PhD Scholar Accuses JNU Administration of ‘Institutional Torture’

New Delhi: A PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has accused the administration of “unleashing acts of institutional torture” on him for the “last couple of weeks.” Dileep Kumar Yadav, from the Centre for Inner-Asian Studies, housed under JNU’s School of International Studies, alleges that the administration is harassing him through constant hostel transfers and fines adding up to Rs 50,000 because he participated in a hunger strike to protest the University Grants Commission (UGC) gazette.

Yadav says that the university has issued four hostel transfer in the last two years, imposed heavy fines, cut access to the mess and even de-activated his internet access.

He submitted an open letter to the vice-chancellor, M. Jagadesh Kumar, on June 14, 2018, detailing the harassment and asking the administration to cease their attempts to “spoil” Yadav’s academic career. He had also sent a letter to the vice-chancellor earlier in June to request him to hold the transfer till his degree is done.

Yadav says he has been compliant with all the demands of the administration so far and has transferred hostels thrice. His PhD dissertation is due in July, and he needs the room only for a few more days, and so has decided to stay on in the hostel and focus on finishing his degree.

“The only ‘mistake’ I did was that I raised my voice against the draconian UGC Gazette 2016, which had a destructive effect on the academic life of many students, and is still being contested by the students through legal petitions, mass protests and other means,” wrote Yadav in his letter.

However, a member of JNU’s administration refused to officially comment on Yadav’s case, saying the matter is in the hands of the chief proctor, who was unavailable for comment.

Dhananjay Singh, associate dean of students told LiveWire, “This has been his [Yadav’s] third offence and there has been a proper enquiry by the chief proctor for the action taken. I cannot talk more about this.”

Yadav fears he will be evicted forcibly if he leaves his room, so he has been staying put during working hours on fear of being locked out, or worse having to break a lock to get in (it’s a criminal offence).

Student support

Apeksha Priyadarshini, an MPhil student in cinema studies and member of the Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Student’s Organisation said the student organisation supports Yadav.

Yadav was not the only one to protest the UGC gazette, but he says he is the only student who has been ordered to transfer hostels.

“It seems you have taken a decision to stop me from submitting my thesis, which is a product of my years of hard work, by subjecting me to institutional torture. I hail from a socially and educationally backward background and continued my studies till now through great hardships. For the last two weeks, every other day security guards are being sent to my room to intimidate me through physical violence,” wrote Yadav in his letter.

Priyadarshini backed Yadav’s claim and said that 10-15 guards have turned up twice in recent days to get Yadav to vacate his room in Kaveri hostel.  A “small group of student activists or politically-minded students” have blocked this happening, for now, she added.

Based on the number of times he’s been moved and the administration’s lack of response to his appeals for staying on, Yadav believes he’s being punished for his past actions.

He also thinks it is not a coincidence that the administration is trying to evict him at this particular time. He said, “They are harassing me during our vacation time when most students are away and so it is easier for the administration to harass me without much opposition”.

Usually, JNU students can extend their hostel tenures for a few months by paying a daily stipend of Rs 20-30, and Yadav is willing to pay, he said, “I am prepared to pay as well to stay on and complete and submit by PhD.” However, the wardens seem unwilling. “The wardens have clearly stated that they will not be able to do anything for him since ‘orders are coming from above'” said Priyadarshini.

She also added, “The vice-chancellor is involved in this as the hostel wardens are saying they have orders from above, which usually means the dean of students but even they are not able to provide answers.”

With only two to three weeks left in his degree, Yadav is now considering getting a legal stay order to remain in his hostel room. However, the Delhi courts are also shut for the summer, so Yadav is considering appealing to the vacation court.

He also plans to approach the JNU Equal Opportunity cell and the OBC cell for inter-university support.

On June 13, several JNU students sent a letter to the warden on Yadav’s behalf, adding their voices to his appeal, but the warden then sent an official letter to the vice chancellor asking for Yadav to be removed from the hostel.

In his letter, Yadav also stated that the harassment was not just limited to forcible hostel transfers and fines but also extended to casteist slurs. Yadav said the upper caste wardens have been telling him that “people like me from a lower-caste background (OBC) are not eligible to be in elite institutions like JNU,” says Yadav.