Ab Tak 149: Corrupt AMU V-C On Suspension Spree

AMU under its present VC is being run in a style that will put even any medieval monarchy to shame. A prestigious Central University with a glorious past is being turned into a concentration camp for the students and faculty alike, with not-too-hidden blessings of the UPA govt at the centre. Continuing with his authoritarian and draconian crackdowns on the students, the AMU VC has suspended one more student, Mohd. Adil Hossain, a student of M.A. (Previous) Mass Communication on 3 June, 2010. The official notice served to Adil Hossain claims that he is being suspended for “incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet”!! Can anything be more absurd and outrageous than this, where a university systematically throws out its students for merely airing their opinions about the institution they study?

We have not forgotten how a senior faculty member, Dr. Siras, was witch-hunted for his homosexual orientation, illegally suspended and finally pushed to death by the AMU administration. The VC and his cohorts orchestrated and enacted this barbaric show even in the face nationwide public outcry and condemnation.

Mired in numerous charges of financial and administrative corruption exposed in the Executive Council of the university itself and facing high-level enquires, the corrupt VC and his administration are hell bent upon quelling any criticism in any form. The paranoia of the corrupt VC has reached such a state that his authoritarian tactics are transgressing all norms of civility and reason.

University or a Prison cell

24X7 Survillence on Students and Faculty : The present AMU VC has installed 57 CCTV cameras, night-vision devices and other high-tech gadgetry worth Rs. 10 crore for a 24×7 vigil on the campus.

Banning of Any Poster in the Campus: In reply to an RTI filed on the issue of pasting of posters within the campus, the proctor’s office has replied that “pasting of news paper cuttings/posters on the walls of the Hall and other premises of the university would also be dealt harshly with the students( they may face severe punishment).” There is no specific board arranged by the university authorities in the whole university where students can paste their posters or any other items. The earlier notice board at the entrance of Moulana Azad Library was also removed making it impossible for students to convey any information through this medium.  Clearly, there is no way a student can register dissent on campus – neither through posters and leaflets nor through holding signature campaigns or rallies as that gets them suspended from the university.

Spy Network in the Campus : The current AMU administration has repeatedly proven to be intolerant and undemocratic in its functioning. The existence of the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) has been a constant source of nuisance and problem on the campus. Its criminal role in the witch-hunt of the senior faculty member Dr. Siras is well known by now. In a report in the Indian Express dated April 10th 2010, AMU Proctor Md Zubair Khan confirmed: “There is such a proctorial team on the university. You can call it a local intelligence unit where students give information about campus activities and unwanted elements.” After a huge public outcry over the presence of a ‘spy agency’ -a first of its kind- in any educational institution in India, the AMU administration, including the Vice-Chancellor, went over to deny its presence and have started calling it a mere “watch and ward” team. but students know that the LIU has remained active in the campus and continued to perform their spy activities. In an RTI filed to confirm details regarding the existence of the LIU, the Proctor’s Office has admitted that the LIU exists in AMU and that they spend 1.2 lakh per month in paying salaries to people employed to carry out its activities. The CPIO(Budget) of AMU in the letter (vide D.No.990/FO dated 30.10.09) stated AMU doesn’t have any fund meant for anything called LIU. So the obvious question that arises is- who pays for the 14 lakh per annum spent by the administration on this spy agency and whether any other funds from the university are being diverted for its functioning? In a subsequent RTI, the proctorial office has denied the existence of an LIU but several other RTI replies mention a body called the LIU.

Adil’s ‘Crime’ : Ostensible ‘reasons’ for Adil’s suspension “that he has been incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet” arise from the fact that Adil has been raising concerns about each of these grave violations of basic democratic rights of the campus community. First time he was suspended last October for being part of the student movement protesting the shocking murder of an AMU student. Subsequently he had criticized the installation of the CCTV cameras on campus and being a resident student was fighting for the right to freedom of expression on the university campus especially after the illegal suspension and subsequent death of Dr. Siras.  The question that must be asked is who is tarnishing AMU’s prestige- the VC who has turned this prestigious university into a concentration camp or those who are speaking out to preserve the basic democratic ethos and values sans of which no university can survive?

However, Adil is not the only victim.

According to the RTI data compiled by Shahzad Alam, a former AMU student, Adil Hossain is the 149th student to be suspended or rusticated during the term of the current Vice Chancellor PK Abdul Aziz. RTI reveals that in 2007, 32 students were suspended in September, 6 in August, 26 in October and 15 in November. In 2008, roughly 10 students were suspended. Of the students who were suspended in 2007, 28 students were rusticated in 2008. 31 students were suspended in 2009 of which 18 were suspended in November. Of the suspended students, four were rusticated. In 2010, 12 students had been suspended till April taking the total count to 148 students who had been suspended, rusticated or both.

Recently, another Mass Communication student, Mr. Afaq Ahmed has also been suspended from the university since April 22, 2010 for the ‘crime’ of filming the experiences of the student-managed Dining Hall system at V.M.Hall. This was also a case of total denial of his fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. Recently suspended Adil filed an RTI to the PIO of AMU ( Ref No. 98/CAPIO/F/10-11 dated 28/04/2010) about the grounds for arbitrary suspension of Mr.Afaq Ahmad. In the reply to the RTI (vide D.No 93/BRH dated 29.05.2010) to the question “whether a student need permission from Provost or not to shoot a video inside a Hall”, Provost accepted “there is no Rule/Ordinances/ Regulation explicitly prohibiting making of video clip of Hall without the permission of the Provost.” And yet Afaq stood suspended!

And now with Adil’s suspension, the VC seeks to assert that students are debarred from airing any opinion even on blogs and websites!!!

With students getting more and more vocal about the official surveillance, the number is likely to rise. “This AMU has no difference with Hitler’s Nazi Regime where dissent was not tolerated at any cost. In a situation where we do not agree to a decision made by the AMU authorities what are the options available to us to register our dissent?” asks Adil Hossain.

All Powerful ‘Irfan Habib Lobby’ of AMU is Backing this Medieval Autocracy!

What is most unfortunate is that in this dangerous and reactionary game of the AMU administration, it has found support from the powerful Prof. Irfan Habib lobby of ‘progressive’ CPI(M). In a shocking stance (reported in Tehelka, UP edition, 30th April), Prof. Habib has justified the presence of spies and LIUs in AMU. According to him, they have been present in AMU since 1980-81. He has said that there is nothing wrong in the existence of such agencies – since it ‘frees teachers from administrative chores’ and enables them to concentrate on academics! It is indeed shocking that such a defence of blatant violation of civil rights in a university campus is coming from a historian of Prof. Habib’s stature. The fact that he commands considerable sway in the AMU campus and draws clout from CPI(M)’s political establishment, makes his stance doubly detrimental and goes against the struggle for democratising the AMU campus.

End the Authoritarian and Barbaric Regime of AMU VC!

Clearly, Adil’s suspension is just the last example in a long list of autocratic decisions that the VC of AMU has taken since his term started. The University was closed Sine Die last September amidst protests regarding the murder of a student on the campus and the bad safety conditions and poor security facilities prevailing on campus. 6 students were then suspended for voicing their protest against the conditions prevailing on campus. The shameful role which the university played in the suspension and subsequent death of Dr. Siras, a reader of Marathi, for indulging in “immoral activities” was nothing short of criminal. Student Union Elections remains banned on campus and clearly so is speaking out against the administration.

We condemn the state to which the students and teachers of the university have been reduced to under the exercise of arbitrary powers by the university administration. It would be a national ignominy and shame if a public funded central university of the country of AMU’s repute is allowed to become the burial ground of the very ideas and values that define a university. We call upon all the democratic voices in different university campuses and larger civil society to join us in this campaign to uphold the right to freedom of expression and basic rights of the students and faculty of AMU.

Bhopal Disaster Then! Judicial Disaster NOW!

Bhopal Gas Disaster Verdict: Virtual Clean Chit for the Worst Corporate Crime

More than 25 years after the infamous Bhopal Gas Disaster, a trial court in Bhopal has delivered a verdict that is nothing but a cruel mockery of justice. Not only does the verdict insult the victims of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters by letting off the mighty CEOs who were the chief perpetrators either scot free or with a ridiculously light sentence, it amounts to an assurance to MNCs they will enjoy total impunity in India even when their negligence and violations of regulations leads to loss of thousands of Indian lives and injury to several thousand more.

In December 1984, 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) leaked out of the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, exposing over 5,00,000 people to the toxic fumes. 25,000 people died as a result, and hundreds of thousands of persons suffered irreversible damages to their health. The poison in the soil and water continues to affect future generations.

After over 25 years, the trial Court gave its verdict allowing the Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson (declared an absconder) to go scot free, while convicting eight representatives of the Indian operatives Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) including former UCIL Chairman (and present CEO of Mahindra and Mahindra) Keshub Mahindra for a mere two years. All those convicted of course received bail on the same day for a surety of Rs 25000 each!

US Protection for Criminal Corporates

The injustice of the Bhopal verdict is not just a comment on judicial failure to deliver justice – it rings a warning bell that every Indian should heed. It warns us as to how Indian lives are endangered by the Indian establishment’s policy of pandering to the United States and its corporations (a policy of which the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill is the latest example). The US establishment is fully aware of these implications: it has reacted to the Bhopal verdict by “hoping that the verdict will not affect” the growing ties between India and the US and the Nuclear Liability Bill in particular, and instead will provide “closure” for the victims of the tragedy.

For the Obama Administration to speak of the verdict offering “closure” to the Bhopal Gas victims is a callous act of adding salt to injury. The US has ruled out any discussion of extradition of Warren Anderson to face criminal charges in India, and is urging India to pass the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill that seeks to absolve protect the US suppliers of nuclear reactors from liability to pay compensation in the case of a nuclear accident, and to cap the liability of operators at a mere $470 million – a sum that the Bhopal experience has proved to be grossly inadequate. Contrast this attitude of the US with the Obama Administration’s angry declarations to pursue criminal charges against British Petroleum for the oil spill off the Louisiana coast that claimed 11 lives recently. Protecting US corporations from civil and criminal liabilities for Indian lives lost, and pursuing criminal charges against corporations responsible for American lives lost – the shameful US double standards are all too apparent!

Shameful Complicity of Indian Establishment

Paving the way for the trial court’s verdict were a series of Supreme Court verdicts as well as the attitudes of Governments at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh that sought to absolve the guilty corporation of responsibility. In 1989 the Supreme Court set its seal of approval on the agreement reached between Union Carbide and the Central and Madhya Pradesh Governments freeing Union Carbide from civil liabilities to pay compensation and damages. In 1996 the Supreme Court quashed charges against culpable homicide against the Bhopal accused: in spite of the evidence that Union Carbide was aware of the consequences of the leak of lethal gas, it allowed prosecution only on charges of “rash and negligent” acts that carries a maximum sentence of two years.

The Indian Government and India’s major ruling class parties the Congress and the BJP have their own shameful share in protecting killer corporations and mocking the victims of Bhopal. The BJP Government of MP and the Congress-led UPA Government represented by the Union Minister for Environment at the Centre marked the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster in December last year by uniting in a bid to declare the Union Carbide site and the soil and water of adjoining areas free of pollution. The Indian Government has done nothing to demand that Warren Anderson, CEO of Carbide, be extradited to India to face trial. Dow Chemicals, which has taken over Carbide, has refused to take responsibility for cleaning up the Union Carbide factory wastes, yet Indian ruling class parties and governments have done their best to roll out the red carpet for Dow. Among those who have pleaded and lobbied on Dow’s behalf between 2005 and 2007 are Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Home Minister (then Finance Minister) P. Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, as well as Ratan Tata. Following the trial court verdict, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi has shed crocodile tears for the Bhopal victims by demanding that the laws on rash and negligent acts be made more stringent. This posturing is exposed by the fact that Singhvi himself is also the long-term legal counsel for Dow Chemicals!

The Bhopal disaster is a damning instance of how the Indian ruling class’ policy of pandering to the US and its corporations is injurious to the health and safety of India’s people. Not only must we protest against the shameful verdict and demand that Warren Anderson be extradited, Dow Chemicals be made to pay for clean up of the polluted sites and medical care of the victims, and blacklisting of Union Carbide and Dow; we must also strive to scrap the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill to ensure that the tragedy of Bhopal and its shameful consequences are never repeated on Indian soil!

AISA In Tamil Nadu: Raising a Voice Against the Rampant Privatization of Education

Over the last few years, AISA has been consistently raising its voice against the rampant privatization of education in Tamil Nadu and the education policies of the state government which are directly responsible for plunging education into the current situation.

Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government appointed a committee under the leadership of K.Govindharajan to fix a fee structure for private schools with the stated intention of regulating their money-making activities.  After its deliberations, the committee fixed the following scales:  Rs.11,000 per year for higher secondary schools, Rs.9000 per year for high schools, Rs.8,000 per year for middle schools, and Rs.5,000 per year for elementary schools. In response to these recommendations, the lobby of private school owners filed a Special Leave Petition before the Apex court, but the court dismissed their petition

Having their efforts frustrated in this fashion, the private school owners decided to take to strong-arm tactics. They have refused to reduce their fees and accept the fee rates suggested by the government. They are now proclaiming that they will not open their schools after the vacation, a step which will cause great harassment to students and worry to their parents.

AISA holds that these moves by the Tamil Nadu government are only a means of shirking their responsibility to provide free and quality education to students at all levels of education. While the Tamil Nadu government is taking 6500 wine shops under its control, it believes that private operators can be allowed to run freely in the state. This is a state where the quality of education has been dropping rapidly as private operators are allowed to run schools like businesses and extort ever larger sums of money from people. The desire for “quality education” even leads parents to pay huge capitation fees at the time of admissions: most of the big private schools today are collecting donation for the kindergarten of 15,000 rupees and more than a staggering 1 lakh rupees for entrance to class 1. The Tamil Nadu governments’ attempts to fix a fee structure for private schools will only lead these schools to extort ever larger amounts as capitation fees from parents and students.

AISA demands that the Tamil Nadu government be forced to reassert its responsibilities towards the field of education and provide free, fair and quality education to students of all ages. In particular, providing quality education to students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be a priority. Non-compliant private schools should be brought under government control and private school owners who are harassing students and parents by refusing to reduce their fees should be arrested immediately.

AISA has consistently put forward these demands organizing a demonstration in Chennai city on 15th May which was attended by more than 200 people. On June 2nd, the Directorate of School Education for the state of Tamil Nadu was gheraod by AISA activists after which the office issued a promise to take action within a month’s time. On June 19th 2008, AISA will be organizing a human chain in Chennai demanding that the Tamil Nadu government immediately take action against all the defaulting schools and to urge the Tamil Nadu government to further reduce the fee structure for private schools fixed by the Govindarajan Committee in order to reduce the burden on poor parents since the fee structure fixed by the Committee itself is very high.

Student’s Protest Against Donations In Karnataka

Condemn The Collection of Donations By Private Educational Institutes !

Provide Free, Fair and Quality Education To All !!

Protesting against the collection of exorbitant donations from students by several colleges including S.H. Jain College, SIJM College and HPS College in Harapnahalli Taluk, Davangere District, Karnataka, the Karnataka AISA unit organized a large scale protest demo on June 1st in front of all the three colleges which was attended by more than 200 students demanding that the donations be paid back to the students.  The colleges had been demanding donations from students of more than double the amount of the actual fees. The protest has resulted in the college administration being forced to repay the amounts collected from students as donation.

“Private educational institutes are robbing the poor in the name of education. We demand that the schools and colleges collecting donations should return the money within 15 days, if not, protest rallies will be held before government offices. The government should cancel the registration of schools which are accepting donations.” said AISA State Secretary, E. Ramappa. A memorandum was submitted to the Tahsildar of Harapnahalli demanding that a task force be constituted during the time of admissions and reopening of schools and colleges to look over the modalities of admissions into these educational institutes. The Tahsildar accepted the memorandum and has assured the representation that a meeting of heads of schools and colleges will be called to discuss the relevant concerns under the chair of the Deputy Commissioner.

Paying Donations is not the only problem that students in the Taluk face. Essential foodstuffs in hostels were not being provided to students due to the negligence of hostel wardens. Following a confrontation with the wardens, a small protest was organized and the hostel wardens had to submit to the demand of the students that all hostel facilities, so long denied, be extended to them.

The fact that private educational institutes are getting away with collecting donations is a common fact. AISA demands that the Karnataka State Government take stock of the matter and ensure that free, fair and quality education be provided to students of the state. In cases where private educational institutes are asking for donations, we demand that the government immediately cancel the licenses provided to these institutes to function. AISA calls upon students to join the struggle for democracy and social transformation in education !