NEW DELHI: In less than two months, three central universities in the country have witnessed unprecedented violence, but the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, who is the Visitor to all central universities in the country, has maintained silence.
Students of Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia have faced attacks by either police or goons in the last 45 days, around the same time that anti-CAA protests began across the country.
On Thursday, a man fired at a group of anti-CAA protesters at JMI, injuring one student. Jamia Milia Islamia Teachers’ Association Secretary Majid Jamil said that it was“surprising that there has been no communication from the President.”
Academic atmosphere is disturbed in these universities. The President of India should intervene immediately so the government feels empathy towards the students,” he said.
On January 5, scores of masked outsiders roughed up students and teachers protesting the hostel-fee hike at JNU. At JMI and AMU, it was the police, which rained lathis on students and tear-gassed them, while also violating the requirement of permission from university authorities to enter the respective campuses.
The silence of the President is telling since he was approached multiple times by JNU teachers since the hostel-fee hike protests began. A day after the January 5 violence on the campus, the members of the JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) wrote to him, pleading for his intervention in sorting out the turmoil but there has been no word from the President, JNUTA said.
According to the Central Universities Act, 2009, the President by virtue of being also the Visitor to all central universities, is entitled to direct a probe or inspection into the working of the universities. And in case he or she is not satisfied with the response given by the university, has the power to “order in writing, annul any proceedings of universities, which is not in conformity with the Act, Statutes, or Ordinance”.
The President’s silence evokes curiosity as the educational institutions under attack have a proven record of academic excellence, a fact borne out by their winning annual Visitor’s award several times in the past.
Presenting the awards two days after the JMI incident on December 15, President Kovind failed to mention the turmoil, even as he eulogized the campus as a space for nurturing free expression and ideas.
Awarded yet ignored?
JNU received the Visitor’s award in 2017, while Asad Ullah Khan, an AMU professor got this award jointly with another professor in the category of ‘Research in Biological Sciences’ in 2019.