Several student groups have launched a protest in Pondicherry University demanding end to what they alleged was “saffronisation” on the campus. The students said they want the “6 pm curfew” to end for conducting programmes and Wi-Fi restored.
Some 400 students affiliated to Left groups SFI, ASA and APSF, and Congress-backed NSUI have been protesting since Sunday morning, seeking to meet Vice Chancellor Gurmeet Singh, who they alleged is responsible for the situation they were in.
Pointing out a newly installed board inside Aurobindo Hostel, a student leader said, “Under his picture there is a message that says ‘That which we call the Hindu religion is really the Eternal religion because it embraces all others’.”
The protesters shared a photo that showed a line written on a notice board that said: “This is a central university and not an RSS office to promote your religion here”.
Another student leader who asked not to be named alleged only ABVP’s programmes are permitted on campus. “The vice chancellor is openly aiding saffronisation. We want a secular atmosphere,” the student said. “They have turned of Wi-Fi on campus so that news about our protests wouldn’t reach the press”.
The students alleged there were curbs on freedom of expression.
“They have introduced a new restriction that no programmes can happen beyond 6 pm, but we want 24-hour library access. Though it’s supposed to be open till 10 pm, often it’s shut at 5 pm,” a protesting student said.
A woman student they have been asking for sanitary napkin vending machines for over a year. “They cited funds crunch. Now the authorities are whitewashing the campus ahead of the NAAC inspection,” she said.
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council or NAAC, among its many functions, can grade universities based on several critical parameters.
The university authorities have denied the allegations. People familiar with the matter said the registrar held talks with the protesting students.
K Mahesh, the university’s public relations officer, said, “There is no question of a right-wing agenda.” He said there was some technical problem with Wi-Fi. “We have sorted it. The vice chancellor is in fact tirelessly working to streamline the university,” Mr Mahesh said.
Some 6,000 students study at this central university. The NAAC members are scheduled to visit and inspect Pondicherry University from Tuesday to Friday.