Pondicherry Uni students protest alleging Registrar and VC ‘saffronising’ campus

Students of Pondicherry University said they would continue protesting unless officials stopped attempting to ‘saffronising’ the campus.
Pondicherry Uni students protest alleging Registrar and VC ‘saffronising’ campus
Pondicherry Uni students protest alleging Registrar and VC ‘saffronising’ campus

Students in Pondicherry University have taken to social media and even held marches across the campus to protest what they claim is an effort by the administration to “saffronise” the institute. They have specifically targeted the University Registrar Dr Sasikanta Das, blaming him for allegedly threatening the secular nature of the campus and have threatened to expose his connection to right-wing organisations in the coming months. 

On Sunday, a march was led by over 400 students of the Students Federation of India, ASA, APSF, and Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India. The students alleged that since November 2016, when Vice Chancellor Gurmeet Singh took over, several “undemocratic” rules were put in place. This included a 6 pm cut off for any kind of gatherings within the campus. But this rule was allegedly set aside for religious events and for when students belonging to the ABVP requested permission to hold gatherings. 

In addition to this, a new board was installed inside the Aurobindo Hostel, which read, 'That which we call the Hindu religion is really the Eternal religion because it embraces all others'.

This board was removed following protests by the students.

A press release by the SFI says, “Such brazen attempts are nothing but visible attempts of saffronisation and pleasing their masters in the Central Government and Raj Nivas of Puducherry.”

‘VC has succumbed to political pressure’

Students have alleged that the Vice-Chancellor, who took over in November 2017, is under political pressure to toe the Centre's line. 

“Prof. Gurmeet Singh the present Vice-Chancellor projected himself as politically neutral VC in the initial days of his appointment. But it appears that he has succumbed to pressure from the saffron brigade both from the Central government as well as from the Union Territory administration in saffronisation of PU. He refuses to even meet students who raise legitimate issues,” alleges a leader from the SFI, who is pursuing his law degree in the University.

“Pondicherry University has been secular for all these 30 years and that is one of the reasons why students from length and breadth of the country come here. But the recent attempts by the administration to saffronise the campus is condemnable,” he adds.

These alleged attempts to saffronise the campus have become after Dr Sasikanta Das took over as Registrar, claim the students.

“The Pondicherry University administration has been selective in promoting campus politics by favouring ABVP. For instance, PU has restricted any kind of gathering within the campus after 6 pm, but has set aside the rule to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi after 7.30 pm in the campus with the idol of Lord Ganesh,” reads SFI’s release.

“But when some other students wanted to do a pride rally when Section 377 was abolished by the Supreme Court, they were restricted to do it before 6 pm. So when it comes to celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi festival they are fine, but they have a problem with pride rallies that too to celebrate the verdict of the Supreme Court,” it says.

In addition to this, while ABVP students were allowed to conduct a party for new students joining the college, the students from other groups were allegedly denied permission to hold a meeting to discuss the Kerala floods and organise relief for the state.

Vice Chancellor Gurmeet Singh, however, dismisses the allegations.

“The University does not recognise any political groups and it wrong if they make these allegations. We won’t recognise SFI or NSUI. They can’t function in Central universities,” he tells TNM.

Addressing the protest over the poster, he says, “It is not about Hinduism. It is a quotation from Sri Aurobindo. We replaced it soon after. We felt it was a philosophy,” he explains.

Left-leaning groups, however, argue that this was merely an attempt to stifle democracy in the campus and have warned of further protests if efforts to saffronise the campus don’t stop.

The University Registrar Dr Sasikanta Das was not available for comment. 

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