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RGNUL student protests win on all counts: Controversial suspensions revoked, inquiry against AO, student body, extended curfews [UPDATE-1: The NCW Complaint]

Peace agreement between RGNUL admin and students
Peace agreement between RGNUL admin and students

The RGNUL Patiala administration has agreed to protesting students’ four main demands in writing, putting to an end five days of student protests kicked off by the suspension of six students.

The peace agreement was witnessed (and partially brokered by) Punjab’s advocate general Atul Nanda, who met with students and the administration on campus today. Five students signed on behalf of the student body.

Update 20 March, 00:11: The same five signatory students in a separate letter of undertaking from the one pictured above, co-signed that “it is agreed that the complaints made to various Authorities shall be withdrawn forthwith and we repose our faith in Hon’ble Vice Chancellor RGNUL Punjab”. Those complaints included one made by the students to the National Commission for Women (NCW) on 18 March. The five signatory students also “authorised the [complainant] to withdraw these complaints”, according to the letter.

As we had reported yesterday, students had requested that accession to their demands be recorded in writing by vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Paramjit Jaswal, which has now been done.

We have reached out to Jaswal for comment.

First, Jaswal agreed in the letter that the suspension of six students was “revoked unconditionally”. Students argued that those students had been singled out unfairly for their protests, when nearly 200 students had also protested similarly against low-quality mess food by banging metal trays on tables.

Second, a key demand of students had been that campus administrative officer Captain SP Singh should be removed. While Jaswal had reasonably argued yesterday that promising removal was outside his powers, he has now assured the students that an “independent inquiry” by a judge nominated by Jaswal would inquire into Singh’s conduct. The inquiry would be held by “associating the students through their representatives”, allaying student fears that the inquiry could end up being biased or unfair.

In the meantime, Singh would be sent on compulsory leave.

Third, Jaswal agreed in writing that students would be allowed to form an interim student committee (seeing as the state of Punjab doesn’t allow student body elections yet). The university’s general council would take a decision on its draft constitution within two months of submission.

The final bone of contention was the - in practice - discriminatory hostel timings for male and female students. Though on paper, a 9pm curfew existed for both, male students would in reality be allowed to stay out until 1am, whereas women allegedly encountered difficulties, chastisement and calls to parents for missing the 9pm deadline.

In the letter, Jaswal agreed that students would be permitted to enter the university’s main gates until 8pm, with an extended on-campus hostel curfew of midnight, provided students only used those four hours to spend time in the library, facility area and near the main gate.

The agreement was witnessed by five RGNUL students from second to fifth year.

As far as student protests go, this was a long one but ultimately one of the most successful.

Particularly the institution of a student representative body, will hopefully go a long way towards resolving student grievances without protests in future - as Jaswal had also agreed it would when we talked to him yesterday.

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