After 4 days of hunger strike, protesting day and night, being denied entry in their own campus, and heated discussions with the administration, the students of Delhi School of Journalism called off the protest on 21st September 2018.
On 17th September 2018, violence broke out in the campus of Delhi School of Journalism after the talks with the officials of the University regarding the poor infrastructure facilities reached no conclusion.
The protest took a different turn when a second-year student, Ambuj Bhardwaj was arrested by the Delhi Police. He was dragged by his neck openly in the college premises and was brutally thrashed by them. On speaking to DU Beat, Ambuj said, “We were protesting peacefully near the gate of our college. When we tried to protest near the gate of the Vice Chancellor’s office, the security guards manhandled us, one of my friends was also slapped by the guards. The moment I tried to defend him, the police caught hold of me and thrashed me. I was taken into custody for six hours.” The police was called by the administration to curb the protest. However, the students complained of being manhandled by the police.
When the discussion with the administration of the college and officials of the University didn’t prove feasible, six second-students, namely Ambuj Bhardwaj, Mohammad Ali, Prashant Yadav, Roshan Kumar, Vipul Sharma and, Suman Shekhar went on an indefinite hunger strike. They were supported by both the students of the first and second year. The administration responded by issuing a warning to take disciplinary action against the students who were protesting in the campus. This was ineffective as the students continued their agitation. Continuous health checkups of the students on hunger strike were done by the WUS Health Centre. Vipul Sharma, one of the six students on hunger strike said, “We tried many different methods of protest in the last few months, but the administration did not bother. We could not reach a proper solution to the problem. At the same time, the students were facing huge academic loss. Therefore, we had to take such a radical step. The hunger strike was a pure Gandhian step.”
The students of first and second year also went to different colleges and departments and appealed to them to support and extend their solidarity with them in the cause. Support for the protesting DSJ students came from various students, organisations, political parties, leaders, and teacher associations. On 20th September 2018, Delhi University Teachers’ Association members including the President, Rajib Ray and Treasurer, Najma Rehmani visited the students and appealed to them to end their hunger strike. They spoke about the initial problems associated with implementation of the course and how DUTA was against privatisation of higher educational institution as it would lead to a violation of our democratic and socialist values encompassed in the Indian constitution. While addressing the dissenting students, Rajib Ray talked about the streak of fire the students have evoked in the education industry, which has transcended from the walls of Lutyens Delhi to the entire nation. He underscored how he and his friends used to perform hunger strikes back in their days and how we remind them of the zeal and energy the youth should possess. They extended support and also promised to be present in the rally being organised by the DSJ students on 25th September 2018 against the privatisation of education and high fees. Rajya Sabha MP, Manoj Jha also met the students and understood their grievances. Members of DUTA in their individual capacities extended their solidarity to the students. Abhishek Dutta, Congress leader, Professor Abha Dev Habib, Professor Ratan Lal, Professor Suraj Yadav, students from the Law Faculty, Sunny Chillar and Akshay Lakara and other members from NSUI, newly elected DUSU Vice President Shakti Singh, Kawalpreet Kaur and members of AISA , CYSS, ABVP, SFI, Disha Student Organisation also stood with the agitating students. The members of Academic Council and Executive Council of the University also appealed to the students to end their hunger strike. They also assured that the issue will be raised in their next meeting with full force and no one will be spared. One of the members of the Academic Council promised to make DSJ the best institute for studying journalism.
On 21st September 2018, conditions worsened as Roshan Kumar, one of the students on hunger strike was advised urgent medical help. Ms. Neeta Sehgal, Proctor of the University of Delhi visited the students to resolve the matter. After a series of discussions, the administration and the students settled the matter. Deadlines along with proper details were provided to the students failing which the students demanded the resignation of the administrative authorities- Dr. Manasvini Yogi, Officer on Special Duty and Professor J.P. Dubey, Honorary Director of Delhi School of Journalism. The students called off the hunger strike at 8:00 p.m. in the campus in the presence of the college authorities and fellow students.
On speaking to DU Beat, Mohd Alishan Jaffri, a second-year student of DSJ said, “This is a moment to cheer, not for complete celebration. In all these eight months of protests, the students have fought remarkably with grace. DSJ is an isolated place in North Campus, where half of the colleges in North Campus don’t know about our existence. It’s an island of misery in a fortune called North Campus. We need the world to follow this example and ensure that academic discourses are conducted properly in every public institution. We hope that Delhi School of Journalism becomes the next Columbia School of Journalism. Through DU Beat, I would also like to invite all students, teachers, organisations to be a part of the rally being organized on 25th September.”
The students are organising a DSJ Chhatra Sangharsh Rally on Tuesday, 25th September 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in Arts Faculty. Many organisations and students are expected to be present in the mass rally against privatisation of education.
Feature Images Credits: DSJ students