Pondy varsity debars students for 5 years for protest against fee hike

The students have been told not to enter the university premises for five years. Besides, their final semester results too have been withheld

Several members of parliament (MPs), political leaders and student organizations have come in support of the students and have asked the Pondicherry University management to revoke the punishments immediately..

Parichay Yadav, a 24-year-old native of Haryana, was confident of clearing the final semester exams of MA (Mass Communication) at the Pondicherry University (PU). He had then made plans to pursue a PhD from one of the central universities and PU was his top choice. While he was steadily progressing towards achieving his goal, the university management’s decision to debar him from entering the university premises for five years crashed his dreams. The tough action was initiated because Yadav had protested against fees hike in 2020. Not just that, the final semester results of 11 students, including Yadav’s, have been withheld for the same reason.

“The university had hiked the fees for almost all courses by a significant percentage. Several students had to take up part-time jobs to meet the expenses. So, I along with hundreds of students from various departments staged a protest for 33 days in February, 2020 demanding the management to withdraw the hike,” said Yadav.

Almost 19 months after the protest happened, the university management in December 2021 decided to take disciplinary action against 11 students – eight of them from 2018 – 2020 PG batch, two of them from 2019 – 2021 PG batch and one student from UG integrated course.

The circular said these students are prohibited from seeking admissions to any course/programme offered by the Pondicherry University for the next five years from the present academic year (2021-22) and are debarred to enter the university campus for the next five years. The university has also slapped a penalty of Rs 10,000 on the students, without which, they would be refused a degree certificate.

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Parichary Yadav was then the president of the student council, an elected body of the university. “The role of the student council is to take up issues of students with the management and ensure they are resolved. I was merely doing my work,” he said.

Yadav said they had expected the management to punish them, but did not know it would be so severe. According to the university rules, a person could be debarred only for two years even if he/she had indulged in malpractices continuously for three times.

Several members of parliament (MPs), political leaders and student organizations have come in support of the students and have asked the university to revoke the punishments immediately.

“The university has given a clear message not just to us but also to the current students. The message is that never question the management. They want us to finish our course and leave without raising a voice,” said Abhijeet Sudhakaran, another student who has been debarred.

This is not the first time that the Pondicherry University has tried to suppress the voice of students and curtail their freedom of expression. In 2021, the University had issued a circular limiting scholarships only to those students who have 70% attendance and have not participated in any protest during that semester. The circular was withdrawn shortly after the students opposed it. “There were several instances when the management had both advised and threatened the students against participating in any form of protest,” Sudhakaran said.

About his own experience, Sudhakaran said he had completed the course in 2021. “After I got my marksheets, I approached the department seeking a degree certificate, but they refused to provide it unless I got an NOC from the management. Shortly after, I received a show-cause notice from the university in August seeking explanation for participating in the protest. I replied and the next communication we received was the notice saying disciplinary action was taken against us,” he said. Despite clearing written examinations at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University, he could not attend the interviews to pursue PhD because he does not have the required certificates.

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J Prakash, president of Student Federation of India (SFI – Puducherry) said, “Hundreds of students had participated in the protest, but the university handpicked 11 and punished them. It is victimization of students and an autocratic move on part of the university. It is nothing but curtailing the constitutional rights of the students to express themselves.”

Meanwhile, Pondicherry university non-teaching staff welfare association has come in support of the students. In a letter to the vice-chancellor, association president K Kaliaperumal said that as per the Pondicherry university statutes 40 clause (2), “students have the indefeasible right to represent their grievances, welfare and other matters of importance in respect of working of the university and fees hike is one such matter”. The association has demanded the university to revoke the order.

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Gurmeet Singh, vice-chancellor of the university, said, “Disciplinary action was taken because the students had abused and manhandled the university staff, defaced the university premises and blocked the way of authorities during the protest. There was nothing more serious than what they did.”

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