The Times Group-owned Bennett University in Uttar Pradesh’s Greater Noida has asked its students and their parents to sign an undertaking, asking them not to participate, support or promote any type of “anti-national” or “anti-social activity” within or outside the campus.
One of the “anti-national” activities defined in the undertaking includes “participating in an unlawful gathering or protest”.
In the undertaking sent to the students through an email on March 14 evening, the university said the move was in line with the directive received from the Uttar Pradesh government.
“Keeping in view to the directives received from the state government, you are required to provide an additional undertaking in the attached form duly signed by yourself and your parent,” the email said.
The Bennett University was founded in August 2016 and gets its name from Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the holding company for The Times Group. The goal of the university, which has 2,500 students, is to become a “Centre of Excellence comparable to the Ivy League standards”.
Colonel Guljit Singh Chadha (retired), who is the registrar of the university, told Scroll.in, “This is a directive which is passed by the state government. It is an umbrella act by the UP state government under which... it is a statutory requirement by the state government.”
In June 2019, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet had passed an ordinance making it mandatory for new and existing private universities to give an undertaking that they would not be involved in “any anti-national activity”.
When pointed out that the 2019 ordinance only asked the universities to commit to state governments and not the parents and students, Chadha said, “How will the university enforce [the ordinance] until and unless they are not duty-bound. There is a directive by the UP government that percolates down to the students and whoever is coming for admission. They have to abide by that.”
The undertaking defined “anti-national activity” as one “which is unlawful in the opinion of the university”. It described such activities in five bullet points:
1) To be a part of any unlawful activity, on whatsoever grounds, which may lead to or incite violence against the state or other people.
2) Any unlawful thoughts or actions leading to cessation or secession of any territorial part of India or any action which is against the national interest.
3) Any activity which disclaims, questions, threatens, disrupts, or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty or integrity and unity of India, including its security.
4) Any unlawful activity, which is intended, or which is part of a scheme, which is intended to overthrow by force the government, create internal disturbance or disrupting of public services and threatens to disrupt peace, security, public order, safety, harmony amongst regional groups or castes or communities.
5) Participate in any unlawful gathering or protest.
In case, one is found indulging or supporting such “anti-national activity”, it should be considered a “major violation”, the undertaking stated. It also warned that the repercussions could be many, including immediate expulsion from college.
The Bennett University also said it has the “unfettered right” to report such activity to any law enforcement agency.
It also added that people signing the undertaking are required to “immediately bring to the knowledge of the university, if any other student or professor has indulged in anti-national activity”.
When asked about this specific clause, Chadha said, “Yeah, it is there that at the moment if any activity...they must bring it to the notice”.