‘It is a huge victory for Campus Democracy!’
19 Jan. 2014, Mumbai University, Kalina. The University Community for Democracy and Equality (UCDE) is going to hold a ‘Victory March’ of students, teachers and karamcharis in the Kalina Campus on January 20. It is noteworthy that the suspension of the Prof. Neeraj Hatekar, which had been at the center of controversy in the academic circles of the country, has been revoked by the Mumbai University authorities after two weeks of intense protests of the students. Prof. Hatekar was suspended by the MU authorities on the pretext of indiscipline. Prof. Hatekar had held a press conference last month to expose the irregularities and mismanagement going on in the MU. After the suspension, students’ protests broke out in the MU. The University Community for Democracy and Equality (UCDE) which was founded by the students, teachers and karamcharis of the MU after the 16 December gangrape incident in Delhi; the UCDE had organized a protest march at that time against the anti-women crimes.
On January 5, the UCDE gave a call to all MU students to join a protest demonstration on January 6. Thus, January 6 saw the first protest by students of MU against the allegedly unjust suspension of Prof. Hatekar. Later, on January 8, another protest was held. The UCDE gave a call for a Silent Protest on January 13, that was the Convocation Day of MU. Some other organizations also extended their support to the growing students’ movement. After the Silent Protest of January 13, the UCDE called for a General Body Meeting of MU community to discuss and decide the future strategy of the movement. The GBM was held on January 15 and it was decided in the GBM that the students will intensify the protest by holding a one-day Hunger Strike on January 20. Before this could happen, the MU authorities revoked the suspension on January 19, after a meeting of University officials including the VC and the management council on January 18. The sources said that the MU authorities have not revoked the one-man committee enquiry against Prof. Hatekar, but the suspension has been revoked due to the pressure created by the protest movement of the students.
Prashant, spokesperson and member of Convening Committee of the UCDE said, “The revocation of Prof. Hatekar’s suspension is a huge victory for the campus democracy. We have been witnessing a shrinking of democratic space within the campus. Even if you want to hold a discussion, film screening or music concert in the university, you’ll have to run from one door of the administration to another. This is a mockery of University culture as universities have been the breeding ground of all progressive ideas of Democracy, Social Justice and Equality. The suspension of Prof. Neeraj Hatekar was the height of the undemocratic and dictatorial attitude of the MU authorities. It played the role of Ferdinand’s assassination and the discontent of students broke out. This victory is not important only in terms of restoration of a teacher; it is a victory of entire university community. We will celebrate this victory tomorrow with a victory march in the Kalina Campus from 9 AM in the morning.”
Narayan, member of the Convening Committee of the UCDE said, “This is just a beginning. We must not stop at this victory and continue our struggle for expanding the democratic space within the campus. Though, the UCDE has been leading this movement from the very beginning, however, it is the victory of entire MU student-teacher-karamchari community. We have been arguing from the beginning that our struggle is not only to force the MU authorities to restore Prof. Hatekar; this, obviously, was the most cardinal issue. However, we see this only as a beginning for a protracted movement for campus democracy. We are going to start a Students’ Charter Movement, very soon. In this, we will present a charter of students’ demands and will collect thousands of signatures in support of these demands. These signatures and charter will be submitted, along with a memorandum, to the VC of the MU, the Governor, CM and Education Minister of Maharashtra. However, first of all, we must convey the message of this victory to entire MU community. For this very purpose, we are holding a Victory March tomorrow morning from 9 AM in the Kalina Campus. We urge all students, teachers and karamcharis to join it.”