It is a cruel irony that students of a National Law University find themselves at the receiving end of so many unjust policies. When the educational institution you go to in the hope of acquiring legal education and insight into the principles of justice metes out such treatment to you, it really makes you question the whole point of its existence.
The rampant mismanagement we see at HNLU is not specific to that college, even though the way students have chosen to react against it is remarkably commendable. The list of demands submitted by the Student Bar Association is comprehensive, apt, and not excessive in any sense. The lukewarm response from the administration is simply saddening. Hiding under the cloak of ambiguity and vagueness, the administration has not been ready to actually consider any actual change. When the administration fails to take seriously legitimate demands of students, they are in essence passing the message that their opinions and demands are devoid of value and have no importance in decision making.
When the student demand reads ‘…we request prompt constitution of an inquiry committee to investigate on the complaints of sexual and mental harassment and abuse of power against certain faculty members of the university…’ one is left wondering about the real extent of infringement against the rights of our brothers and sisters at HNLU.
The very restrictive practices of the university, especially with regards to curfew, library privileges, mess timings and the like are not just inconveniences; they are also violative of the rights of students. The sexism inherent in our community is expressed in the double standards of hostel curfew for boys and girls when only the girls are restricted from the same campus premises that boys are allowed to roam around in. Even Markandey Katju, a much respected former judge, writes, ‘…but I can’t understand what objection there can be to a 10.30 pm girls’ hostel curfew at HNLU, Raipur. After all, if some untoward incident happens if there is no such curfew, the university authorities will be blamed, FIRs and civil suits will be filed against them, wardens may be arrested, etc. If a girl does not like this restriction, she is free to stay outside. So why are students agitating on this issue?’ This begs the question about who exactly the girls are at risk from. If it is from boys or faculty members, then that is indicative of a much deep rooted problem which needs solving. If it is from people not associated with the university, would the same risk not apply to the boys too?
As an alumnus of HNLU says: It’s hard to believe that in a national law school, a faculty member has the audacity to allegedly make remarks such as “you are a beautiful girl, so you should sit in the first row”; “there are female directors in a company so that the male directors can check out her saree”, “my wife is not at home, so you all (girls) have to provide me entertainment” among others.
The students deserve appreciation for the very peaceful manner in which they have managed to organize a protest of around 1000 students in the past week. HNLU has a strong culture of using their unity to fight against the institutionalized corruption, having done so previously in 2009. They were able to move to a new campus with a new VC then, but sadly they are all but back at square one. We can only stand in solidarity with them and hope that this time the resolution is lasting and forebears a fruitful educational experience for everyone at HNLU.