Strikes by Faculty and Students at an Indian University

If the kind of mass strike reported in my previous post on labor unrest in India have become historical curiosities in the U.S., strikes by faculty and students at American universities do still occur, even if relatively rarely—and very rarely in tandem.

But this past week at Central University of Hyderabad, both faculty and students went on strike for somewhat different reasons.

According to the website Scroll.In, the faculty strike was caused by a raid by local police on a faculty member’s living quarters. In some ways, the strong response to the incident will seem very understandable to American faculty, but in other ways, the cultural factors will probably seem ambiguous, if not obscure:

“The teachers are on strike about an incident that occurred on May 31, during the holidays, when the campus was largely deserted. Based on a verbal complaint of ‘illegal occupancy’ and ‘nuisance,’ the campus security raided the campus residence of associate faculty member, Gracious Temsen.

“The young professor from Shillong, who teaches at the university’s Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translations, and is active on many campus forums related to the North East, was in her home with her brother and some students, when the campus security, comprising an all-male team, without a warning and without even giving her time to dress presentably, entered  the house and took photographs of the rooms and all those present.

“Professor K Lakshminarayana, President of the University Teachers Association, provided some background to the controversy. ‘The neighbour, who complained, had spoken of beer bottles and loud music to the campus security,’ he said. ‘But the faculty member, who does not wish to be named, has subsequently also expressed shock at the response of the campus security. Being from a sensitive state, they were all terrified by the security staff, and their khakhi uniform.’

“Another faculty member pointed out how unusual the episode was. ‘It is not against the law for the faculty members to consume alcohol at home,’ she pointed out.  ‘Nor is it against any norm to invite students to come home to discuss any issue relating to academics or any issues they might have. She was targeted because she was a woman and from the North East, It is a clear, and not unusual case, of racial profiling by the local staff, especially the security members, against members–faculty and students– from the North Eastern states.’

“Despite several complaints, the University administration has not taken the complaint seriously, nor has it taken any action against the errant security staff. The Teacher’s Association submitted a petition to the Vice Chancellor who constituted a committee, which did not find anything amiss in the episode.

“As a consequence, the teachers went on a strike, contending that the raid was illegal and the committee’s findings were not unacceptable because it did not have a member from the North East.”

The student strike was in response to broader concerns about increased police presence on campus:

“Meanwhile, the 5,000+ students of the university forced a strike of their own, opposing the increased police presence and constant interference in campus matters by the police.

“Vincent Benny, President of the University Students’ Association, blamed it on interference by the Union Human Resources Development Ministry. ‘Based on an order a few months ago from the HRD Ministry, the local police has entered and set up a small base inside the campus,’ he alleged. ‘Giving the justification of following orders to maintain law and order on our large campus, they are constantly interfering in campus affairs. They question boys and girls who are together after 8pm. They have been keeping an eye on all issues and possibly making reports.’”

 

The complete article at Scroll.In is available at: http://scroll.in/article/752995/at-hyderabad-university-both-teachers-and-students-are-on-strike-with-different-grouses

 

 

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