Another year, another university and another ‘lynch mob’ of students. It has become the norm in recent times to label peaceful protesters as blood hungry mobs. In this instance, it is the students of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur who have been protesting since August 27. The so-called ‘agitators’ have been demanding the removal of a 10:30 pm curfew for residents of the women’s hostel as well as blatant harassment, including but not limited to sexual harassment by the university’s authorities.
Students have been protesting continuously for over a week now, taking shifts for meals and sleep, and things have been entirely peaceful, with civil disobedience acts and silent marches and no violence reported so far.
Raising demands on behalf of the student body, Snehal Ranjan Shukla, the president of Student Bar Association, HNLU, stated:
The demand for constituting a “Review Commission” as per HNLU Adhiniyam Act, 2003 has been accepted by the vice chancellor sir and he has assured us that it will be constituted soon. We had put forth a 14-point demand in front of the vice chancellor, some of which he accepted, the others he assured us would be taken into consideration after deliberation. However, in the second meeting, the administration misled him terming the students as a mob out to lynch them. We will try to sort things out and have our demands met at the meeting on September 5.”
Meanwhile, National Law Universities across the country have come out in support of the movement with a joint statement of solidarity which states:
“We reiterate the founding idea of National Law Universities which were created as ‘islands of legal excellence’ to build a generation of ‘social engineers’. However, in the absence of efficient administration coupled with a lack of systematic accountability forces, students in most of the NLUs are burdened with the responsibility to initiate basic reforms and maintain constant vigil over administrative decisions. This fight for minimum standards and a right to decent education leaves the students too drained and disillusioned to be of any use to the society. Therefore, we the students of NALSAR, NLSIU, NUJS, NLUD, NLUJ and NLIU stand in complete solidarity with our counterparts at HNLU and wholeheartedly support the courageous stand taken by them.”
The reality of the “mob”
The protesting students took out a silent flashlight march, which was falsely reported, by the administration, to the newly appointed vice chancellor as an act of “terrorism” by a “lynching mob”. In reality, however, no sloganeering or violence took place during the march.
The videos and the pictures documenting the same are evidence enough to prove that these mob allegations were just an administrative attempt to chill student expression, including threats to fail protestors in the coming exams.
The administration has not only been misleading the newly appointed vice chancellor but also HNLU’s students, who were falsely informed that the vice chancellor had rejected their demands.
As students of Hidayatullah National Law University, we believe that Late Justice Hidayatullah would be proud of his students. He undoubtedly would have stood for protecting our fundamental rights of life, speech and expression, and would not have permitted the curtailing of women’s movement, prevention of library access and a culture of sexual harassment to permeate the institution. Our founding fathers would be proud of us for standing by the principles of non-violence and civil disobedience, it is a shame that our administration is not.
Toshan Chandrakar is a student of Hidayatullah National Law University.