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GNLU students ‘ashamed’ of VC Bimal Patel’s ‘disrespectful', unsubstantiated drugs diatribe in Jumika Yeptho memorial service

No evidence that late GNLU student Jumika Yeptho took drugs, but director allegedly used memorial to rail against drugs
No evidence that late GNLU student Jumika Yeptho took drugs, but director allegedly used memorial to rail against drugs

At least 50 GNLU Gandhinagar students coordinated to send separate protest emails to director Dr Bimal Patel last night over his unsolicited lecture against drug use during the memorial service for student Jumika Yeptho, who died of tuberculosis meningitis on Thursday.

According to several sources, it is understood that during a memorial service held by the college for Yeptho on yesterday (Friday 27 October), following two minutes of silence for the late Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) scholar, Patel continued to hold a lecture for 5 to 10 minutes about drug abuse.

Since student bar associations are forbidden at GNLU, more than 50 GNLU students then coordinated to individually send the same email to Patel (see below) at exactly the same time last night, writing that Patel's “statement insinuates that there existed a relationship between drug abuse and Jumika's cause of illness, and subsequent demise”.

To our knowledge, Patel did not respond to any of the students' emails or offer an apology or explanation.

We reached out to him for comment earlier today but have not received a response.

Last month we had reported that GNLU's registrar had gone on a witch-hunt, allegedly going so far as to impersonate students on WhatsApp, in a bid to track down the owner of a packet of marijuana.

And in 2013, a GNLU student had filed an FIR for being frisked when entering the campus and fined for possession of a cigarette packet, with the Gujarat high court judge saying in an order relating to the complaint in 2016 that Patel had turned the NLU into a “human-rights-violating oligarchy”.

No evidence of drug use

It is understood that when Yeptho was first admitted to hospital with hallucinations and other symptoms around September, the doctor had carried out several tests on Yeptho to confirm that his symptoms were not caused by narcotics. All those drug tests came back negative, with subsequent diagnoses confirming advanced tuberculosis meningitis that had invaded 30-40% of his brain and were the cause of his symptoms.

However, according to our sources, Patel at the memorial talked at length about the ill effects of drugs, exhorting youths to live without drugs and that drugs would not be tolerated on GNLU's campus.

One student told us that Patel “took the opportunity to 'warn' and 'caution' everyone about the ill effects of alcohol and other prohibited substances. He said that one can 'survive' without the use of these instances and that as students we must refrain from making use of them. His statement was made to insinuate that Jumika’s passing away as a result of TB meningitis, a very serious, life-threatening condition, was actually due to the excessive use of drugs and alcohol, which is a blatant lie.

“There’s no evidence, whatsoever, of him ever having used such substances on campus, and students around him have, in the past, attested to the fact that he never indulged in any of these activities.”

“That was not the right time to talk about it,” another student told us. “Everyone in this college now thinks that Jumika was a drug user. He was there to respect Jumika's life and he totally dishonoured him.”

“This university didn't do anything for Jumika,” added the student, noting that he wasn't aware of Patel or the administration even having visited Yeptho in hospital. We could not independently confirm that claim.

The IDIA organisation that had helped Yeptho and other underprivileged students to crack the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) exam, had raised money from donors in September to pay for Yeptho's emergency medical treatment to attempt to save his life.

IDIA founder Prof Shamnad Basheer had sent out an email yesterday about Yeptho's death, also noting that any rumours of Yeptho's drug use were unsubstantiated and the unfortunate result of prejudice:

The doctors at the hospital in Ahmedabad (where he was first admitted) also tested for drug use and all came out negative. A reputed neurologist confirmed to me that all of his actions in the days leading up to hospitalisation (not being able to co-ordinate movements, speaking out of turn in class etc) were all the result of the TB bacteria attacking his brain cells (apparently 30-40% of his brain was infected with the bacteria). And not drugs!

Just goes to show us the power of prejudice!

Anyway, we need to now work harder at redressing some of these issues…and creating an ecosystem that is less harsh to those at the margins. One that celebrates plurality and actively embraces difference and diversity.

One student told us that Patel's statements had dishonoured the life of a very promising student and his tragic death:

Jumika was an extremely strong, dedicated, kindhearted young individual with a bright future and his demise is a serious loss to the legal community. Mr Patel’s statements were uncalled for, completely unbecoming of a man of his stature, and a dishonour to the life go a beautiful young man, who was in no way responsible for his own death.

People like Bimal Patel need to be more sensitive and aware of their responsibilities as leaders of prestigious legal institutions and learn to understand that abusing their power in such a manner can have serious repercussions for their reputation.

Jumika deserves to be remembered with pride and fondness. He was a boy from an underprivileged background, who fought against all odds and made it to a prestigious educational institution in the hope of a better future.

Coordinated email sent by 50 GNLU students individually to Patel

Dear Sir,

This is with regard to the mourning session held today morning in honour of Jumika Yeptho.

During the assembly, after observing a minute of silence, you proceeded to caution the students regarding drug and alcohol abuse. As important as the matter of drug abuse may be, your statement insinuates that there existed a relation between drug abuse and Jumika's cause of illness, and subsequent demise.

However, with all due respect Sir, in the presence of evidence to the contrary, this comment was highly unsolicited at an occasion meant to honour his life.

We believe this was disrespectful to his legacy. We, as a student community, feel ashamed that we let an incident like this slide by when it occured, without raising an objection. We are deeply hurt and saddened by the incident.

We believe Sir, and we hope you agree, that it would be unjust to let Jumika's legacy be tarnished in such a manner.

We therefore, request you to kindly reconsider your statement today morning and send out an email clarifying the same.

We hope you understand our sentiments and respect them.

Sincerely Yours,

The Student Community

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