Apoorva YK outside SAU campus gate | (Pic: Apoorva YK)
Apoorva YK outside SAU campus gate | (Pic: Apoorva YK)

Another student takes ill after protesting at South Asian University

The student was issued a show-cause notice by SAU after she participated in a protest demanding the varsity pay hospital bills for a student who suffered a cardiac arrest after being rusticated

A student of South Asian University, New Delhi, who was expelled by the administration on February 17, was hospitalised on Sunday, March 5, complaining of severe dehydration. The student, Apoorva YK, who has been protesting against the university's decision to expel her since February 25, when she was evicted from her hostel at night suffers from Gastroesophageal reflux disorder and Crohn's disease has since been discharged. However, she was taken ill on March 7 and returned to the hospital for treatment again. 

A second-year student of Masters of Law at the varsity, Apoorva has been protesting against her expulsion outside the university campus in a tent since February 25. She claims that the varsity was not allowing her access to the washrooms, due to which she decreased her consumption of food and water, leading to severe dehydration and a flare-up of her underlying conditions. 

University cracks down after student protests
Trouble began at SAU last year in November, with students demanding a hike in Masters and PhD stipends, and active student representation in the varsity's Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The varsity in response issued notices of expulsion, rustication and fines against several students. One amongst these, Ammar Ahmed, was issued a notice of rustication, which the administration allegedly refused to revoke despite the student's pleas. Ammar suffered a seizure on the night of November 22, followed by a cardiac arrest and prolonged hospitalisation. 

The incident incited more protests on campus, with students demanding that the varsity cover Ammar's medical bills since his family could not afford it. About a hundred students visited the Registrar's office on November 23 with this demand and refused to leave for several hours. This incident allegedly led the varsity to serve show-cause notices to more students, including Apoorva. The university has already expelled two PhD students after that incident. Now, two more students, including Apoorva, have been expelled, while two students have been rusticated. 

Student paralysed, cannot afford physiotherapy
"Ammar is now paralysed. The doctors have said that he has suffered neurological damage. He is unable to speak, and his body coordination is lost. His family could not afford physiotherapy at the right time. If the administration had been taking care of the costs, Ammar would have been recovering now," Apoorva claims. 

In a scathing email to the SAU administration today, Apoorva's mother, Meenakshi Y, wrote, "Going by the treatment meted out by your administration to students, it is clear as daylight, that you consider your students as social outcasts who are to be tamed and tethered." She went on to mention the administration's refusal to cover Ammar's hospital bills after his insurance claim was rejected, and said, "... when the insurance company declined to pay for Ammar'smedical bills, the sole responsibility to ensure best of the care free of cost solely fell on your administration. As an administrator, your job was not to selectively pick apart a psychiatric patient's medical history but to provide day-to-day social and economic support to the family." She added that if the university continues " the attack on the already battered student community," she would personally join the sit-in protest with her daughter. 

What amounts to indiscipline?
In another show-cause notice issued to Amol Shaila Suresh, an MA Economics student on February 13, 2023, the SAU administration warns of disciplinary action against the student, for sending an email to SAU officials with the subject, “Repeating the same mistakes: no more Ammars.” The administration, while listing actions constituting "committing acts of indiscipline", says, "Attempting to advise the said Administration to be cautious and sensitive to students’ issues."

Apoorva states that an intervention from the Ministry of External Affairs is required to ensure that students are protected and the actions from the university are not escalated. "They have said that they will consider revoking my expulsion if seek an unconditional apology with a confession. Two of the students who were rusticated submitted an apology, but that was rejected. Moreover, I unequivocally deny all charges, and maintain that I have done no wrong," claims Apoorva. She is now considering moving the court against the university and adds that she will be back in her tent to continue her indefinite sit-in tomorrow. 

This article has been updated after a response from South Asian University.

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