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Breaking: NUJS VC Ishwara Bhat has resigned, faced with determined student protests • CNLU limbo continues

PI Bhat is out, in massive and unlikely victory for NUJS students
PI Bhat is out, in massive and unlikely victory for NUJS students

NUJS Kolkata vice chancellor Prof Ishwara Bhat, who had been offered the same job at CNLU Patna, has resigned today, after the students’ ultimatum calling for his resignation expired at 9am today.

In his resignation letter, Bhat cites “health and family reasons” for his resignation, which will take effect from 7 April 2018.

His resignation and the student protests follow NUJS students having unearthed the long-buried and long-overdue statutory review commission report of NUJS, which contained scathing criticism of NUJS’ decline under Bhat’s administration.

The Student Juridical Association (SJA) had called for a “passive” protest, which they said would not jeopardise their academic careers or the right to work of any faculty members, while students also started a Facebook page including memes and videos of their protest.

Final day of protests crescendos

NUJS students were seen chanting slogans of “Ishwara Bhat go away” in English and “Ishwara Bhat Jaldi Hat” (Ishwara Bhat, move out fast) in Hindi while sitting out at the campus gates flashing colourful protest posters, after protests ramped up today as the ultimatum had expired in the morning, according to live footage on the Facebook page “NUJS Speaks”.

Presumably prepared to continue the protest until Bhat’s resignation, they titled the live footage of the protest as “Day Zero”.

One faculty member was seen addressing the protesting students in footage recorded five hours ago, and telling them their protest “is going to harm the university” and that “the email [the SJA] sent yesterday was uncouth and every such communication you write is going to harm the interest of the university much more than any of us and incompetence of any of us”, before he informed the audience that Bhat had tendered his resignation before the executive council.

Students pressed the faculty member for a written assurance of the fact of Bhat’s resignation, in response to which the faculty member insisted that the protesters were “mistaken” that they were protecting the interest of the university “by blocking the way, not allowing us to carry on with our work”, and that they “must give everyone a way out”.

To which the students shouted back slogans of “Band Karo ye saajedari ab toh le lo zimmedari” (Stop colluding and take responsibility now at least) in Hindi.

Ghosts of future past, in Cal and Patna

Of course, with Bhat’s resignation, NUJS will face the challenge of finding a new vice chancellor (VC), and as this administrative law exam question at NLSIU Bangalore rightly pointed out (quoting our earlier report), VC talent is thin on the ground.

CNLU Patna, meanwhile will be facing a similar problem. The school received an acting VC, retired Justice Mridula Mishra, after Bhat’s appointment had hung in limbo after CNLU students’ protests, while former similarly unpopular VC A Lakshminath had left the campus on 24 March.

Muted student protests in Patna are understood to be continuing, as CNLU’s chancellor has not given an official position on whether Bhat’s appointment as VC will be stayed or not.

According to student sources, the chancellor has refused to give an official statement on any of the protesting students’ demands while they were continuing with the administrative lockdown, so the students have decided to wait before ramping up the protests until the second week of April. Students have also demanded the constitution of its four-year overdue statutory university review commission.

Video of students’ victory announcement and celebrations

Click to play Facebook video (currently hidden to protect your privacy)

Video of protests

Click to play Facebook video (currently hidden to protect your privacy)

Protests unfoisted (in slow mo)

Click to play Facebook video (currently hidden to protect your privacy)

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