Last night, over 300 students at the Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali gathered below the statue of Lady of Justice to protest a situation of crisis at the institute and administration’s apathy towards students for the past couple of days.
According to a press release issued by the student community, they have been struggling with an inefficient administration, “deteriorating quality of teaching staff”, lack of a student body, instances of sexism and various other problems for some time now. The administration, students say, has not once come forward to hear their grievances.
In fact, as per the institute’s code of conduct – do’s and don’ts to be followed by the students – students are not allowed to collectively air their grievances.
“Collective airing of grievances is not appreciated and will not be entertained. Those who have any grievances may individually submit an application or meet the registrar and principal and politely put across their grievances,” says the code of conduct.
Besides, the students have also complained about the poor quality of mess food, fee hike and inappropriate behaviour of girls’ hostels warden towards the female students.
“Girls warden in particular, frequently abuses the power she has over female students by blatantly asking for gifts for her personal appeasement, indulges in moral policing constantly, raises aspersions as to the students’ characters and their upbringing,” said the press release.
Timeline of events
On October 4, the students sent a joint petition to dignitaries in Western Command and Army Welfare Education Society, New Delhi, with a list of eight demands to be fulfilled at the earliest. The demands include conducting student election, revocation of an archaic code of conduct, fresh recruitment of faculty, immediate redressal of unhygienic food in mess and so on.
However, students say that they were kept in dark regarding the “subsequent meetings inside the closed administrative doors” that took place thereafter. The administration also didn’t respond to “heart-wrenching incidents of personal harassment” mentioned in a common google form attached with the joint petition.
Hence, on October 15, the student community decided to go on a strike until all the eight demand are fulfilled. As over 300 students assembled at the entrance area of the college, the authorities allegedly started curbing the protest.
While the students spent the entire night outside in cold, the registrar, students say, left college from back door.
On October 16, the college’s Principal addressed the protestors at the entrance gate and asked them to meet the chairman. Students, however, politely refused saying “these sessions have only been dismissive and evasive in nature.”
Attempts to curb the protest
Later that day, four student representatives went to meet the registrar who allegedly asked: “All of your parents are in the army right?”. Students allege that this is only an intimidation tactic and implies that the administration’s “approach remains unchanged.”
On the day of the protest, the warden and the registrar allegedly had placed barricades outside the hostel gates to confine the students.
Furthermore, last night the protestors tweeted screenshots of emails sent to their parents where they have been asked to meet the administration on October 19.
“Please treat the matter most urgent. Such act of an individual not only cause disruption in academic routine but also have adverse impact on the reputation of a premier institute which is run by the Army management,” said the mail.
— Akshaj Singh (@fishesflyinhigh) October 16, 2019
LiveWire tried contacting the registrar of the college and the girls hostel’s warden but couldn’t reach out to them. This copy shall be updated with their responses as and when they come.
As the protest continues, the alumni of the college as well as other law colleges of the country have released solidarity statements showing support to AIL students. The colleges who have released the statements include Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Hidyatullah National Law University, Raipur, University of Delhi and others.
— Rishika Agarwal (@RishikaAgarwal8) October 16, 2019
Another law school, another allegation of maladministration & another protest. Maybe it’s time for law colleges to practice what they teach. We stand in support of our sisters & brothers at AIL Mohali in their fight for justice & accountability #baharaaobaatkaro @protests_at_ail pic.twitter.com/WTIEKJyv3s
— FreeRGNUL (@freergnul) October 16, 2019
In solidarity with our counterparts over at Army Institute of Law in #Mohali.
Truly disheartening to witness the state of law schools across the nation.
We implore the legal & academic fraternity call for reforms in the legal education system.@HRDMinistry @protests_at_ail pic.twitter.com/nWP0WBadI1
— Student Bar Association, HNLU (@HNLUSBA) October 16, 2019
As our cause strengthens, as our morale strengthens, as our will of fire to succeed strengthens, so does the fear in hearts of the authority and so does our external support for the long overdue actions of the students of AIL.
DU stands with AIL.#baharaaobaatkaro#istandwithail pic.twitter.com/GBQReWshrB
— Protests at Army Institute of Law (@protests_at_ail) October 16, 2019
The AIL students are still awaiting a satisfactory response from the college’s administration.