taking appropriate disciplinary action as deemed fit."
The warden, however, told Edexlive that the format of the order is "routine" and said, "no disciplinary action will be taken." He claimed that even on the night of December 30, when the surprise check was interrupted, he had told the agitated students that a "discussion" will be held between them and the administration. But the students assumed it to be a disciplinary action, he said. "They did not give me space to explain and instead started shouting, ‘Warden go back'," he said. The hostel houses research scholars and master’s students.
The order also states that the wardens are well within the Hostel Manual rules to conduct any "surprise checks/visits in the hostels at any time either individually or as a team." But why do hostel authorities conduct such surprise visits? The warden said that the purpose is to check if there are any outsiders within the hostel premises. "When visits happen, I stay out of the hostel rooms and the staff goes in and conducts a check. It is not a raid, just a surprise check," the warden said.
The DSW order was issued on January 18. Pic: Specially arranged
The Students' Federation of India (SFI), UoH unit, in a dissent letter posted on social media, has condemned the action against the nine hostellers, some of whom are its own members, and has deemed the hostel manual regressive stating that it curtails free speech, invades privacy and supresses student voices. A second-year MA student and SFI member, Assiss Moin, who is one of the nine students to face the disciplinary hearing on Monday, said, "The hostel book is used for moral policing rather than our welfare. We are against it."
Moin added that such checks have happened before. He recalled one instance when a hosteller’s sleep was interrupted late at night. "They woke him up from his sleep and started asking for his ID. That was a shock for the student."
He was quick to clarify that the issue here is not with authorities inspecting the room. "It is with the timings," he said. Describing the events that unfolded on December 30, he said, "The warden had come for a check during midnight, we told him this is moral policing and asked him to come in the morning. This is an invasion of our privacy." The warden claimed that the visit had happened at around 9:30 pm.
Moin added, "We understand that there are often some (infrastructural) issues to be resolved. But the timings that they are choosing to come at is a problem. They can very well visit in the morning."
Fighting the rule book
The SFI UoH unit president, Sahana Pradeep, said that the hostel rule book gives excess powers to the authorities such as conducting "raids" whenever they wish to. "The rule book was brought in place somewhere around 2016 and they have not updated it since then. There was no student representative involved in the process of making the rule book. It is an arbitrary handbook," she said
Sahana went on to claim that nobody knows who created the hostel rule book. "We do not know who made it and who suggested all these provisions. Every three years they give out the same rule book." When asked about the part where students are prohibited from speaking to the media or posting about administrative lapses on social media, Sahana said, "No media is allowed inside the campus after the Rohith Vemula movement."
Sahana said that no adverse action has been taken so far against students who are talking to the media. "Every time they publish the same rule book and every time we protest and resist it, they have not been able to completely implement it so far."