An account on how the poems of a Punjabi Leftist poet sparked up a chain of protests in the University’s Punjabi Department.
“We fought for very basic democratic rights which we think must be provided to the students of a public institution like Delhi University.” Those are straightforward and to-the-point lines from Rajveer Kaur, the president of the student body, Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (BSCEM). It has been a tumultuous time recently for Rajveer and her peers at the organisation getting involved in gheraos, hunger strikes and, tussles against the administration. What prompted all this? For this, we will have to rewind to a few months back.
It was in March when the first signs of trouble began showing. Rajveer, who also happens to be an MPhil scholar in the Punjabi Department of the University of Delhi, had to make a statement on behalf of her organisation and stuck a magazine at a wall and notice board; a work containing the poetry of noted Punjabi poet Avtar Singh Pash and ideas of India’s celebrated martyr Bhagat Singh. For the unacquainted, Pash was a wordsmith known for his strongly Leftist views which he expressed in his works. This angered the Head of Department who ordered this ‘revolutionary’ paraphernalia to be taken down instantly. Rajveer’s act won her a trip to the HoD’s office along with an unwanted complimentary threat of being rusticated if she ever indulged in any such act again. And to top it all, she along with her colleague Manpreet, was detained in the upcoming examination. This is from where the first hunger strike began.
From this personal prejudice rose some personal demands like setting up a committee to look into the biasness towards Rajveer and Manpreet, and some department demands as well such as improvement of basic infrastructural facilities in the Department and to keep all official notices and syllabi in the Punjabi vernacular. It was also asked for the Head of Department to apologise for her behaviour. To compel the administration to accept all the demands, the student organisation took to protesting. Subsequently in a response, the authorities would agree to all the conditions, but only to deny all of it later. And like (almost) every time, the administration agreed to these demands and later denied them.
The heat increased and in these cold months, more gheraos around the administration’s office and a four-day hunger strike (from 24th to 29th November) took place. “The administration tried to break the students’ unity through various repressive methods like even denying the mats and blankets for our night stay. Still we were adamant that unless all our demands are met, we won’t give up.”, Rajveer adds.
As of today, the HoD called a meeting for the MPhil committee at noon. The result of this was holding a re-examination in January, for the paper in which Rajveer got detained. It was also declared that the department would act in the matter of making signboards and official notes in Punjabi and changing the HoD for Manpreet. Although, the BSCEM is celebrating at the moment looking at today as a victory, would the Punjabi Department actually live by its words? That is what will be seen in the coming days.
Feature Image Credits: Shiraz Hussain
Shaurya Singh Thapa