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How Mumbai students played pivotal role in vice-chancellor’s ouster

From sitting on hunger strikes to moving HC, students made their voice heard against results mess at MU

mumbai Updated: Nov 03, 2017 16:53 IST
Musab Qazi
Sanjay Deshmukh became the first V-C in the history of Mumbai university to get sacked.
Sanjay Deshmukh became the first V-C in the history of Mumbai university to get sacked. (HT File )

During his three years as a law student at Bhagubai Changu Thakur College of Law, Panvel, Amey Malshe stayed away from activism and campus politics. He focused on academics and scored well in every examination. However, all that changed when the result for final semester of the LLB course was delayed by several months, owing to the assessment mess at the University of Mumbai (MU). Malshe decided to make his voice heard.

Earlier this month, Malshe sat on a hunger strike outside Examination House, office of the exam department at the Kalina campus, to protest the results delay. As Malshe refused to budge, the authorities assured him of declaring pending results within a week.

Often accused of being complacent, the results mess saw students from Mumbai take a stand against the MU’s shoddy handling of the new on-screen assessment system. From staging hunger strikes and protests to filing petitions and memoranda, students upped the ante and kept the pressure on varsity officials. The protests resulted in the ouster of former vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh, making him the first V-C in MU’s 164-year-old history to be sacked.

Speaking to HT, Malshe said, “During my entire college life, I had never faced such a problem. So after waiting for a few months, I decided to go on a hunger strike for the benefit of the students affected by the results delay.”

He added that he decided against taking help from political parties, as they have their own agenda. He also wanted his protest to be peaceful.

“Students’ organisations upped their ante against Deshmukh after governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao took a cognisance of the results delay. Firing Deshmukh was a political decision,” said a senior professor from MU.

Criticism of Deshmukh and his actions had started even before Mumbai students began raising their voice against him. In July, activists from Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) made a satirical video titled ‘Vice-Chancellor University of Mumbai, Don’t you believe in Yourself?’. A parody of famous Marathi song, the video got 4,000 hits on YouTube.

“We made the video to spread awareness about the problems resulting from on-screen assessment. Though the issue was being discussed to some extent, the students weren’t aware of its gravity. The [former] vice-chancellor himself seemed clueless about the implications of his decision,” said Budhbhushan Kamble, MU vice-president, ASA.

Student Law Council (SLC), a student’s group from Mumbai, followed up the matter with the governor.

“The [former] vice-chancellor took the decision to implement digital assessment on his own. We submitted three to four memorandums to the governor to draw his attention to the issue,” said Sachin Pawar, president, SLC.

A few of the protesting students took legal recourse against the varsity by filing petitions in the Bombay high court, which were eventually turned down by the court.

“We set an example by fighting against the system. After our petition, several students decided to move court,” said Abhishek Bhat, a student activist from Aam Aadmi Party.