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  • Vidhi Bhutra

Jindal retracts the suspension of protesting students; calls it a matter of perception.

On 29th July, three students from O. P. Jindal University, Sonipat were suspended for distributing magazines that contained “politically sensitive materials” and for displaying unruly conduct with the “intention of disrupting the integrity of the university campus.”

Distribution of a Marxist magazine

Nazariya is a Marxist magazine by the students of the university that focuses on the issues faced by the working class, peasants, students, intellectuals, and professionals. Their first issue was released in March 2023 and did not stir up any commotion, unlike this time around.

On 28th July, the students set up a stall within the university premises (Adda) to distribute the second issue of the magazine, titled - “Land Struggles in India”. Shortly after, the administration, along with security staff seized three of their magazines for inspection and demanded that the stall be closed down. The security officers asked the students for their names, ID number, and room number.

“Next day we set up our stall again, and we made it clear to them that it is a matter of our democratic right of freedom of speech and expression,” said Ramnit Kaur, a third-year student at Jindal Global Law School.

Photo credit: Mukundan

Forceful shutdown of the stall

On 29th July, in the evening, admin officials ordered the college security to confiscate all articles including magazines and posters. The students were threatened with expulsion for not giving up the published material easily. However, the Chief Proctor, Professor Karan Latayan, Associate Professor of Commercial Law, at Jindal University, later clarified that no such threat was part of the official order.

Mukundan, a second-year law student, reinstated how the security guards, who were given the orders to take away the articles, were respectful of the “democratic space” of the students, unlike the higher-ups in the security. The students believe that the clamp down on their magazine is a violation of their democratic space and their right to freedom of speech and expression.

In response to the seizure, Mukundan sat on a hunger strike, which lasted for almost a day. Ramnit and Val Varshri, a fifth-year law student, later joined the sit-in protest.

Suspension orders

Minutes after the confiscation of all materials related to Nazariya, the students running the stall received an email from Latayan informing them of their suspension with immediate effect. The email stated that the Chief Proctor’s Office had taken suo moto cognizance of the situation.

Later, as part of the negotiations, Latayan reaffirmed to the suspended students that he did not personally think of the magazines as “disorderly” or “disruptive,” said Ramnit.

The mail accused the students of setting up a stall within the university premises without the permission of any authority and “issuing calls to the larger student community to disrupt the day-to-day functioning of an educational institution.”

Photo credit: Mukundan

Many students came out in support of the protesters. Some joined them on-site, while others stood in solidarity through social media.

“Individual business initiative […] they put scanners, QR Code, etc. in public spaces, they don't have to take the permission of the Chief Proctor to promote their businesses. If they are allowed to carry out their businesses in public spaces, we should be allowed to circulate our magazines” said Ramnit in her interview to The Edict.

Arghya Nath, Head of Counseling Services, Centre For Wellness & Counseling Services, Jindal Global University, mediated between the students and the administration. After meeting and discussing the students’ demands, further communication took place over call.

Retraction of suspension

Distribution of Nazariya magazines without censorship, revocation of the suspensions, and the return of the seized magazines were the demands set forth during the negotiations.

On 31st July, Latayan met with the students and promised to fulfill all the demands. Before this, the administration was not willing to give a written confirmation.

Ramnit further added how he saw it all to be a matter of perception in the way the event had unfolded, and denied all probable insinuations against the magazine. All the demands were met by the administration after the negotiations.

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