New Delhi- Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi has implemented strict regulations outlined in its updated Chief Proctor Office (CPO) manual, which now forbids any form of protests, including wall posters, Dharnas, or demonstrations, within a 100-meter radius of academic buildings. Violation of this rule may result in fines of up to Rs 20,000 or even expulsion. This marks a significant expansion from the previous restriction, which only applied to protests within 100 meters of administrative blocks.
The revised manual, approved by the Executive Council, is perceived as an effort to suppress dissent, particularly in the wake of an incident in October where an "anti-national" slogan was discovered on a building within the university premises.
The JNU Students' Union has vehemently opposed these rules, characterizing them as an attempt to quash the distinctive campus culture. Despite calls for clarification, the university administration has yet to respond.
The manual grants the Vice-Chancellor or the competent authority the authority to determine punishable acts, imposing fines for activities deemed derogatory, anti-national, or disruptive. Students facing repeated punishments may face expulsion, and false allegations could lead to rustication. Notably, cross-examination during proctorial inquiries is no longer permitted, with the Vice-Chancellor's decision considered final in case of disputes.
The Mooknayak approached a JNU professor for a comment but he refused to speak about it.
It may be noted that, earlier there was a ban on protests within 100 meters of administrative blocks by the High Court order. However, recent updates have extended the restrictions to cover academic buildings and areas where classes are held.
Regarding the amendments to the previous rules and the new rules, JNU PhD student Aishe Ghosh told The Mooknayak that, “Earlier, when you protested, you had the right to cross-examine. If your name is given incorrectly then you could have done the examination. You had a rule that whoever complained against you, you could call them and talk to them face to face and get them to prove whether it is true or not? Now that cross examination itself has been abolished. This means that if there is a protest and someone tells you that you were also in the protest, then the same will be accepted. you can not do anything."
“Their intention is to completely end the protest culture on campus. Because JNU has a history in the last 50 years. This is an attempt to end what has been an open platform for people from all walks of life. In the New Testament this is also a game of money making through 'fines'. When the fine was Rs 5,000, the figure for 2017-18 is that Rs 14 lakh was collected from the fines of students. Now that the fine has become Rs 20,000, lakhs of rupees will be recovered from the students”, said PhD student Aishe Ghosh.
This development follows the October incident involving an "anti-national" slogan on the School of Languages building, prompting the university to take more stringent measures.
Himanshu, a member of the All India Students Association (AISA) and a PhD student at JNU, and researcher at the Center for Political Studies, tells The Mooknayak about the process by which a manual should be brought in, or changes wanted to be made, What will be its form, what will be its processor? All these processes were not followed and suddenly this rule was imposed.
“In today's time, fellowships are decreasing, basic resources are decreasing, expenditure on education is decreasing. Privatization is in full swing, fees are increasing and on the other hand, such financial burdens are being imposed on students in the name of fines. As a student, he should have the rights which should enable the student to fight for his rights, speak, listen…they want to end all this. These people (university) want to destroy the democratic spirit. These students are trying to tell the community that if you protest, if water is not available, and you stand up for water, if you question not getting quality food, then we (the university) will do all this on you”, PhD student Himanshu explained the university's intention behind bringing the new rule.
AISA member Himanshu further said, “We have not yet given any demand letter or memorandum to the university in this regard. But, we are preparing for a big movement. Last time also there was opposition to such things, this time also we will oppose this undemocratic rule.”
Anagha Pradeep, Councillor, JNU Students' Union, Secretary, DSF told The Mooknayak that This is not the first time the JNU Administration has tried to impose such dictatorial rules on the students. Earlier this year, the administration brought in a similar manual, which it was forced to retract after united resistance from students. The university administration has once again unilaterally imposed the manual on students without any discussion or deliberation with stakeholders of the university.
"The administration wants to criminalize dissent on campus and silence students who have been fighting for their basic rights. JNU has been known for its democratic and inclusive model of functioning, which the current regime and the university administration wish to dismantle."
She added, "The university is currently facing a number of issues including infrastructural crisis, delayed hostel allotment and shortened semester, among many others. But, the administration instead of addressing these issues, only want to punish students who are fighting for their rights."
The new regulations explicitly prohibit the printing, circulation, or pasting of posters or pamphlets containing derogatory religious, communal, casteist, or anti-national remarks. Students participating in hunger strikes, dharnas, 'group bargaining,' or any form of protest within a 100-meter radius of academic and administrative complexes face fines, eviction from hostels, rustication, or being declared out of bounds for up to two months.
Forms of coercion such as gheraos and sit-ins are also now explicitly banned. A student receiving five or more punishments during their academic tenure will be expelled from the university, with the administration notifying parents or guardians of the student and posting the information on the official website.
The JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) strongly opposes the new rules, asserting that they aim to suppress the vibrant campus culture that has defined JNU for decades. The JNUSU demands an immediate withdrawal of the Chief Proctor Manual, citing concerns about stifling dissent on campus. The stringent measures outlined in the manual are viewed as an affront to the rich history of dissent and activism that has characterized JNU's identity for many years.