Published: 18th November 2022
SAU: Administration involves embassies; students fear visas will not be renewed
The South Asian University protests demanding an increased stipend has been on for over a month but students fear administration will turn ugly to stifle the movement
The South Asian University (SAU) students started their protest on October 13, demanding an increase in their Master’s and PhD scholarship stipend from Rs 4,000 to Rs 7,000. However, the administration’s response is getting worse by the day as they involve the embassies in the matter because the majority of SAU students hail from SAARC countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“The college administration complained and two Bangladeshi students were summoned by the embassy to explain the scenario. They decided not to take any action since it was the democratic right of the students to protest but they warned them of a possible deportation,” says Keshav Swaran, a Master’s student of Sociology. The international students fear they might get deported as most of their visas expire in January. “Going by the actions of the university it seems likely that visas might not get renewed,” informs Keshav.
Other drastic actions
Earlier this month, the administration also took another drastic action where they expelled two protesting students, rusticated another two for a year and suspended one for a semester. The expulsion order gave the students 24 hours and stated, “It has come to SAU’s record that since 13th October, 2022, you have been persistently involved in acts of indiscipline inconsistently with the relevant provisions of SAU Rules/Regulations/Bye-laws. You have been consistently advised to adhere to the students’ Code of Conduct, but you have failed to do so. You are therefore expelled from the University with immediate effect.”
This incident, which took place on November 4, was followed by a mass hunger strike by the students, where 87 of them participated and 2 students are on their 11th day of hunger strike on November 17.
Among the expelled students is Umesh Joshi who says the university is demanding an apology. He further adds, “No way are they getting an apology unless they inform us of the charges that are pressed against us. All the students participating in the protest were doing the exact same thing as us. We have submitted a review letter but they told us it has no merit. However, we are hopeful we’ll get a response from the President who promised to meet us.”
There are several students who wrote to the administration to expel them as well, along with these five students, as they find no reasonable justification of this action. Keshav additionally states, “This was their way of intimidating us. They expelled those who were at the forefront of the protest to make an example out of. Now they are involving the embassies as well.”
Solidarity pours in
Several ministers have shown their solidarity towards the SAU students and their perils. Many even wrote letters to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to draw his attention to the ongoing protests and expulsions. “Comrade V Sivadasan, Rajya Sabha MP (Member of Parliament), Comrade Mayukh Biswas, the General Secretary SFI (The Students’ Federation of India) visited the South Asian University and extended their solidarity. We also received solidarity letters from all over from various Indian Institutes,” informs Keshav.
Among the letters written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the ones that were shared with EdexLive include those from Lok Sabha MPs Kunwar Danish Ali, Haji Fazlur Rehman, Dr Syed Naseer Hussain, Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam, Sandosh Kumar P and Dr Raja the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India.
Students also informed EdexLive that SAU is shifting its campus to Chattarpur and since the facilities there are not prepared, the institute will switch back to the online mode again. However, students believe this will further add to the loss they have suffered via the online mode of learning in the past year and are demanding that authorities wait till the campus is completely prepared to make the shift.