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Unholy ruckus at St Stephen’s

The DUTA members are on a dharna to protest the showcause notice issues to teachers, report Anuradha Mukherjee and Rahat Bano.
By Anuradha Mukherjee and Rahat Bano | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 06, 2008 03:09 AM IST

It was an unprecedented situation for many at St Stephen’s College on Tuesday. Protesting Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) members, accompanied by some college teachers, stormed into the college, only to be faced by a student collective angered by the disruption in the campus by outsiders.

The DUTA members were on a dharna outside the college to protest the showcause notice issued to teachers Sangeeta Luthra Sharma and Tasneem Suhrawardy for allegedly distributing “scurrilous literature” in the classrooms by officiating principal Valson Thampu.

When Thampu refused to come out and meet the teachers, the DUTA members stormed in and started sloganeering outside the staff room where a hurriedly called press conference was being convened.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose and a group of students started shouting anti-DUTA slogans, asking them to vacate the campus. Outnumbered, the teachers’ group, which at first tried to reason with the students, had to retreat.

“We saw these DUTA members walk in and start shouting slogans in front of the staff room. Some of them were squatting. Classes were disrupted. We do not know what has happened, but this is not the way to solve it. Would the teachers have kept quiet if the student body brought the DUSU in?” asked a student who had participated in the protest.

Sharma, however, said the students were instigated by Thampu. “Nobody ever involved the students. This act on part of the OSD is deplorable. Thampu had instigated the students to throw DUTA out. He was sitting in the staff room with some students and press members. No on other than authorised staff members are allowed there,” said Sangeeta Luthra Sharma. Thampu said he was “pained by the behavior of DUTA office bearers”.

Most students asserted they were not taking side, merely trying to uphold the college culture. “The whole thing went out of proportion. Students were really angry about the way DUTA came in and disrupted the college atmosphere. This has been going on for a very long time,” said Boban Varghese Paul, college students’ union president.

Varghese, however, added the teachers were fully within their rights to go to DUTA, as the college was a member of DUTA. The students were also angry about the way they were being dragged into controversy. Sources say some students had signed statements implicating the teachers of distributing material of a defamatory nature. They are also under tremendous pressure to withdraw these statements amid allegations of arm-twisting.

“This is an (showcause) issue that should be solved at the top level, students should not be dragged into this,” said Miguel Queah, another student. Later DUTA president Aditya Narayan Mishra met DU vice-chancellor Deepal Pental to discuss the matter.

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