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An open letter to the EFL Community from Teachers’ Front for Justice and Democracy


We write this to clarify certain positions regarding the formation of TFJD. While it is not our intention to target individuals or make polemical statements we want to express our views on the recent issues on campus.

The Teacher's Association's Involvement in the current Academic and Administrative Deadlock on Campus

* A general body meeting of the EFLU-Teacher's Association (TA) was called by the acting General Secretary of the TA, "to look into the on-going matters on the campus", on 06, March 2013 at 1.30 p.m. through an SMS sent to a few of the teachers on their mobile phones, which also requested to spread the information. However, a couple of the Executive Members of the TA were not aware of the same, which was strange as the office bearers of the TA could not pass the message. It was found that there was no executive body meeting or information to all the executive members of the TA.

* While a few (ten to fifteen of us) were waiting at 1.30 p.m. for the office bearers of the TA to start the meeting, we found, a little later that there was another meeting taking place between the VC and some 'concerned teachers'. The General Secretary, an EC member and some senior professors came and expressed their anguish on classes being disrupted which sounded more like an extension of their meeting with the VC. We requested them to postpone the meeting for the next day as there was no quorum for that meeting.

* The General Secretary of the TA has been interacting with the VC since the beginning of the agitation of the students at his personal level. If he claims this power as the representative of the TA, it is objectionable as there was no prior discussion of the same matter at the Executive Council of the TA at least.

* A general body meeting of the Teacher's Association (TA) was called by the General Secretary of the TA, "to look into the on-going issues on the campus", on 07, March 2013 at 11.00 a.m. The GBM was visibly one sided and the resolutions were decided well in advance. The GB was not led by the chair, but by individuals and groups of teachers. The General Secretary presented the version of the VC as the 'real story' and the other versions of the story were not discussed and all the members were in a hurry to pass the 'resolution'. The entire issue of a great magnitude was reduced only to a 'victimised' teacher, who is also proctor, versus the 'militant, hooligan' students 'disrupting' the classes. The entire burden of conducting classes and protecting their 'hapless' 'fellow teacher' was on the shoulders of the 'teaching fraternity'.

* In the beginning of the meeting itself one of the members asked why a student, Mudasir Kamran in this case, has been taken to police station? Who complained against him? How the police could enter the campus and took away a student? Who took a student to the police station? This was the primary issue that triggered all the mayhem starting from the unfortunate suicide of a Ph.D. scholar to the 'on-going protests'. These questions were paid no heed at all though one of the executive members of the TA and a couple of us repeatedly reiterated the same questions. Most of the teachers were in a hurry to pass the resolution stated above.

* While trying to deliberate and debate on the issues one of the senior faculty members and a professor, HOD, Dean in the foreign Languages department stood up and passed the resolution that "the entire TA is completely with Prof and Proctor Harish Vijra" and asked everyone to raise hands in favour of it. When one of the Executive Members of the TA objected stating that was an autocratic way of passing a resolution affirming that the Chair of the forum should pass a resolution, she targeted that Executive Member by name and said "you people have been calling me names. Enough of calling names." She uttered this statement while reiterating a lot of previous instances, where a couple of the agitating students called her feudal, dictatorial and casteist in the cases of a few SC/ST students fighting for remedial classes, grade improvement etc. When some of us requested the chair for an explanation from the professor to explain the "you" she used and demanded an apology she left the meeting abruptly. This was a very objectionable behaviour and absolutely against the decorum of a forum like a Teachers Association meeting. To our utter dismay, the chair or none of the others in the forum had tried to intervene or calm down the professor.

* As an extension of the humiliation meted out to an Executive Member of the TA, while we were still pleading the chair for an explanation and demanding a sorry from the professor after she left, some members maintained that this was not the agenda of the meeting and they were only interested in the resolution to be taken by the forum. When we objected to their demand stating that the humiliation has happened before us and we have to sort it out first, with the chair as an eye witness, the same group of faculty members stood up and left the meeting. This action is extremely objectionable to the decorum of the meeting and a dire violation of the basic courtesy of such a meeting, which was not at all objected by the Chair. However the vandalism of the students was a major concern of the meeting.

* The TA meeting ended up with no resolution as except a few of us there was nobody to debate and discuss the issue than pressing for a readymade resolution.

* At this juncture we wonder why a lot of issues pertaining to other faculties to the extent of physical violence were not given such importance by the TA? There were instances of the students manhandling a few faculty members. To be precise, there was an instance of some students manhandling a younger faculty member (an Assistant Professor) in his office, during office hours for a case, which has nothing to do with the university campus or the assailants of the faculty. There was another issue of a professor (warden) being physically assaulted by a student. There is a fresh and burning issue of one senior faculty being assaulted in the class before 63 students by a female student. Where was the TA and their tears during these situations? The TA never responded even with a letter of solidarity to its members in any of the cases above. Surprisingly, all the above mentioned faculty members, irrespective of their age and seniority at EFLU, hail from the SC, ST, OBC and Muslim Minority backgrounds. What makes one member of the TA a lesser member or lesser human and others genuine members and real humans in the TA.

* At the TA Meeting we were also informed about threats to the life of the proctor from various 'interest groups'. We request the administration to look into this seriously and prevent Teacher's Association Representatives from producing such essentialist and communal statements hinting at the minorities. If there is solid evidence regarding such threats as to letters or phone calls from any minority organization, we hope the administration to request this General Secretary of the TA who convened the meeting to hand them over to the police seeking support.

Meeting of the Vice Chancellor with the Teachers

* The failure of TA meeting led to another meeting called by the VC with the teachers the next day i.e. on 08, March 2013 at 11.00 a.m. which was visibly a well-staged drama, where everything was well scripted including the question and answer sessions. It was managed so well that some of the most vociferous senior professors, who have histories of standing alone for democratic rights, could not even open their mouths.

* The entire issue is even narrowed down, say zeroed down, to whether the attending teachers' fellow teacher, the proctor, should be suspended or not. There were a few opinions from the staged script and a resolution virtually passed by the VC thanking all the teaching and non-teaching fraternity for coming out with a unanimous decision and resolution.

* Meanwhile a few of the faculty objected to the view and wanted a greater debate on the issue. Their voices were suppressed by repeated counters of the same speakers without paying heed to them amidst applause from other groups.

* While the meeting was on, four students from the agitating forum came to represent their case to the meeting and were not allowed to express their views maintaining that the meeting is of teachers and the students are not allowed in it. However, a sizable number of the non-teaching staff have barged in and joined the meeting, without any objection from any corner of the forum. In a teachers meeting with the VC how are the non-teaching staff allowed? There was no prior information of the non-teaching staff's participation to the house whereas the students were not allowed stating it as a teachers meeting. In the meeting the VC just announced that "the members of non-teaching staff are here to join us" and welcomed them. In between the staged drama the VC asked the non-teaching staff to express their opinion on this issue. One non-teaching staff leader came forward and said "we are completely with you madam and we support you", which was taken as 'the consent' from the entire non-teaching staff.

We as the teachers thought it was a meeting to facilitate negotiation with the students in a democratic way to resolve the issue. But it resulted in forming a visible divide between the students, and the Teachers allied with the Non-teaching staff. Questions like these, we feel are not to be taken on a minority, majority basis.

Ambivalence in the administration version

"All powers relating to the maintenance of discipline and disciplinary action in relation to the students of the University shall vest in the Vice-Chancellor", states the EFL University Act 2006. It further says that the role of the Proctor is "to assist the Vice-Chancellor in the exercise of the powers" It is also to be noted that the above mentioned Act grants enormous power to the V. C. to expel or rusticate a student for a specific period, debar a student from writing examinations, or punish a student with fine for an amount etc. While it is possible for the V.C. to delegate all or one of the powers to the Proctor, the kind of power exercised by Proctor in the case of Mr. Mudasir Kamran cannot be justified by any part of the EFL University Act. In fact, as far as our knowledge goes, the University Act does not provide any guidelines to the administrators to involve police in relation to the maintenance of discipline among students. Neither, it is possible for a Proctor to use abusive and unpleasant language as alleged by the students, against any student under the purview of the Act. We are also sure that there cannot be any rules evolved by the university to justify such acts since the rules made by the university should be consistent with the Act.

Since the V.C. is reluctant to remove Mr. Harish Vijra from the Proctorship we assume that the V.C. did not find any legal problem with the way in which Proctor exercised his authority. If that is the case, did the Proctor consult and get the consent of the V.C. before sending police to Mudasir Kamran's room. Did the V.C. use her discretionary power to get Mudasir arrested with the assistance of the Proctor? If this entire act of putting Mudasir Kamran under police custody is a collective decision of the higher authorities of EFL University including the Proctor and Vice Chancellor, then definitely the proctor is not the single authority to be blamed.

Did the proctor issue a show cause notice to Mudasir on the complaint against him from another student? Was there any enquiry scheduled to enquire in to the complaint against Mr. Musadir Kamran? Did the Proctor discuss the complaint with Deputy Proctor or any other members of the Proctorial Board or any other teacher of the university in an official manner? If nothing of the regular, above mentioned procedures are followed, we ask what has prompted the administration to treat this particular case as exceptional and to involve police in the midnight? There has been several fights in earlier student disputes and we had never seen the administration proactively putting the student behind the bars. What is special about this dispute that warranted police involvement?

The involvement of Police on the Campus

TFJD finds the police presence on campus unethical. It would be highly appreciated if the VC or the Registrar clarifies whether they were consulted while taking Mudasir Kamran to the police station. The students' report says that Mudasir was taken in to the police station at the demand of the proctor. Fact finding report from Bahujan Intellectual's Collective reports three versions : the students' version, 2. the Vice Chancellor's version and 3. the police version given in the press release given by DCP R. Jayalakshmi.

At the Teacher's Association meeting though we were briefed about Mudasir's "violent nature" and the constant attacks he made on Vasim and even the proctor, we did not get a clarification regarding this. While Statutes 29(1) of EFLU says "All powers relating to the maintenance of discipline and disciplinary action in relation to the students of the University shall vest in the Vice-Chancellor" the course of administrative procedures followed while taking a student to the police station is not transparent in the engagement of the administration with Mudasir Kamran's suicide or with the student protests related to this tragedy. Whether police had obtained the permission from university administration is a crucial question to be engaged with. In later talks there had been implications that this was a case of sexual harassment. If the GSCASH in the university clarifies if it was informed it would help to clear a lot of on-going confusions.

The media reports based on administration's statement regarding Mudasir given counseling at the police station, which was later explained in the TA meeting also, is a violation of human rights. If a student is reported to be 'psychologically unwell', instead of providing or recommending psychological counseling the practice of giving counseling at the police station needs to be further investigated. The Osmania University Police Station should come out with a statement regarding the nature and duration of counseling given to Mudasir and whether it was under the presence of a registered medical practitioner/professional counselor? Police is not an agency that can offer psychological counseling and we expect the university administration to proceed with a demand for a probe on this matter from the government. If the police has acted on a complaint filed by a student against another one, this state apparatus do not have the right to offer counseling to a person reported to be 'mentally unstable' as the administration claims. Police cannot function like a Panchayat that can offer advice and counseling to citizens.

The aggressive presence of police on campus on the day of Mudasir's death and their arrogance are revealed in a video taken and published by the students. This is available on the following link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LxJqCV__BU. We expect the university administration to explain the situations that demanded such a huge police presence on campus. The next day during a candle light rally organized by the students, armed police men accompanied hundreds of mourning students which was a huge risk to be taken given the situation. If the students had not kept restrain in their collective bereavement, this would have invited severe consequences. The following days also there was a significant presence of police on campus. We request the administration to think beyond resorting to police as the only solution during moments of crisis on campus. While we are in no way reluctant to take classes and will be happy to conduct classes TFJD do not find it ethical to achieve this under the surveillance of Police force. We feel the suppression of dissenting voices through the 'invocation of a state of exception' is potentially going to reduce the higher educational space to a totalitarian state dictating 'normative' wisdom.

On behalf of the convening Committee of TFJD, we request the administration to consider the following demands:

1. Consider the suspension of the proctor from proctorial office, considering the administrative powers of this post and the ethical responsibility.

2. As students and the Civil Liberties organizations have expressed their reservations and lack of trust on the Fact Finding Committee constituted by the University, take immediate action for judicial enquiry headed by a retired Justice with proven record of pro minority stands, as the VC had agreed in the meeting.

3. Make administrative reforms to ensure that such tragedies do not repeat on campus. The strengthening of GSCASH by improving visibility and accessibility, re organizing grievance cell, opening counseling centers and a proper mechanism for grievance redressal of students with accessibility and transparency are immediate steps to be taken.

We will be glad to attempt to facilitate a democratic engagement with the student demands rather than suppressing them using police force. We are openly accepting the responsibility to take part in any possible manner to participate and share labor with the administration on student friendly reforms. We would also like to point out that in our attempt to mediate between the administration and the students there was no visible attempt on the part of the administration to budge. While the students came down in most of their demands their only insistence on the proctor's stepping down was not complied with. We appreciate the restrain and patience shown by them in the meeting. While they had been generally accused by many of the teaching members of EFLU in meetings and through social networking sites as arrogant and militant, they were completely co operative in our attempts for mediation. They kept restrain, kept all the 'so- called norms of civilized dialogue' and bend down a lot in their position. But after the meeting it was kind of proved that the lack of democratic dialogue is not what complicated the issue. There exists a wide gap between the humanitarian ground the students were pressing and the administrative language of law and rules and legal validity and the explanation of 'suicide' as a personal choice. During our prior meeting with the VC also we made the demand of proctor stepping down and she was not willing citing the whole- hearted support the teaching fraternity offered to the proctor on the Teacher's meeting.

We definitely have a problem here: at one end we try to address questions of justice and democracy and engage with them in our academic platforms. But as a conscientious act of involving with real life situations why do we get caught up in a hurdle of right and wrong, language of polemics and politics of modalities? Are we not entitled to prove before our students that what we teach in classrooms is connected to our political positions outside the classrooms? While we are happy to support the students in their decision to go back to classrooms and are happy that classes have started are we not bound to ask the question what we as a teaching community did in engaging with the death of Mudasir Kamran? He was a student of our university, a minority representative in many ways. Are we going to hush this up as a tussle between the students and the university administration or normative national security and dissenting positions or in the simplest possible expression a fight between having classes and not having classes? The next time we teach justice won't Mudasir Kamran be at the back of our minds, posing disturbing questions about conviction and commitment? There were nuanced engagements with this tragedy on campus and outside: mild, extremist, academic, intellectual...But as a community of teachers in EFLU what did we do? We stood back watched when the students protested. We witnessed them losing patience and reacting. We saw them being branded as vandals and uncouth. But there is a difference between them and us. They protested and we watched...

~ The Co-ordinating Committee TFJD
* Parthasarathi Muthukkaruppan- Department of Cultural Studies
* Raju Nayak - Department of Commonwealth Literary Studies
* Santosh RautDepartment of Aesthetics and Philosophy
* Sareen Chatla- Department of Film Studies
* Sherin B.S - Department of Comparative Literature
* Sujith K.Parayil - Department of Cultural Studies
* Venkatrao. B - Department of Literatures in English, DE
* Venkatesh NayakDepartment of Social Exclusion Studies

~~~

 

[Via Dalit Camera]

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