Students protesting at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law in Patiala, Punjab, have boycotted the mid-semester examinations in protest against the suspension of six students on Friday. The exams began on Monday.
A first-year student said that only the fifth-year students have appeared for the exams, while students from other batches continue to protest. He asked not to be identified, fearing punitive action from the university administration. The Rapid Action Force of the Central Reserve Police Force was posted on campus on Monday, although students insist the demonstration is entirely peaceful.
The protests began on Friday, after six students were suspended for demonstrating against the poor quality of food in the boys’ hostel. They were accused of destroying university property by banging their steel plates and suspended, allegedly without any hearing. The six were not barred from taking the mid-semester examinations but they would have had to stay outside the campus in Patiala city, roughly 10 kilometres away.
Students have also been protesting against the different curfew timings for male and female students – women have to report to their hostel rooms by 9 pm whereas men can stay out till 1 am. They have also sought action against an administrative officer whom they accuse of harassment and sexism.
On Sunday, the university appeared to have capitulated to most of these demands. A statement from the registrar said the university had “revoked the suspension of the six students”, the administrative officer was being sent on leave “with immediate effect”, and that a committee was being constituted by the university’s Chancellor Krishna Murari to examine the matter of curfew timings and recommend changes. The chancellor is the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
However, students are not satisfied with the administration’s response. Students fear that the administration may suspend them or impose fines as soon as the protest ends.
“Our demand was the girls’ hostel in-time be extended to 1 am as well but the vice-chancellor told us it will take them two weeks to organise security and even yesterday, [the girls] were locked in,” a student said. “All the note commits is that the in-time will be same for boys and girls.”
Students have also pointed out that the note has not been signed by Registrar Naresh Kumar Vats and appears to bear no date or registration number. The registrar confirmed the note had been issued by him but said he was “not in a position” to answer any other question at the time.
Over the weekend, the law university’s students started rallying support from other universities on social media. On Sunday, some alumni stepped in to “negotiate with the administration” on their behalf.