Monday, 29 June 2015

Emergency Files 05 - A.K. Gopalan writes to Indira Gandhi in Protest

With the derecognition of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) and the arrests of JNUSU President D.P. Tripathi and Councillor Sitaram Yechury, the repression of the students movement in JNU reached a crescendo, and caught the attention of national leaders fighting against the Emergency. Legendary communist leader A.K. Gopalan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister protesting against the tyrannical attacks unleashed against the students of JNU. The letter was secretly circulated in the JNU campus as well, as per the well-established practice of the democratic forces in the campus fighting the Emergency. The letter is reproduced below.

Read & Circulate
Repression in Nehru University

(Copy of the letter sent by A.K. Gopalan, leader of the CPI(M) group in Parliament
to the Prime Minister on 15th November, 1975)

4 Ashok Road,
New Delhi-1.
15 Nov. 1975

A.K. Gopalan
Member of Parliament
(Lok Sabha)

Dear Shrimati Gandhi,

I am writing to you regarding the repression against the Students’ Union office-bearers, activists of the Students’ Federation of India and other democratic student organisations in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Since the proclamation of the emergency, there has been a determined attempt on the part of the police and the University authorities to eliminate student leaders from the University, without any provocation whatsoever. On the evening of 11 November, Devi Prasad Tripathi, an M.A. student and President of the Nehru University Students’ Union was arrested by the police from within the campus and has been detained under MISA. Before this he was expelled from the University for six months on 7th Nov. after the Students Union was derecognised by the University. He was also not allowed to attend a meeting of the Academic Council on the 7th and his expulsion followed from the fact that he wanted to record his protest at the meeting.

This is only the latest act of victimisation jointly by the University authorities and the police. On 7th July police raided the hostels and arrested 9 students under DIR (including the General Secretary of the Students Union) on totally false charges that a meeting was held against the emergency the previous night. Also the former General Secretary of the Karamchari Sangathan was arrested. After this the Vice-Chancellor cancelled the admission of 11 students who had qualified for admission in the written test and viva voce and whose names were finalised for admissions by the respective departments. On 21st August, Miss Ashok Lata Jain, member of the Student Council of the Union was suspended and later expelled from the University as she had signed a Union Council statement protesting the Vice-Chancellor’s action regarding admissions.

On 25th September a shocking incident took place within the campus in broad daylight in front of many witnesses, when a student Prabir Purkayastha was dragged away to a black ambassador car by four police plain clothesmen belonging to the Hauz Khas police station. They had thought he was the President of the Students Union and had asked him if he was Tripathi before they dragged him away. Then to cover up their mistake he has been put under MISA in Tihar jail. It must be mentioned that this student had only recently joined the University in July. After that one of the student councillors Sitaram was arrested from his residence under Sec. 108 of the Cr.P.C. and later released on jail. Also warrants under Secs. 147 & 148 have been issued against two prominent members of the SFI, Prakash Karat and Suneet Chopra who are research scholars in the University.

So as it stands today, in an institution of around 2000 postgraduate and research students, 9 students have been arrested under DIR and are out on bail; two Union office-bearers have been expelled from the University and two students are detained under MISA. It is pertinent to note here that many of them are prominent members of the Students’ Federation of India in the University who also hold elected posts in the Students Union. The whole policy is designed to eliminate the left and democratic student organisations on the campus and the Students Union which they dominate by virtue of democratic elections.

Such a state of affairs is shocking in a Central Government University which is named after your father. I request you to investigate this matter and see to it that this sort of repression both academic and police-wise is immediately halted and all these students, who have first class academic records are allowed to continue their studies without interruption.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Emergency Files 04 - Union President D.P. Tripathi and Councillor Sitaram Yechury Arrested

The assault on the people intensified as the Emergency progressed, and found reflection in the JNU campus as well. 

The elections to the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) had been banned soon after the Emergency was declared. Hence the Constitution of the Union was amended through an Extraordinary University General Body Meeting (the University General Body Meeting is the highest decision making body of the students), and the terms of the office bearers were extended till such time as elections could be held. This was duly conveyed to the JNU authorities by the Union President D.P. Tripathi in a letter dated 24 September, and the University had transferred the Students Union funds to the Union's account. On 1 October, the Union President received a letter from the JNU authorities in which he was addressed as President, Students' Union, and inviting him to attend the next Academic Council meeting. 

The administration had earlier tried to "do away" with the Union by declaring that membership to the Union would be voluntary. However, to their surprise, almost all students became members of the Union, thus foiling the attempt. And now an Academic Council meeting was scheduled to take place on 7 November to discuss the notorious recommendations of the Deans' Committee, which included the withdrawal of all the rights of the Student-Faculty Committees (see Emergency Files 02 for details) with regard to admission, making "A minus" the qualifying grade to be promoted to Ph.D. after M.Phil. (JNU has an integrated M.Phil./Ph.D. programme), the introduction of purely "merit scholarships" in place of the "merit-cum-means scholarships" (the latter took into account the family income of the student along with academic performance) etc. However, the administration knew that the Students Union would prove a stumbling block in the implementation of these proposals, and that the Union's activities had to be curbed to facilitate the authoritarian designs of the administration and the government in the future as well.

In early November 1975, a fresh wave of attacks began on the students of JNU. Sitaram Yechury, then Councillor of the JNUSU (and today the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)), was arrested on 4 November. On 6 November, the JNUSU was "derecognised" by the administration, notwithstanding the fact that the JNUSU was formed by the students themselves and not by the administration. On 7 November, the JNUSU President D.P. Tripathi was prevented from attending the Academic Council meeting. But he insisted that he be allowed to attend the meeting and to express his views, and the meeting was 'adjourned' before it could begin. In retaliation, an order was issued by the Vice-Chancellor on the night of the 7th, expelling Tripathi from the University. The very next day, four and half months after the Emergency was declared, D.P. Tripathi was arrested by the police.

Here is the pamphlet by 'The Resistance' which reported the latest developments:

The Struggle Will Continue !
13 November 1975

In the last four months the University authorities have in collusion with the police and government been launching one attack after another on the students of JNU and particularly the Union office-bearers. The students have been unitedly meeting these attacks and their determined resistance has foiled all these attempts to suppress the Union and the functioning of the left and democratic organisations on the campus. The latest round of attacks began on the night of 4th November when Sitaram Yechury (student councillor) was arrested from his residence under Sec. 108 of Cr.P.C. On 6th November, the Registrar informed the Union of its ‘derecognition’ by the authorities. On the 7th they did not allow D.P.Tripathi, President of the Union and ex-officio member of the Academic Council from attending the Council meeting. On the same night Tripathi was served with an expulsion order from the University for six months. Finally, on the 11th evening, Tripathi was arrested by the police inside the campus in the notorious ‘Purkayastha kidnapping’ style. He has now been detained under MISA. All these reprehensible activities once again illustrate the hand in glove working of the Nag Chaudhuri clique with the Congress bosses and the police.

Having failed to stamp out rising protest on the campus, one bunch of henchmen of Indira headed by Nag Chaudhuri ‘derecognised’ the Union’ seeing that it would not disrupt Union functioning, another bunch of henchmen headed by the DSP, Hauz Khas Police Station have resorted to arresting Tripathi. We salute Devi Prasad Tripathi for ably and courageously leading the students in the last four months at such great risk. We are confident that the students will continue to nurture and support the Union in his absence.

The main task of the student community is to preserve our democratic forum – the Students’ Union. It is our duty to see that the Union functions in a new way on a long-term basis in a situation characterised by severe repression. This will be the most effective rebuff to the gang of desperadoes ruling this country and administering our university. Their storm-troopers cannot stomach the fact that a strong leftist union continues to function in a university in the capital city. That is why in the past four months, 9 students have been arrested under DIR (including the General Secretary of the union); 2 students have been expelled from the university. For this record of black deeds the culprits in the University echelons will meet a just and fitting retribution soon.

Prof Nurul Hasan, Union Minister for Education is visiting the campus on 14 November to attend the function being held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the Centre for Russian Studies. On this occasion to mark a venture in Indo-Soviet cooperation, we should like to remind the honourable minister and the pseudo-progressives on the campus that they are celebrating what Lenin called the “barracks method in the treatment of students and liberal intellectuals.”

Concrete plans must be drawn up by mutual consultations amongst left and democratic organisations on the campus to keep the resistance to the dictatorial regime and in defence of our democratic rights growing and link them up with action elsewhere. We appeal to the students to continue to maintain their magnificent unity and unite with the karamcharis and democratic teachers to further strengthen our common struggle.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Emergency Files 03 - Councillor Ashok Lata Jain expelled, Prabir Purkayastha kidnapped

As mentioned in Emergency Files 02, Ashok Lata Jain, the Student Councillor of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU), was suspended for signing the pamphlet of the Union opposing the arbitrary and illegal action of the Vice-Chancellor who struck off from the admission list the names of students whose political opinions were unpalatable to the ruling dispensation. Ashoka, who had signed the pamphlet in the capacity of the Chairman of the JNUSU Council meeting held on 19 August, was subsequently expelled by the University authorities. This authoritarian act caused widespread anger among the student community, and ‘The Resistance’ called for a three-day class boycott in solidarity with Ashoka. On the second day of this historic strike (which was probably the first comprehensive student strike anywhere in India against the Emergency), a notorious act was perpetrated by the police – a first-year student of the University was kidnapped!

Here we reproduce two pamphlets issued by ‘The Resistance’ – one, calling for the boycott and the second, reporting the police terror.

Urgent: Read & Circulate
Boycott Classes in Solidarity with
Ashok Lata Jain on 24, 25, 26 September

Ashok Lata Jain, student councillor of the JNU Students Union and Ph.D. student in the Centre for Regional Development has been expelled by the ‘Court of Honour’, set up by the Vice-Chancellor on trumped-up charges. This black deed is the worst act perpetrated on the student community since the foundation of the University. The authorities are continuing their offensive against the democratically elected students union. Coming on top of the order prohibiting Union elections, the expulsion of Ashok Lata Jain is an attack which the students will resist. Ashoka has been victimized for doing her elementary duty as an elected student representative and for upholding the democratic rights of students.


Our students have been taught another object lesson about the real face of the Emergency: expulsion of left and democratic student leaders, denial of admission to them and terror on the campus. The Vice-Chancellor having instigated this action has left for the United States to continue his intrigues with US imperialism on behalf of the Indira Govt. on the Indo-US Joint commission.

Let us make every effort to boldly convert the three day boycott into a historic protest. We solicit the active sympathy and support of the teachers and employees in this just struggle of ours.

Withdraw the action Ashok Lata Jain!
Unitedly we will fight for our rights!

Shocking events took place amidst the student strike, which were faithfully reported by ‘The Resistance’ in their pamphlet.

Fight this Police Terror Tactics Unitedly:
Continue the Boycott on 26th

Angry over the very successful beginning of the three day boycott call on 24th by the students protesting against the expulsion of Ashok Lata Jain, the police in collusion with the University authorities have perpetrated a cowardly provocation against the students.

After the ninety percent boycott of classes on the 24th, on the 25th morning the boycott threatened to be total. An instance is the School of Languages where with over 600 students, only 3 entered the building in the morning. Since the 24th three police trucks were parked around the campus to intimidate the students. At 10:30 a.m. the police went into action. A black ambassador car with 4 plain-clothes men was parked inside the campus. The men approached Prabir Purkayastha who was standing near the School of Languages and dragged him away to the car, and despite the resistance of some students they whisked him away. This fascist style attack has been launched on a totally innocent person. Purkayastha joined the University only two months ago and is senior fellowship holder in the School of Computer Sciences. This was a deliberate provocation as Prabir had been asked by the policemen if he was Tripathi [the JNUSU President] and he had replied in the negative.

The VC (now safely ensconced in the USA) had informed the last Academic Council meeting that after the 8 July raid the authorities had assured him that the University would be informed within 8 hours of the names of the students arrested and the charges on which they are held. We demand that the Rector and the Registrar get this information and get Prabir released immediately.

The students, teachers and employees have responded to this blatant provocative act with outrage and are determined to unitedly face such onslaughts.



The man who kidnapped Prabir Purkayastha was P.S.Bhinder, who later became the Commissioner of Police. Prabir was to spend the rest of the Emergency in jail under the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), but that, of course, was unknown to the students then.
(To be continued)

Emergency Files - Earlier Episodes:

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Emergency Files 02 - Denial of Admission to Students and the First Class Boycott

While one of the first steps of the JNU administration to clamp down on the democratic rights of the students during the Emergency was to clamp down on the Students Union, the new academic year of 1975-76 saw the JNU administration trying to impose an authoritarian "code of conduct" and striking off the names of students whose political opinions were not liked by those in power. The students of JNU, of course, did not take all these lying down. The SFI, in its bulletin welcoming the new students to JNU, explained why the crackdown on the Union is dangerous, opposed the "code of conduct" and warned the administration against tampering with the admission procedure. The President of the JNU Students Union subsequently brought out a pamphlet informing the students that B. D. Nagchaudhuri, the Vice-Chancellor, had arbitrarily struck off the names of some students from the admission list. Another pamphlet from the Students Union gave out more details of this anti-student action by the administration and urged the students to resist this attack. Finally 'The Resistance', through a secretly circulated pamphlet, called upon students to boycott classes. Here we reproduce the SFI bulletin, the JNUSU President's pamphlet, excerpts from the detailed JNUSU pamphlet, the Class Boycott call by 'The Resistance' and a report on the strike.

It needs to be noted here that the admission policy of JNU, which the SFI-led Unions had fought for and won, was one which enabled students from poorer backgrounds and backward regions to enter JNU. Under this policy, weightages were given for students from deprived socio-economic backgrounds and those hailing from backward regions. Student-Faculty Committees (SFCs) were set up with elected students in each Centre (the departments in JNU are called Centres). The SFCs were empowered to scrutinise the entrance tests and finalise the results. The results of this democratic admission policy was seen in the 1973 admissions, when students from diverse backgrounds were able to enter JNU. Therefore it was no surprise that the administration tried to weaken the SFCs as the bulletin described.

Students’ Federation of India —  Bulletin
“Welcome to JNU”

The new academic session has begun with a series of systematic and obviously planned manoeuvres attacking the democratic movement built over the last few years, and to curb the hard won rights of the student community. The first of these manoeuvres was the arbitrary declaration by the Vice-Chancellor, in the prospectus, that the membership to the Students Union is voluntary. The Students’ Union in our University, unlike those in many other universities, is fully independent of the administration. It was formed and has been sustained by the strong democratic student movement in the campus. The affairs of the Students Union — including elections — are managed entirely by the students, and the Students Union is responsible to the students and students alone. The Students Union membership is automatic to all bonafide students and compulsory (as per the agreement with the VC at the time of its formation) as it is the only independent forum which reflects and caters to the democratic interests of the students. To weaken the Students’ Union by making its membership voluntary is to weaken the democratic movement built up in this campus until now. The SFI condemns this act of the VC and shall strongly resist this move.

This move should not be seen as an isolated one. It is a continuation of the efforts of the VC to disrupt the democratic movement in the university. These attempts began with the so-called ‘Code of Conduct’ proposed by the Vice-Chancellor last year which was unanimously rejected with contempt by the General Body of students. The same ‘Code of Conduct’ we find has been printed and circulated this year titled ‘norms of behaviour’. The SFI shall resist this move which is yet another to weaken the democratic movement in the campus.

These attempts of the Vice-Chancellor have been followed up this year by blatant violations of the admission procedure as laid down by the Academic Council. There has been arbitrary intervention by the Vice-Chancellor in the functioning of the SFCs and we find that some names recommended by the SFCs have been arbitrarily struck off by the Vice-Chancellor. We wish to point out that the VC cannot reverse or nullify the procedure passed by the Academic Council and endorsed by the Executive Council. This we see as an attack on the academic freedom of the University and shall therefore resist it. We greet the stand taken by a considerable section of faculty in opposing this interference by the Vice-Chancellor. We, however, condemn that section which has objectively been playing the ‘rear guard’ of the authorities. It is interesting to note that those who ostensibly declare themselves as “dedicated to the students’ cause” have refrained from mentioning the attacks by the Vice-Chancellor on the democratic movement in the campus.

The SFI calls upon all democratic elements in the University to resist this two pronged attack of the VC, one against all traces of democratic functioning on the campus and the other on the Students’ Union.


(August 1975)                                                                                            SFI (JNU UNIT)

A pamphlet by D.P. Tripathi, the President of the JNU Students Union, informed the students about the VC's arbitrary action.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union

August 7, 1977


The Students’ Union wishes to inform the students of the University of the arbitrary action of the Vice-Chancellor in striking off names from the admission list which were recommended by various centres after evaluation. This is a blatant attack on the democratic rights of both the students and the teachers. The Students Union welcomes the stand taken by a considerable section of the faculty who are opposing this attack on academic freedom. Once again we reiterate that these anti-democratic acts will not be tolerated by the students of this University. As far as the admissions of students is concerned, we do not accept this interference and violation of the democratic procedure laid down by the Academic Council.

We will not allow the Vice-Chancellor to prevent the admissions of Students simply because they do not meet a certain criterion which is completely extra academic and apparently mysterious. We demand that the Vice-Chancellor should at least abide by his own statement that no section of the University community can infringe upon the democratic rights of any other section.



— Devi Prasad Tripathi

President, JNUSU

The statement by the JNUSU President was confirmed by the declared results of the JNU entrance examination and viva voce. Several students who had excellent academic records found that their names had been struck off the admission lists due to their political opinions. The victimised students included the JNUSU President himself.

A pamphlet issued by the Students Union and signed by Ashok Lata Jain, who chaired the Students' Council meeting held on 19 August 1975, gave out more details.Here is an excerpt from the pamphlet:

The time has come for the students to strike against the measures taken by the Vice Chancellor to curb the democratic rights of teachers and students. Because of their political opinions, and despite their excellent academic performances, students have been victimised and denied, admission. The University authorities launched this attack beginning with the President of the Students' Union, Devi Prasad Tripathi.

Tripathi, a first class student throughout, coming from a backward area, as well as an economically deprived background, was not given admission to the M.Phil. programme. The Chairman of the Board, which interviewed JNU students of the Centre for Political Studies, is said to have stated prior to the written test and interview that Tripathi would be eliminated. The older students will remember that this same Tripathi came first in the list for the MA programme.

Two Student Councillors, Rajaram and Promod Kumar Misra, again both first class students were recommended for admission by their respective faculties, who found them academically competent, but were denied admission by the VC. The reason again was that they hold certain political opinions which differ from those of the Vice-Chancellor.
The pamphlet then listed out 11 students whose names had been struck off the list due to political reasons. It also said that the final admission lists were yet to be declared for M.Phil./Ph.D. programme in various centres of the School of Social Sciences, and that considering the trend, further victimisation can be expected. The pamphlet said that these attacks on academic freedom and anti-democratic acts must be fought.

But given the climate of repression, what form this fight will take, was to be detailed in a secret pamphlet brought out by 'The Resistance', which urged students to boycott classes on 22 August. Very few copies of the pamphlet were made, and the students circulated them so as to keep the plans secret from the authorities. The pamphlet is reproduced below.

Urgent: Read & Circulate
Boycott Classes in Protest: 22 August

Students who have qualified for admissions and approved by the Centres concerned have been struck off the lists by the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar’s office. They have been passing on the lists to the police and Govt. for screening. By this action they hope to crush the Union and keep students who do not toe the official line, off the campus. The president of the Union, Tripathi has been denied admission in his own centre for M.Phil by giving him ridiculously low marks in the viva and test. Two of the Union Councillors, Rajaram and P.K. Mishra have had their admissions annulled by the VC in their own centres and in the School of International Studies, after they had qualified. Similar cases exist in other centres: History: Sujata Madhok; Social Systems: Rabindra Ray; School of Languages: Ramesh Dixit; School of International Studies: Mohan Ram.

By this the University has struck a blow at the students and teachers on the campus, making a mockery of the admission system so carefully worked out in the past. They have interfered with the rights of the “other components of the University”.

We call upon the students to strictly observe the following:
11. All non-residents should stay at home on 22 August.
22. All residents should either stay in their hostels or go out of the campus for the day.
33. Spread the word of the boycott to your friends individually and explain the reasons for this action.

We make an urgent appeal to the faculty to observe this boycott and cooperate by not taking classes in protest against the dictatorial step of the VC. Let this be a joint action.



The strike was a resounding success, as the report by 'The Resistance' showed:

Report of the 22 August Strike

The students of Nehru University went on a one day total strike on 2 August in protest against the Vice-Chancellor’s lawless and arbitrary action. The strike was a complete success. The students in an organised and disciplined fashion boycotted all classes, the library, the laboratory and other academic programmes on the campus. The censored press has reported that the boycott call was a flop. The magnificent response of the students can be seen from the following facts:

There were no classes in the Centre for Economic Studies, the Centre for Historical Studies, the Centre for Political Studies, the Centre for Science Policy, the Centre for Educational Studies, the Centre for Social Systems. In the Centre for Regional Development only one class was held in which out of a total of 30 only 7 attended. In the School of Languages: No classes in the Centre for French Studies (this is the biggest centre in the School). No classes in Persian, Arabic, Linguistics, Indonesian and Chinese. Only one class in German and Spanish.
In the School of International Studies, 3 students out of 27 attended an MA class. In the first year MA only 6 out of 26.

Out of the over 200 classes scheduled for the day only about 10 were held and even in these the attendance was around 10 percent.

The teachers supported the boycott. Most of them did not go to take the classes despite a circular from the Registrar asking heads of Centres to report names of teachers who did not take classes.

Angry over the great success of the boycott, the Registrar has suspended Ashok Lata Jain, prominent Student Councillor and a leader of the Students’ Federation of India on the campus, and ordered her to leave the campus with immediate effect. The students are preparing to resist this blatant attack now.

While the class boycott was a success and a sent a strong message, the suspension of Ashok Lata Jain made it clear that the government and the administration were not going to tolerate any challenge to their authoritarianism. But if oppression is the ruling classes' privilege, the students were absolutely clear in their understanding that protest is their right. They were determined to fight on, even as they knew that more repression was awaiting them.

(To be continued)