Protests take centre stage at Panjab University’s theatre department
Discontent rules: Varsity says 99% demands agreed to, but students say issues not resolved.Updated: Mar 06, 2018 23:20 IST
Are the days of glory well and truly over for Punjab University’s theatre department, founded by none other than celebrated Punjabi theatre director, dramatist and novelist Balwant Gargi?
A six-day standoff between the students and faculty of the department associated with celebrities like Anupam and Kirron Kher, Mahie Gill, Neelam Mansingh and Rani Balbir Kaur does not seem to have been resolved to the students’ satisfaction.
About 17 students of the department held a strike on February 28 and locked the main entrance to the department alleging harassment by the faculty. On the sixth day of their protest on Monday, the authorities had to call the police for access to the department following which the varsity administration intervened and held a meeting, which the students later said did not resolve any thing.
When contacted, the dean, students’ welfare (DSW), Emanual Nahar, however, said, “99% of the demands have been accepted by the vice chancellor in the meeting, today (Monday, March 5).”
A two-day study tour near Palampur has been planned, a faculty member will be appointed, production will be managed in the coming days, and rehearsal time will be extended and a research scholar will look after it. “There will be no deduction of Rs 6,000 from the scholarships that the MA students get each year. A committee will be constituted by VC to look into the improvement of the department’s infrastructure and a research student can work as an attendant in a library and can get paid,” Nahar added.
The students were back again on campus after the talks protesting with posters, some with “Gargi come back” written on them.
The department runs a post graduate course with 28 students. All of them had written to the vice chancellor, complaining about irregular classes, few guest lectures.
Nothing promised in the department’s prospectus has been implemented on ground, they said.
One of the final year students, Abhishek, said, “The department gets Rs 75,000 per year to organise our study tours but nothing has happened in the past two years. We are told that eight guest lectures are supposed to take place in a year but this year only two were organised. We have two guest faculty members but it seems they are also inexperienced. It seems our final years are wasted.”
The students of the department also stated that no production work of the students had been showcased this year as against three in 2017.
Department chairperson Professor Navdeep Kaur said she had tried to talk to the students but they had wanted to talk to the vice chancellor directly. “The students have not given anything in writing to us. Another two months are left for the session to be over and they are protesting for no reason,” she said.
Kaur said the faculty was there to resolve all issues. “The students should talk to us. They should come back to their classes. We are also standing outside the department. Two days before the protest, Neelam Mansingh (Chandigarh-based theatre artist, a Padma Shri and Professor Emeritus PU) had taken the guest lecture. The vice chancellor has assured us that the number of guest lecturers would be increased from four to eight.”
Calling it “an internal matter that needs to be resolved through a dialogue and mutual understanding,” Neelam Man Singh was emphatic when she said “The department exists because of the students and this needs to be resolved. The authorities should participate.”
Another alumnus of the department and Emeritus professor Rani Balbir Kaur, said, “The demands of the students are legitimate. How can the department function with just one faculty? This issue needs to be dealt with sympathetically. If the authorities were turning a deaf ear to them (students), then it was their right to protest and ask for more work.”
However, she added, “I do not appreciate the students locking the department. This is something against the character of an artist. They need to be tolerant. The whole University can be affected with this kind of an activity by the students.”
Rani Balbir Kaur also said that she along with Neelam Mansingh had decided to devote more time to the department for the benefit of students.