On April 5, hundreds of students from Delhi University (DU) marched together on the streets of north campus, demanding the administration to revamp the examination system which led to the mass failure of students at Mathematics and Physics departments about two months ago.
Students said that as they marched, all college gates were locked, chained and heavily guarded with security personnel. Days before the protest, the administration allegedly shouted at the students, kicked them out of classrooms and tore down posters (about the protest) pasted across different colleges.
The protest culminated outside the vice-chancellor’s office which, according to students, had heavy police deployment. Pinjra Tod – a women-led collective against discriminatory hostel rules – joined the students and rallied in solidarity with them days before.
According to the collective, when students reached the VC’s office, the police tried to forcefully detain some of them and manhandled others. In retaliation, the collective pointed out, students blocked the police vehicle inside which they were allegedly beating up protestors in. Ultimately, the police had to release the students.
According to Newsclick, students of Maths department have been protesting against the university’s administration since February 14 for failing 35 out of 40 students in the semester examination of M.A. and M.Sc. Since then, the students have been conducting indefinite strikes and boycotting classes. The police, however, have been continuously stalling the protest since then.
On March 12, the police forcibly stopped students when they went on a hunger strike outside the uinversity’s maths department. Undeterred, the students continued with the demonstration.
The issue of mass failures came to light in the university’s Physics department too. On March 20, students at the university’s Physics department also joined the protest complaining of the same problem, the Indian Express reported.
According to the Indian Express, 94% of first-semester students enrolled in MSc Physics failed in either theory or internals or both in the semester examinations conducted in December 2018.
As the protest gained momentum, the administration on March 23, sent show-cause notices to at least seven students from various departments for staging a month-long protest against the “mass failure,” the Indian Express reported. In several cases, the administration delivered the notices to their permanent address, enraging the students.
“Your unlawful activities have been causing inconvenience and disruption to the day to day academic and administrative functioning of the Faculty of Mathematical Science and the University system since February 14. You are hereby required to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against you under Ordinance XV-B, Clause 3(i) of the Delhi University Act, 1922,” read the notice dated March 15, signed by Proctor Neeta Sehgal.
The students also decried the heavy expenses incurred due to revaluation charges and demanded that it should be less than Rs 100. Besides, they also asked the administration to conduct supplementary exams within two months for final year students and revoke show-cause notices on seven students.
Pinjra Tod, in their statement on Facebook, condemned the administration’s apathy towards students merely asking for affordable higher education. The statement read:
All of this speaks of how much the university feels threatened by student struggles that challenge the more systemic problems of higher education such as a fraudulent evaluation system, lack of institutional mechanisms to support students from marginalized backgrounds, constant fee hikes, fund cuts and a lack of affordable accommodation in the university resulting in mass failures and high drop out rates. From the beginning of this movement the administration has tried everything within its capacity to break the protests from using police to forcefully detain students, break hunger strikes to issuing show-cause notices and sending it to their homes.
Other demands include the election of student-faculty committees, establishment of an autonomous sexual harassment committee and the inclusion of NCWEB (Non-Collegiate Women’s Education Board) in the university’s placement cell.
Livewire wrote to the heads of both Physics and Mathematics departments, seeking their response to the students’ demands. Neither has responded yet. This article shall be updated as and when they do.
Meanwhile, students have decided to continue with the campaigning and organise another mass protest at the beginning of the new semester.
Featured image credit: Twitter