‘Atyachar’ se ‘Azaadi’: How RGNUL Students Used Art to Win Over Their Administration

A couple of days ago, students at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL) decided to put their mattresses outside the vice chancellor’s office and spend the night out in the cold to protest against the varsity’s coercive measures.

The students demanded that the administration revoke the suspension of six students who were targeted for protesting against unhygienic food being served in the boys’ hostel.

Students with their mattresses outside in the campus. Image provided by RGNUL student.

In addition, they demanded the suspension of administrative officer S.P. Singh for allegedly making sexist remarks to several female students. They also sought to constitute a students’ representative body and pressed for the elimination of discriminatory hostel in-timings for female hostellers.

Today, six days after the protests began, the students decided to call off the agitation after the vice chancellor (VC) finally agreed to meet their demands.

However, they say the road to victory was not easy.

The administration had threatened the students, rescheduled mid-term exams, levelled false allegations, beefed up security on campus, removed pages from newspapers containing protest reports and did everything possible to disperse the agitation.

Despite all that, the protest continued.

Peaceful stand

On each of the five days, students organised candle light marches and slept in the cold outside the VC’s office.

Candle lights outside VC’s office. Image provided by RGNUL student.

On the day the university arbitrarily suspended the six students, scores of other students gathered outside the administrative bloc in solidarity and shouted slogans like “We want our boys back” and “S.P. teri tanashahi nahi chalegi (S.P., Your dictatorship will not stand)”.

While some students shared instances of being harassed by Singh, others held up posters saying: “Unchi humaari udaan hai, student body ki maang hai (We demand a student body)”.

On March 18, final year students wrote their mid-term exams wearing black outfits and black ribbons to express dissent.

Songs and street plays

As the protest gained momentum with each passing day, some students used creative mediums like plays and songs to express their aggression.

On March 17, post midnight, the university’s theatre group, Khalbali, performed a street play titled ‘Azaadi‘ right in front of the VC’s office.

The actors impersonated Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys: hinting at an administration that can’t see how discriminatory hostel timings for female students are; hear allegations against S.P. Singh’s sexist comments and; speak against the injustices meted out to students.

RGNUL’s theatre actors performing nukkad natak outside vice chancellor’s office. Image provided by a third-year-law student.

Behind them, another actor recited a poem with verses like “Hum ek nhi anek hai, desh ka bhavishya hain (We are not one but many, we are the future of this country).”

Meanwhile, bystanders shared a quirky protest song titled ‘Atyachaar’ among themselves. Composed by first-year students, the song addressed issues like sexism on campus, arbitrary penalties, poor quality food in the mess and corrupt practices of the administration.

The song ended with a loud cry: “SP VC Registrar, khatam karo ye atyaachar (S.P. Singh, VC and Registrar, end the atrocities)”

The fight continues

On Wednesday, the administration finally buckled and conceded to the students’ demands. However, students say that the fight shall continue.

They said that as per the new order, the administration has asked them to withdraw complaints filed with the National Commission for Women – detailing the instances of Singh’s sexist remarks.

In addition, there are many corrupt practices within the administration which still need to be brought to light according to students.

“There are extensive practices, crossing the threshold of corruption and much further, and we’ll now want to challenge them – starting with getting access to financial documents and audits of the University,” said a third-year BA LLB student at the university.

“We’ve got a long way to go, and we’re sure this isn’t the end of our struggle against maladministration at RGNUL,” he added.

Featured image credit: Twitter