Ambedkar University Delhi student fined for criticising Arvind Kejriwal
AUD has fined a student for posting comments questioning a fee hike imposed by it on SC/ST students under a YouTube video of an event where Arvind Kejriwal was the chief guest
Dr BR Ambedkar University Delhi has fined a student Rs 5,000 for posting comments questioning the unreasonable fee hike imposed by the university on Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe students under a YouTube video of the ninth Annual Convocation on December 23, 2020, where Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the chief guest.
Neha, a second year performance studies masters student at the School of Culture and Creative Expression of the university, had posted, “Delhi Government’s Education Revolution is just a farce. They have let down thousands of Ambedkar University Students. Shameful! #AntiStudentKejriwal”.
The order alleges that Neha admitted to having posted these comments and that she did not feel guilty about it. “The sub-committee resolved that the comments made on a public platform about the university community, the chief guest and guest of honour were baseless, disrespectful and clearly amounted to a deliberate attempt to defame and disrespect the university community,” stated the order.
The order states that the proctorial board, which had met on June 7, 2021, decided to do away with her suspension as she is in her final year, but underscored that she would only be able to appear for the exams after compliance with the punishment.
Neha was sent a show cause notice in January to explain the self-explanatory comment, to which she had responded asking which clause under the code of conduct she had violated. She also wanted to know what proof they had about the matter and who had complained since YouTube was a public forum.
A few days after sending her the show cause notice, the university suspended her college student email ID, which is linked to the online classrooms where all the reading material is uploaded. The students also require this ID to submit their assignments and course work.
Dozens of students had posted several comments including those that could be considered abusive. However, none of them received a show cause notice.
“I only use my first name, and it is such a common name. How did the university get details about my comments only? I have only questioned the policy and I was not disrespectful in my comments. Why is that a problem?” asked Neha.
The public relations office of the university, in a press release, claimed, “The 9th Convocation of the University was held in blended mode on December 23, 2020. The students, deans, directors, media persons and invited guests joined the programme through YouTube in online mode. During the proceedings of the Convocation, Ms Neha started disturbing the programme by using YouTube chat room. The comments and remarks made by her were derogatory/slur/distasteful.”
“The Convocation is the most auspicious programme in the academic cycle of any student. The conduct of Ms Neha during the programme was unbecoming of a student and was against the values for which Dr BR Ambedkar University stands. The action was taken as the conduct of the student was in violation of the Code of Discipline prescribed and notified for the students of AUD,” added the statement.
However, when the university’s PRO was asked about why only one student had got the show cause notice when there were several students who had commented under the video, the PRO said she would respond later.
“The chief guest of the convocation was Arvind Kejriwal. It is not as if he wasn’t aware of the problem. He was simply ignoring the issue. If students do not protest unfavourable fee hikes, then who will support us? All of us have to have equitable access to education,” said Neha.
“We realised the university was targeting students who were active during the fee hike and reservation protests in AUD. The university had changed the admission procedures because of which SC/ST students specifically were supposed to get caste certificates from the Delhi government irrespective of the state a student came from,” said Neha, who is the state vice-president of the All India Students Association (AISA).
“The university did not respond to any of my questions and instead after 1.5 months, I got a notice requesting an in-person meeting. After a few days, one of the administration officials called to inform me that my parents had to be present for this meeting. I informed them that I had made these decisions in my personal capacity. Despite this, they called my parents to inform them that I had ‘insulted my teachers and faculty’. This was an absurd claim,” she said.
After Neha’s parents spoke to her, they decided against appearing for the proctoral enquiry. Neha came for the meeting to Delhi, but the university postponed it. As she had already booked tickets for her return journey, she informed the college that she would be available for a video hearing.
“During the video hearing in April, I asked them for proof of the incident and requested more details. I explained to them about the fee hike protests of which I was a part. They heard the matter, but I didn’t hear back from them until July 1, 2021, when I got an order stating that I should pay the fine. I do not intend to pay it,” asserted Neha.
Protests in AUD
Protests had rocked AUD in 2020, when the Delhi government had surreptitiously changed the admission procedure without a notice. In the admission prospectus, the university stated that students had to get caste certificates from Delhi to be eligible for reservation and a caste certificate from their domicile state would not suffice.
Students realised the change in policy only after several of them were rejected even after they cleared the entrance exam. Students feared that this change would make the university inaccessible to SC/ST/OBC students from other states. Additionally, the university hiked the fees in the middle of the pandemic.
“Until last year, there were special provisions for SC/ST students that on admission, their entire fees would be waived off. It was after a student who had applied for the MBA programme in June 2020 was asked to pay the entire fees that the students found out that the waiver was suspended. The university had not even issued a circular on this and the students found out about it from a news report,” said an AUD student who did not want to be identified.
“Our school was the first one in the university which mobilised and boycotted classes and the entire university went for a complete boycott. I had written several emails to the administration on the matter. Several students had even protested in front of Delhi CM’s residence and three students, including me, had gone to meet Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is also the state education minister, on the fee hike and caste certificate. His OSD did not even want to listen to the reservation matter though it was linked to the fee hike. He asked the office guards to escort us out,” said Neha.
The students boycotted classes and did not submit assignments for almost a month, after which the university agreed to continue the fee waiver for SC/ST students with the stipulation that the policy would be reviewed in 2021.