A notice outside RU pro-vice chancellor VP Sharan’s office prohibits Press photographers on Tuesday. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi University has an effective solution to student unrest — media censorship.
The learned authorities of the varsity feel that student union leaders get more violent during campus agitation when they see Press and TV cameras.
That is perhaps only too true. In the age of self-advertisement — Facebook and reality shows are only two examples — student protesters no doubt double their zeal to become more camera-friendly with more photogenic scuffles, louder lung power, angrier posters and slogans.
What can’t perhaps be understood is that instead of making students see reason or disciplining them, Ranchi University has chosen the easy, undemocratic and logically flawed option of banning media cameras.
Posters and directives announcing “Restricted Area” and “Photography Prohibited” were pasted all around administrative building on Tuesday morning. Officials said the decision happened after a syndicate meeting.
Pro-vice chancellor V.P. Sharan said the reason behind such a strong fiat was due to the “regular nuisance” created by students’ outfits. “Demonstrations and dharnas are a norm here of late. Students get more excited seeing still or video photographers. Therefore, we decided to keep any form of camera at a distance,” he said, adding that the “protests” ranged from breaking the V-C’s door and hijacking his chair to other form of vandalism.
What Sharan has not realised perhaps is that this strong diktat is a weak compromise. It is an admission of the fact that a university can’t control the behaviour of its students and needs to hide it from the media.
When you can’t bell the cat, you kill it. Or when you can’t digest the news, you shoot the messenger.
Sharan also added that he did not want to be seen as anti-protest. “A democratic set-up allows protests. We only say there is no justification for vandalism,” he said.
He finds justification for media censorship in democracy.
Another rule that is more autocratic than democratic has also come into effect — that without prior approval of dean of students’ welfare official or proctor, no one will be allowed to meet the vice chancellor or pro-vice chancellor. “If they deem it fit, then students will be allowed to meet the V-C,” said Sharan.
Students reacted by tearing posters. “It is autocracy. It will widen the communication gap between students and the V-C,” said student union member Rakesh Kiran.
Only the senate can change the decisions. But a senate meeting was convened more than four years ago.