Some JNU teachers protest formation of government committee
The ongoing students' protest in JNU against the hostel fee increase has caused a crack in its teachers' association.
A section of the central university's teachers on Thursday expressed concern about the formation of a committee by the HRD ministry that has been tasked to end the deadlock between the students and the administration that has continued for over a fortnight.
A three-member committee of the UGC secretary, AICTE chairman, and the former chairperson of UGC was formed by the human resource development ministry on November 17 after protests by the students rocked the campus.
The committee has met students' representatives twice in the last three days with no improvement in the situation. It met the JNU Teachers' Association on Thursday. While this meeting was under way, a section of teachers held a news conference on the campus and expressed their reservations about the committee.
They said the committee's formation was an attempt to interfere with JNU's autonomy and an attempt to undermine the authority of the vice-chancellor, M. Jagadesh Kumar.
The students' union and Kumar have a history of acrimony. During the ongoing hostel fee hike protest, students have repeatedly said that Kumar has refused to meet them.
A press note released by the section of teachers said: 'The formation of this committee amounts to interference in the matters of an autonomous university. The committee does not include either the vice-chancellor or the chancellor of the university.' The teachers wrote that the 'high powered committee' was an attempt to create 'an ad hoc heirarchy of authority, which will set a dangerous precedent for other universities'. The teachers also claimed that they had the support of 113 of JNU's 564 teachers.
'The university has not approached UGC or MHRD to intervene and solve the problem. It means MHRD has taken a suo motu action in this case. The MHRD committee seeks to engage all stakeholders. The administration has merely been reduced to one stakeholder,' the note said. The authority of vice-chancellor and the chancellor 'has been brazenly undermined', it added.
The teachers also conveyed the decision to dissociate with the JNU Teachers' Association for not condemning the conduct of a 'section' of students during the hostel fee protest. They highlighted the incident of locking up a faculty member inside the classroom during a protest two weeks back. The associate dean of students, Vandana Mishra, was locked inside the classroom allegedly for 30 hours by the students.
JNU Teachers' Association president D.K. Lobiyal said the concerns of the teachers had not yet been communicated to the body. 'No such decision by a 'section' of teachers has been communicated to us as far as I am aware. The JNUTA is a collective body of all teachers. It has and will continue to address appropriately all concerns of teachers as per the framework decided collectively,' he said in a statement.
During Thursday's meeting, the teachers' association told the HRD committee that the lockdown in the varsity cannot be lifted until the fee hike is rolled back. They said the current face-off was the culmination of four years of 'financial mismanagement' and 'wasteful expenditure' by the vice-chancellor Kumar.