Delhi university on march 14 issued a memorandum against 2 students debarring them for a year and recommended action against 6 others for their participation in the BBC documentary screening ‘India:The Modi Question’, that took place in the campus on 27th of January. The 2 students who received notices are Lokesh Chugh, 30, a PhD scholar from the Department of Anthropology and Ravinder Singh from Department of Philosophy. The university’s illegal punishment gravely jeopardises not only their careers but also lives. The BBC Documentary screenings had taken place at various central universities and colleges, the one-year suspension of students issued by Delhi University is totally atrocious and unheard of.
It has been noted that on campuses like JNU and HCU, the administration resorted to actions such as shutting down power supplies and starting investigations onto those who had participated, this has been enough evidence of the reducing democratic spaces of campuses. Now, when considering the severity of DU administration’s actions and what it implies for students who speak up; the motive is appalling . The memorandum that students received stated that they were involved in screening a ‘banned’ documentary by the government. The use of the word banned, despite the fact that the documentary was only blocked under the IT rules 2021, reveals the university’s vision of the documentary, which mirrored that of the central government.
Delhi university’s brazen act of debarring students for screening a BBC documentary that questions and highlights the role of current prime minister, Narendra Modi’s role in Gujarat genocide syncs with the central governments act of curbing dissent with UAPA. A closer look into the DU administration reveals the BJP nexus prevalent within the institution and its influence from outside. Due to its proximity to ministerial cabinets and prime location, the pressure to act according to the orders from ‘above’ is at its height in recent times. De-cluttering of university apparatus reveals the relation of important chairpersons such as Vice Chancellor Yogesh Singh and Proctor Rajni Abbi to the BJP- RSS party. Thus it should come as no surprise that the DU administration strives to replicate the fascist agendas of the BJP government on a micro-level in the campus. The BJP government is well-known for using the antiquated colonial legislation to quell dissent and demoralize those who have been detained as anti-nationals. It very well takes the aid of UAPA to keep in detention those who openly express their thoughts without any trial or substantial evidence for their arrest. According to the crime records, 6,900 UAPA cases were reported between 2014 and 2020. This means an average of 985 cases were reported each year. In the seven years, 2019 saw the highest number of cases – 1,226 – followed by 2018 (1,182 cases), with each case having more than one accused; the numbers are beyond projected, as reported by Scroll. With its recent crackdowns on students who are making use of the democratic spaces which the campuses are meant to represent to speak up their minds and engage critically, this lack of cooperation from the administration is challenging the idea of university. By prohibiting student participation in these spaces, the DU administration is undoubtedly attempting to instill fear among students who wish to engage critically and question the government’s policies and our collective goals for this nation. This line of decisions and steps taken by the administration clearly violates students’ rights and in a broader sense their democratic rights to express their dissent. As a result, the line between the fascist state and the administration is becoming increasingly blurred.
When DU students called for an indefinite sit-in protest on March 24, against the arbitrary action of the administration; they were again met with Delhi Police, CRPF, RAF, plain-cloth officers and DU guards followed by the imposition of section 144 in Delhi University. This pattern of active collaboration between state and university machinery and the declaration of section 144 after each protest clearly points to the fascist ideals of the state that clear off all objections to the making of a Hindutva Rashtra. The debarment notice issued by the university is a clear sign to deter students from questioning and engaging critically. This would hurt the broader idea of university, and would pollute the entire ecosystem which is meant to allow the students to grow and learn not create a space to live in fear.
The Author is currently enrolled in a BA program majoring in Political Science & English from the University of Delhi