JNUTA begins hunger strike; demands restoration of academic, institutional functioning

JNUTA gave a call for a 24-hour hunger strike from 10 am on November 25, demanding the restoration of the academic and institutional functioning of the university

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On the eve of its day-long hunger strike, the JNUTA said that its request for a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor was not acknowledged till Sunday, November 25.

After which they were asked to not hold the proposed hunger strike by Jawaharlal Nehru University, over the rescheduling of the academic calendar and compliance of faculty attendance sent by the administration.

In a circular issued in mid-November, the administration had said seven years in the varsity were necessary for granting sabbatical leave to a faculty member. It announced that proposals for seminar participation, conference travel, project meetings, prestigious fellowships, including those scheduled during vacations, would be allowed if teachers comply with the diktats of the university, the JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) said.

"You will be allowed to teach, conduct research and reimburse your medical bills if you fall in line and do not question the diktats of the competent authority," the circular said, according to JNUTA.

The teachers' body gave a call for a 24-hour hunger strike from 10 am on Monday November 25, demanding the restoration of the academic and institutional functioning of the university.

In an unprecedented action, the JNUTA said, a large number of teachers would be on the hunger strike and many more would sit in solidarity with those. It accused the varsity administration of destroying the teaching and learning culture at the university.

The JNUTA had submitted a memorandum of demands to the executive council members before the council's meeting last Tuesday, November 20, but alleged that it was not discussed in the meeting.

The administration, however, said on Sunday, November 25, that such matters needed to be routed through the department concerned, following appropriate procedures. "However. if so needed, the teacher representatives in EC have the opportunity to discuss such issues under any other item with the permission of the chair."

The varsity requested the JNUTA to send two representatives to meet the administration officials. "The university administration firmly believes that any problem can be resolved through mutual dialogue and not by causing disruption in the functioning of the university by way of protests and strikes."

Citing a Delhi High Court order that prohibited protests at the administration block, the varsity said: "In case, the protest is undertaken by you, within 100 metres of the administrative and academic complexes, appropriate action will be taken as per the university rules and regulations."

In a reply, the JNUTA said the administration was expressing its interest in mutual dialogue on one hand while threatening teachers of punitive actions on the other.

It said the high court ruling was for students and the administration did not hold any dialogue with them despite repeated requests, adding that they were ready to have a dialogue.

“This is puzzling, as to what this means and why do we get this letter now? The newly-elected JNUTA had made a request to the vice-chancellor for a meeting to introduce the elected representatives to the administration over a cup of tea, but this has not even been acknowledged till date,” said the JNUTA in its response to the university registrar.

“Now, today suddenly on the eve of the JNUTA action plan, which was decided in the JNUTA GBM on November 19, 2018, the administration is expressing its interest in mutual dialogue on the one hand and also threatening teachers of punitive actions on the other,” it added.

The JNUTA also alleges that the VC has deliberately been denying promotions to senior professors who have taken objection to such undemocratic functioning of the university.

Many teachers in the past have been issued show-cause notices by the university for participating in strikes or opposing the VC in anyway. Many of these professors were also denied permission to accept prestigious fellowships and research assignments abroad.

The teachers association has taken a defiant position and asked all the teachers to assemble at the protest venue today and are showing no signs of withdrawing the proposed hunger strike.

“A large number of teachers will sit on hunger strike for 24 hours, and many more will sit in solidarity with those on hunger strike,” the JNUTA informed the registrar.

The JNUTA demanded that the administration, in order to demonstrate its earnestness to start a dialogue, must immediately withdraw "arbitrary" circulars regarding the rescheduling of the academic calendar and compliance of faculty attendance.

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