Bhopal: More than 400 students of one of the premier law colleges of India, the National Law Institute University (NLIU) Bhopal, are staging a high-pitched protest, demanding the ouster of the institute's director SS Singh. All the activities in the college have come to a standstill as the protest entered its fifth day on Monday.
The students say they have lost confidence in Singh's administration because of the blatant use of powers against the students and against the interests of the University.
While the students have not formally lodged a complaint or filed a case in the court, they have sent a letter to Justice Hemant Gupta, Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, putting forth their demands, the most prominent being the removal of Singh. He has held the post for the last 10 years.
An instance of alleged favouritism in the evaluation of 10th-trimester answer sheets sparked this row. Students say marks were liberally bestowed upon a student who would have otherwise failed. When the administration was informed of this alleged bias, the students were asked to pay Rs 1,000 for revaluation of their papers, they say.
The atmosphere at NLIU has gone from bad to worse over the last five days as students' demands now include a whole set of measures to reform the administration of the institute, which they claim has been apathetic to their requests and proposals, solely guided by the authoritative rule of the director.
"Our director has met us just thrice in these five days of protest but never addressed the students. On the first day of the protest, he visited us late in the evening with a refusal to our demands. Only after they saw the pressure building that our papers were sent for rechecking. There have been instances where our director has passed sexist and casteist remarks as well," said one of the students protesting in front of the classrooms.
The students' letter to the chief justice accuses the college administration of many irregularities. The allegations include multiple instances of corruption, lack of financial transparency and accountability, casteism, the absence of a medical leave policy and denial of leave on genuine grounds and non-conformity with the Student Entitlement Guidelines, 2013.
The students allege that the director bears an insensitive attitude towards the students. They cited the example of a student belonging to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, who was not allowed to appear in the exam on account of low attendance.
This student's sister was suffering from the same type of cancer that had earlier killed his mother. When Singh was apprised of this and requested to allow the student for the exam on humanitarian grounds, he reportedly brushed them off.
The students quoted the director as saying: "Humanitarian grounds pe college nahi khol rakha. Mere college me aisa nahi hota hai (The college hasn't been opened on humanitarian grounds. This doesn't happen in my institute)."
When a friend of this student, who belongs to the general category, tried to reason with the director, he was reportedly told: "Mujhe pata hai yeh kis category ka hai, tum kyun support kar rahe ho? Inki wajah se tumhari opportunities ja rahi hain (I know which category he belongs to, why are you supporting him? It is because of these people that you are losing opportunities)."
Claiming that the director is sexist, the students also shared how a female student was made to sign an undertaking that she would dress modestly. "Tum jaisi ladkiya apni sharam-izzat bech ke aati hain (Girls like you sell off your dignity and respect)," the students accused the director of telling the young woman.
While the students have decided not to call off the protest until Singh is removed, their demands extend to other administerial concerns as well. "We demanded an extension of library timings, hostel timings, changes in attendance guidelines and relaxation on humanitarian and medical grounds and transparency in the examination process. A few of our demands were agreed upon, but they refused to give us anything in writing," said one of the protesting students. They have also been resorting to street theatre to exhibit the plight of students who have allegedly faced discrimination.
Denying the allegations
The NLIU administration, meanwhile, denied all the allegations the students have made against the director. Registrar Ravi Pande said they are giving time to students to rethink their demand to remove the director.
"We are not planning any action on students because we don't want any harm to their career. They are suffering due to this protest. We agreed to all their valid demands. We even considered rechecking of the examination papers, but later they started demanding the resignation of the director. These are young kids and we want them to think over what they are demanding," Pande said.
In the eye of the storm, Singh said: "The students now just have one agenda of protest, to remove the director. And my resignation will come only when I am asked by the chief justice to resign. The allegation of passing the student with extra marks is false. I have myself checked the papers."
Support for student
The Student Bar Association of Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur (Chhattisgarh); Student Bar Council of National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam; and the Student Welfare Committee at Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, have acknowledged the protest of NLIU students in a joint statement.
These student bodies have suggested that the only feasible solution to avoid such "misadministration" is to centralise these institutions under the aegis of the Parliament itself.
"A lobby of bureaucrats and academicians (are) turning these potential 'islands of excellence' into 'kingdoms of nepotism' without any kind of mechanism for checks and balances," they have alleged.
The author is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: Nov 14, 2017 11:21 AM