VC ‘loyalists’ on JNU panel to probe attack
While JNUSU and JNUTA are opposing the vice-chancellor (VC) M Jagadesh Kumar’s handling of the attack in which nearly 34 students were injured, the breakaway JNU Teachers’ Federation (JNUTF) has thrown its weight behind the VC, holding the protesting students responsible for the violence.Updated: Jan 10, 2020 10:03 IST
The five faculty members appointed by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration to inquire into Sunday’s mob attack are all members of a breakaway faction of teachers that dissociated from the elected teachers’ body, JNUTA, last November, alleging that the association and students agitating against a proposed fee hike were “hand in glove”.
The appointment of the committee was criticised by both the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) and the elected JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) on the grounds that the panel’s members were “too closely associated with the administration” and would therefore not be able to conduct a “free and fair inquiry”.
While JNUSU and JNUTA are opposing the vice-chancellor (VC) M Jagadesh Kumar’s handling of the attack in which nearly 34 students were injured, the breakaway JNU Teachers’ Federation (JNUTF) has thrown its weight behind the VC, holding the protesting students responsible for the violence.
The JNUSU, however, blames the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for the attack. Some JNUTF members were also named by JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh in her police complaint registered in connection with the January 5 violence.
According to Thursday’s notification, issued by JNU registrar Pramod Kumar, the committee to look into the violence comprises Sushant Mishra, chairperson of the Centre for French and Francophone Studies; Mazhar Asif, chairperson of the Centre of Persian and Central Asian Studies; Sudhir Pratap Singh, professor at the School of Languages; Santosh Shukla, professor at the School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies, and Bhaswati Das, professor at the Centre for Studies in Regional Development.
JNUTA president DK Lobiyal said that the committee appointed by the vice-chancellor is “highly unlikely to conduct a fair inquiry”.
“First of all, we do not want any internal inquiry as long as this vice-chancellor is there. We want him to go. And, how can we expect a fair inquiry in the matter when the panel is completely biased. We reject this committee.”
On November 20, 2019, 112 JNU teachers — of a total faculty strength of about 560 — signed a statement saying that they were breaking away from JNUTA. The statement came at a time when agitating students allegedly confined a woman associate dean in her classroom for hours during their protest against the hostel fee hike. Most of these teachers later announced they were forming their own group: JNU Teachers’ Federation (JNUTF). Nagendra Srinivas, assistant professor at the school of languages and a core committee member of JNUTF, said, “All the 112 teachers who signed the letter had politically dissociated ourselves from JNUTA on ideological grounds. They are not working as the teachers’ union but doing politics at the campus.”
Earlier this week, Asif was named by JNUSU members for inciting violence against students. “Mazhar Asif threatened protesting students with a lathi in November; he also threatened students and incited violence on January 4,” JNUSU vice-president Saket Moon said.
According to JNUSU general secretary Satish Yadav: “Asif was present along with other JNUTF members when I was beaten by on January 4 near the School of Biotechnology. What kind of inquiry they will conduct when they were silently watching us beaten? I will soon file a police complaint naming more JNUTF members in connection with January 5 incident.”
Asif, Mishra, Pratap and Shukla did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment. Das said she was yet to receive a communication from the administration on her appointment in the panel.
“I had dissociated with the JNUTA because they took some very wrong stands during the students’ strike. I am still paying my subscription to the teachers’ association. As far as the allegation of being closed to the administration is concerned, I was equally closed to the former VC. It doesn’t make any difference in my role at the committee,” Das added.
Of the five members of the committee, Mazhar Asif has been part of several controversies during his time in JNU.
His appointment to the faculty came under scanner in 2017, when teachers alleged that he was brought in bypassing due process. Aisha Kidwai, who was the JNUTA president at that time, said, “He was appointed as a faculty within a month of being nominated as a member of the JNU executive council by the MHRD (ministry of human resources development). He was a member of the executive council that takes the call on appointments. One cannot be on the executive committee and also be an applicant. It clearly shows he is the administration’s person.”
Asif was later appointed as the acting dean of the School of Arts and Aesthetics.
He was removed in March 2018 through a court order after a section of teachers moved the Delhi high court. He was then appointed as the chairperson of the linguistic centre in July 2018. Asif was again removed within a few days after teachers moved the court citing that a Persian professor could not be the chairperson of the linguistics centre, according to the rules.
“We can expect similar kind of inquiry from this committee like the one the VC-appointed committee did in February, 2016. The report was later not accepted by the court,” Kidwai said.
JNU rector Chintamani Mahapatra said that the allegations levelled by both JNUSU and JNUTA were “baseless”. “We do not have to react on everything unnecessarily raised by them,” he said.