Delhi University says PhD student ‘brain’ behind protest over BBC film
DU said that PhD student Lokesh Chugh was the “mastermind” of the protests that broke out at the university in January of this year
The Delhi University on Monday told the Delhi high court that it debarred PhD student Lokesh Chugh for a year for being the “mastermind” behind the protests on the varsity campus over screening of the BBC documentary on Gujrarat riots.
In an affidavit before the court, the varsity defended its action against Chugh and said that students who screened the documentary without permission and organised protests despite prohibitory orders indulged in “gross indiscipline”.
Chugh, a PhD research scholar at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Science, had moved the high court against his debarment, and last week the court had observed that there was no “application of mind” by DU while taking action against him. The court also directed the university to provide proper reasoning for the action.
Chugh had contended in his plea that he was not present at the protest site and did not facilitate or participate in the screening in any way.
In an affidavit filed before justice Purushaindra Kaurav, the university said, “The petitioner was actively involved in the attempt to screen the BBC documentary on the university campus to disrupt the academic functioning of the university system. Even otherwise, such an act on his part amounts to gross indiscipline in general, without the permission of university authority,”
“The petitioner has himself admitted that there was a student protest and that the BBC documentary was screened within the University’s campus, which amounts to gross acts of indiscipline...,” the university said in the affidavit.
Twenty-four people were detained when protests erupted at DU’s Arts Faculty on January 27 while students tried to screen the controversial BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’. The central government had declared the documentary “propaganda” and reflection of a “colonial mindset”.
While Chugh has claimed that he was participating in a media interaction outside the Faculty of Arts (main campus) at the time of the protest, the university said the petitioner did not come to the court with clean hands. DU added that Chugh has not provided any documentary proof that he was participating in a live TV debate at the time of the incident.
“The video footage available with DU would show the petitioner’s (Chugh’s) complicity and support for such a protest. Therefore, the petitioner’s absence from the protest site is denied. The video footage would show the petitioner’s presence at the site protest and his complicity in the entire incident,” DU said.
“Merely because the petitioner escaped from police detention on the date of the incident does not absolve the petitioner from acts of indiscipline and disrupting the academic functioning of the university system,” the university said.
The university said that instead of focusing on his research, Chugh was involved in campus politics and was instrumental in inciting other students and engaging in petty politics that were detrimental to the university’s discipline.
DU also said that the disciplinary committee recommended that Chugh be expelled, but the vice-chancellor, the competent authority, took a sympathetic approach and only punished the petitioner by barring him from taking any university, college, or departmental examination for one year.
The university has also said that Chugh and others gathered even after Section 144 Code of Criminal Procedure was in effect.
“In and of itself, this act constitutes gross indiscipline on the part of the petitioner and others against whom disciplinary proceedings have been initiated. Furthermore, it is important to note that Section 144 CrPC was imposed on the University campus by the police from December 31, 2022, to February 28, 2023, and petitioner, as seen on video footage, is seen along with others assembled and actively participating in the unlawful assembly,” the university said.
DU said that Chugh’s debarment resulted from his actions, saying that the petitioner should not have engaged in such acts of indiscipline and that he is not a serious student.
Justice Purushaindra Kaurav scheduled the case for Wednesday, citing that DU’s counter-affidavit was not on file (a hard copy was yet to be submitted).