The University of Delhi’s legacy of rebellion that has been going on since the British rule and emerged again during the 1975 Emergency is still alive and kicking. One can learn lots by simply observing and living around the varsity’s various demonstrations. Over the past decade, DU Beat had the privilege of documenting Delhi University’s most passionate and powerful protests and movements. Let us recall some of the most iconic moments spanning over the last 10 years.
- Ban on A. K. Ramanujan’s Article, 2008
In February 2008, a number of socio-religious organisations including the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Bajrang Dal organised protests and raised objections against the inclusion of an essay by Late A. K. Ramanujan, titled “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation” in the course on Ancient Indian Culture in the B.A. (Honours) History course.
The essay allegedly had references to the characters in the Ramayana, which the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) said hurts Hindu sentiments. While some students and professors had rebuffed this, it drove Mayawati, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to demand a ban on the text.
- Coalition of Teachers’ Unions, 2009
An informal coalition of teachers of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), Jamia Millia Islamia, and the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha held a dharna on 25th February 2009, at the Faculty of Arts. The demonstration was against the perilous proposals of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) draft proposal regarding teachers’ working conditions and the DUTA and Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA) leadership’s insensitivity towards them.
- Anti-Semester Movement, 2011
Despite the High Court order giving the system of ‘semesters’ the green light in November 2010, most teachers insisted that the semester system did no good and in fact lowered academic standards. While the Faculty of Arts approved the semester system in its 11 departments in June 2011, lecturers of Hansraj College, Ramjas College, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, and St. Stephen’s College held classes in the garden next to the Vice-Regal Lodge to oppose the new system. They also launched a signature campaign against the semester system.
- Anti-Rape Protests, 2012-2013
In light of the Delhi gang rape case of December 2012, students of several colleges, notably Indraprastha College for Women, held protest marches to demand a safer city for its women. On 2nd January 2013, approximately 300 girls marched to the Lieutenant Governor’s house and submitted to him a charter requesting a safer campus and police deployment at the Civil Lines Metro station. The protest, which was also attended by the Principal of IP College for Women, Mrs. Babli Saraf, was a peaceful one. Students of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College also held two protests and a tribute for the victim of the brutal gang rape in the same month.
- Parvita Bharadwaj Case, 2013
On 7th October 2013, Pavitra Bhardwaj, a former lab assistant of Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, immolated herself in front of the Chief Minister’s residence and subsequently succumbed to her injuries. Four years prior, she had filed a case of sexual harassment against the Principal of the aforementioned college, A. K. Arora, who had terminated her services in 2012 after the College Complaints Committee had given him a clean chit. After a series of protests by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, the governing body of the college finally decided to suspend Arora.
- FYUP Roll Back, 2014
The dissatisfaction with the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) which was implemented in 2013 fully expressed itself in 2014 with the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) joining the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), and All India Students’ Association (AISA) in opposing the same. A ‘Delhi University bandh’, organised under the leadership of DUSU and ABVP on 17th January 2014 was staged in North Campus, as a result of which attendance was low in most colleges, with a 15% drop in Kirori Mal College. The DUTA also proposed to organise ‘cluster dharnas’ at various colleges while the NSUI went on a hunger strike to demand the rollback of the FYUP.
- Occupy UGC Movement, 2015
On 7th October 2015, the University Grants Commission (UGC) stated that its expert committee had decided to discontinue the non-National Eligibility Test (non-NET) Fellowship. With the decision of slashing the non-NET Fellowship, the stipend was given to the top 15% of the people who appear for NET. This left about 35,000 students without a fellowship. Students affected by the decision began protesting in New Delhi’s ITO area since October 2015, with the protests continuing for months. Other students from the University of Delhi and members of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) also participated in the movement.
- Pinjra Tod, 2015-present
An autonomous feminist collective, which comprises primarily of DU students has been working for the freedom of women within university spaces. Their protests and campaigns have most notably revolved around the abolishment of curfew timings which are discriminatorily implemented in women’s hostels and paying guest accommodations. Their bold and radical ways have been gaining momentum since 2015, with the collective today recognised as a fierce advocate of women’s rights.
- DU Photocopy Case Victory, 2016
In 2012, international publishers from the Oxford and Cambridge University presses sought to clamp a case of copyright infringement on the Rameshwari photocopy shop and the University of Delhi under the Indian Copyright Act 1957. The photocopy shop was actively defended by the students and teachers against the international publishers. On 9th March 2017, three of the publishers withdrew their lawsuit, thus marking a win for the University. This case came to be known as the DU Photocopy Case.
- Ramjas College Controversy, 2017
In February 2017, a seminar organised by Wordcraft, the literary society and the English department of Ramjas College, was disrupted by the members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) who protested against Umar Khalid speaking at the conference. The disruption led to vandalism and violence and raised questions about the freedom of expression which dominated the national news. Gurmehar Kaur, a student of Lady Shri Ram College, became the target of right-wing trolls after she began the ‘Students Against ABVP’ campaign. The episodes of protests and counter-protests culminated with the ‘Save DU’ march that took place on the 28th of February.
- Metro Fare Hike Protests, 2018
Ever since the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) announced a fare hike in October 2017, the University of Delhi has been raging with a number of sit-ins and demonstrations. Several independent student groups as well those affiliated with political parties have come out against the steep rise in metro fare. Some of these protests have been disruptive, with the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) blocking the metro track, while most of them were peaceful like the human chain demonstration of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) outside the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station. Students have also been successful in seeking support from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for their ongoing movement.
Feature Image Credits: The Quint
Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak