HNLU Students On Hunger Strike Against Sexual Harassment & Corruption, VC Threatens To Close University
The students of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) in Chhattisgarh are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike protesting the reinstatement of their Vice -Chancellor, Sukh Pal Singh. The VC’s tenure was extended by the university council, amidst the boiling controversies of misconducts by him during his tenure- which includes irregularities in the college finances and apathy towards the grievances of students.
Earlier, on August 7, a woman from HNLU wrote a letter to the university authorities claiming that one of the professors has repeatedly harassed her. The detailed letter was signed by 51 of the 54 students in the class. Since then the students are holding protests to demand their rights and action against the perpetrators. However, the VC has asked the students to called off the protest, or the university will take “an appropriate course of action” which may include the closure of the university till the time the matter is resolved.
According to the Live Law, the VC said that the protest did not seem to be peaceful and also indicated that outsiders were also getting involved in the same. He said that this would cause irreparable damage to the university’s image and thereby causing loss of good career prospects of even those who did not voluntarily want to be part of this protest.
“A handful of persons cannot be allowed to play with the academic career and placement prospects of the majority of students. If the students do not call off the protest by the said date and time, the university shall be compelled to take an appropriate course of action including the closure of University sine die to restore normalcy in the University,” he said.
“We want action to be taken immediately”
The logical Indian spoke to the protesting students, who have been sitting on the hunger strike since the morning of October 1. Almost 300-400 students have participated in the hunger strike. “We have been protesting against the misconduct by the university management,” said a student of HNLU on the condition of anonymity.
While talking about the VC asking them to call off the strike she said that the authority is trying to threaten them so that they stop holding the protest. She also said that the most important demand was is that for the VC to step down immediately. Also, the students demand internal audit report to be handed over to them given that allegedly in the last few years there had been a lot of corruption within the university. “We also want a fair inquiry in the sexual harassment case. According to the students, the professors who have allegedly made obscene comments on the female students and have allegedly harassed them have not even asked to resign, and they are still teaching the same female students who they have allegedly harassed”.
VC’s term extended
On August 27, the Chhattisgarh High Court held that extending the VC’s term was invalid. The Court said that the amendment that is passed by the university’s executive council to raise the age bar from 65 to 70 years was an abuse of the council powers. The court declared the appointment of the VC nil and void, amidst complaints of several irregularities that have surfaced over the past. Subsequently, the Student Body Association of HNLU found out that the VC was planning to appeal against the Court order. The same night scores of student came out to protest against VC’s action. In a silent protest, the student body demanded his immediate removal from his post. According to Live Law, amidst all the controversy, Sukh Pal term was reinstated as the VC as the Supreme Court stayed the HC’s orders.
We extend the hand of sympathy and solidarity to the young champs of HNLU who are fighting against corruption, oppressive rules, sexual harassment by faculty, and a crony VC.
— INC Chhattisgarh (@INCChhattisgarh) September 3, 2018
The alleged harassment by professor
The students while talking to The Logical Indian have revealed the incident of harassment by one of their professor. One of the students claimed that the professor, in March called a second-year student to his desk and asked her to dance for him. The professor said, “I have seen you dancing at parties. Why don’t you dance for me here?” told the girl. In another such incident, the professor allegedly called a girl in his room and asked for details about her regular whereabouts, like where she was on the previous day or with whom she went to ‘bazaar’ (Market). This was an indication for the girl that the professor had been stalking her.
The students have also alleged that when they confided in the female faculty of the university, the latter allegedly brushed their allegations and said students must get used to him. ” A female staff, who is also a hostel warden, told the girl that since the man was from an orthodox background, he usually said and did things like these,” said a student.
A member of the students’ body, Achyut Tewari, told us that the professor had made many sexist remarks in the class. Narrating some of these remarks she said, ‘the boys come to classes because the girls are there’, ‘if you stare at a girl for 30 seconds it’s sexual harassment, so stare for 29 seconds’, ‘women directors are appointed so that the men can be entertained’ and many more. He also said that said that some other professors had texted female students, asking them to come on trips with them for which they would be given attendance.
The light of Protest
The student also claimed that there was no Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for sexual harassment till a year back and later a “dummy” committee was just set up, without the mandatory member from an NGO, said one of the students.
The students claimed that when they had done to the VC to complain about the harassment incident, they were expecting it to be taken directly to the ICC. However, that did not happen, and no complain reached ICC. The complainants now have begun compiling a formal complaint to be lodged against the professor at the ICC.
Soon after the court’s order, many students came forward to raise their voice against the irregularities prevailing in the universities. On August 27, students decided to hold a protest inside the college campus. The students, in a silent protest against the university authorities, have put forward 13 demands. Their primary demands were action against the professor, who had harassed some of the female students, an appointment of an interim vice-chancellor, to address the pressing concerns being raised. Other demands include the removal of hostel curfews and appointment of independent warden in the hostel instead of the college teachers who are currently deployed as one. The students allege that because the hostel wardens are the resident teachers of the university, there have been a lot of incidents when these teachers have done moral policing and had a bias towards some of the students.
The student body association have also asked for the release of minutes of executive council meetings for administrative transparency, and filling vacancies in several administrative and teaching posts.
HNLU के इस ज़ोरदार प्रदर्शन देखकर दिल खुश हो गया! लड़ेगी बेटी, पढ़ेगी बेटी – 'सुरक्षा' के नाम पर पिंजरे में बंद होना नहीं सहेगी बेटी!
महिला छात्राओं पर ऐसी पाबंदियों को हम सब मिलकर उखाड़ फेंकेंगे! https://t.co/mC1PZUSaPU
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 2, 2018
One more Students protest in university campus, the HNLU this time.
One more case of treating University students, especially girl students, as infants.
I salute the grit and determination of the protesting students.@yuvahallabol https://t.co/9fhuewCiPG
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) September 2, 2018
The accused teacher should not continue teaching
According to the student body association, some 800 students have submitted a ‘no confidence’ letter against the VC to the Chancellor in September. The letter points out VC’s lack of transparency in financial dealings, no action on hostel and library timings, and mishandling of cases of sexual harassment. The protesting students are demanding that the university should give a written response about the process of investigation and should that it would be fair where students can file the complaint anonymously.
“After a new VC will be appointed we will demand a proper inquiry in the sexual harassment case and suspension of the teachers at least till the time of the inquiry is done. It is not fair that the teachers who have harassed the female students are still teaching,” said Achyut Tewari.
While talking to the media, the VC said that the “genuine issues” of the student have already been addressed. However, he has refused to specify which ones.