On the anniversary of the vandalism at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in Delhi in which students and teachers were attacked, faculty members have complained of a spate of burglaries in their quarters which they allege is a conspiracy aimed at bullying them for supporting students and standing up to and voicing protest against the administration.
Professor Shefali Jha in the Uttarakhand block of the JNU campus alleged that her residence was burgled on New Year’s eve. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA) has claimed that some teachers, who have stood by a section of students since 2016, are being targeted.
On January 5, 2020, about 100 masked men entered the JNU campus, vandalised its property and resorted to violence that left 36 students, teachers and staff injured. So far, no arrests have been made despite the police releasing names of nine suspects immediately after the attack.
The JNUTA issued a press statement registering its disquiet about the lack of security on the campus which, it claims, has led to the spate of robberies in the quarters of faculty members.
Professor Shefali Jha said she had gone out with her family to celebrate New Year on December 31, 2020. When she returned home on the evening of January 1, she found the house burgled.
In recent days, burglaries have been reported in the houses of professor Avijit Pathak, professor Sabaree Mitra and several others living on the JNU campus. Moushumi Basu, secretary of JNUTA, told The Federal: “During the lockdown, 11 such burglaries happened and now three more have been reported. We want the administration to take full responsibility for the lapses and bring out an action-taken report on all the incidents of thefts that have happened on the campus in the last two years.”
JNU registrar Pramod Kumar, however, denied JNUTA’s charges. “Our campus is big with many houses. We have asked those who leave their homes unattended to inform security so we can increase vigilance. However, the owners of these particular houses did not inform us. They should also cooperate with us. For those who have servants’ quarters, we’ve asked them to get police verification done. But they don’t cooperate in this either,” Kumar told the media.
The JNUTA condemned the registrar’s statement. “One can only conclude from this brazen buck-passing that the administration itself is colluding with anti-social elements to encourage thefts as a form of faculty intimidation for resisting their administrative illegalities. There is not a word of regret nor admonishment of Cyclops, the agency responsible for providing security on campus, which has access to all the CCTV cameras and entry/exit doors,” the statement said.
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Basu said that thefts were reported even in the homes of those who had sought security in advance. “One can only conclude that there is a conspiracy afoot to subject residents of the campus to bullying tactics that are insidious — a hallmark of this vice-chancellor’s way of functioning,” the statement added.
“Attacks on teachers have been happening since 2016. Every time a teacher supports a student, he comes under the radar of the administration. This looks like a clear plan by the administration to silence teachers and students who speak out against them. Several professors have resigned in the past as a result of this,”said Moushumi Basu.
Security agency under scanner
JNUTA also questioned the role of Cyclops, a security agency which was brought in by the administration in late 2019. Basu said the number of personnel employed for security duty is half of what it was earlier. Besides, the charges paid to them are way above what JNU was paying before for security services, she said.
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The JNUTA secretary said Cyclops failed to check unrestricted entry of outsiders on the JNU campus on January 5, 2020, when large-scale violence broke out and several people were left injured. She demanded the termination of Cyclops Security Agency’s contract.
Aditya Mukherjee, a historian from JNU, said, “Since 2016, when the new vice-chancellor (VC) took charge, everything the government says has been imposed on the university. Whoever protests against such imposition has to face the VC’s ire.”
The historian said: “JNU was made by the hard work of 50 years, now they are trying to break it.”