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HNLU VC threatens action against protesting students • VC’s grilling in GB meeting now on YouTube

HNLU VC strikes back with open letter, implying possible disciplinary action against students
HNLU VC strikes back with open letter, implying possible disciplinary action against students

HNLU Raipur vice chancellor (VC) Sukh Pal Singh has sent an open letter to students today saying that “no disciplinary action would be taken against any student” if students call off their resumed silent protests against his reinstatement, after his disqualification by a high court had been stayed by the Supreme Court pending fuller hearings, last week.

Students have continued their protests, one-upping NUJS Kolkata, where students had spell out the letters PIB OUT with students’ bodies standing on the campus lawns, HNLU students spelled a glittering SPS OUT, presumably with cameraphones (see picture below).

Their campaign has also continued to attract some significant attention, similarly to their first round that had eventually been covered by newspapers and national TV news. The Student Bar Association (SBA) tweeted today that “The students of HNLU have lost faith in the incompetent administration of Dr Sukh Pal Singh & his style of arbitrary and discriminatory decision making. Therefore, we are skeptical of him being reinstated to the office of the Vice Chancellor.”

This was retweeted by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who enjoys a sizable following on Twitter, who added: “I know what it is to have my interest in studies destroyed by an incompetent teacher & administrator. I feel sad that a National Law University, named after a great judge is being destroyed by silence on the part of constitutional functionaries, who know where the problem is.”

And parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor tweeted yesterday: “This thread sounds serious. I hope @PrakashJavdekar & his colleagues will look into these complaints. For law students to go on strike is rare. They deserve attention.”

(Though, in all fairness, Tharoor probably does not fully understand exactly how many law students have gone on strike in the last year or two alone.)

HNLU protests against VC Sukh Pal Singh (SPS)
HNLU protests against VC Sukh Pal Singh (SPS)

Students unite against VC in general body meeting

In a general body meeting on 25 September, the full video of which has now been uploaded online, students grilled Singh for nearly one-and-a-half hours, questioning him about their current grievances in administration, until handing him the no confidence petition that had been signed by them.

Singh did not respond to our requests for comment but in the video, he said, mostly in Hindi: “These are your thoughts and approach to your actions. To answer your protest of my resignation and your no confidence motion. You haven’t appointed me to be in this designation.

“Thus, I wont be putting down my resignation to satiate your no confidence motion. And it is your decision to be on an indefinite strike or hunger, I cant help it.

“And I want to know why are you doing it? I am working for the past 7 years with this University, and I know each and every staff of this institution.”

Student representatives replied by saying that Singh should have an insight to what the rules and regulations are in a university, including providing data and reports and minutes on its website.

Singh replied: “It is not going to be a loss for you if they aren’t provided. The steps you have taken to malign the university in the recent past, is going to hamper your own future. The university which I put together since the past seven years, you chose to bring upon shame on the national television and that is going to backfire only on you and do no harm to me.”

Students then asked: “Sir, do you mean to say that all the sexual harrassment, casteism, discrimination and discrepancies that are coming up are not maligning our university but because we chose to complain about them to our VC is disgraceful?"

Unsympathetic, Singh responded: “It is not that any action hasn’t been taken. You are making an issue out of a non-issue, there is no remedy for the same. It is not that we are not sensitive to the needs of the complaint.”

His student interlocutor responded: “Sir, request you not to belittle the complaint by saying that we are using the matter of sexual harrassment to make it an issue purposely”

Singh: “I’m not humiliating the complaint in particular but on the overall aspect of the issue. The complaint is a serious matter, which shall be taken care of. I have never said that no inquiry shall take place. The issues which should be corrected, will be. "

The student responded that they would not be budging or negotiating any further about their no confidence motion.

Singh said at that point: “I can’t help your decision of protesting indefinitely. Do whatever you want to. But I will try to solve the issues which seem genuine to me. If they haven’t been done in the past, then I am ready to take it forward from today onwards.

“I repeatedly have said that things which seem correct and ‘genuine’, I have never denied them. Some issues which out of my understanding I thought shouldn’t occur, I have tried to make you understand to my level best, And till today I thought you all were quite intelligent to comprehend whatever I tried to explain.”

“I have never denied anything you have from asked me,” he repeated, then added: “And all these little issues with which you are making a mountain out of a molehill, and coming up to me with, please explain to what extent has any ‘substantial loss’ befallen upon you?"

At that point, one of the student representatives walked up to the dais to present Singh with their no confidence motion. Most students applauded at that point with standing ovations and chanted “not my VC”, despite the student representatives imploring them to keep quiet.

Singh looked on bemused (skip to the 1 hour 27 minute mark in the below video or click here).

After the meeting was called to a close and Singh and his entourage were leaving, one of the students exhorted over the speaker system: “Don’t shout. This will be literally a silent protest”.

He then added, addressing faculty members: “Also if there is any faculty members who wants to support [...] we are truly welcoming them.”

At that point the student body yet again erupted in applause and a standing ovation for nearly a full minute facing around four faculty members who did not leave with Singh.

A truly inspiring moment - click here to view it.

HNLU protests against SPS
HNLU protests against SPS

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