Saturday 14 July 2007

STATEMENT OF FACTS BY SHABNAM HASHMI + dateline

  • The MSU Syndicate in its meeting ratified the decision of VC on the suspension issue and has not taken any decision regarding the wide scale criticism over the composition of the Vice Chancellor’s Inquiry Committee which is presently investigating into the incidents at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Minutes and resolution to this effect issued on 7 June 2007
  • Professor Romila Thapar, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Professor Shivaji Panikkar and others address Press Conference organized by SAHMAT at Press Club, New Delhi on 29 May
  • On 5 June, the Registrar SMSed Professor Panikkar asking him to submit results of various papers being examined at the graduate and post graduate examinations and allowing him permission to enter the campus for this purpose. Professor Panikkar replied that as per law he could submit results only if the suspension was withdrawn. The Registrar clarified that the suspension had not been withdrawn but urged Professor Panikkar to submit results anyway. Professor Panikkar then reiterated that as per law it was illegal to discharge any official responsibility while under suspension. Recently, in spite of the legal clarifications offered, Professor Panikkar has yet again been asked to submit results by the Registrar.
  • On 9 June, staff members of the Faculty gave the Governor, in his capacity as a Visitor to the University, a Memorandum that apprised him of the situation. The primary demands of the staff members were the following:
    1. An FIR be lodged by the University authorities against Niraj Jain and associates for intruding into the University premises without permission.
    2. The attached artworks be released forthwith to enable the completion of evaluation and declaration of result
    3. The suspension of i/c Dean, Professor Shivaji K Panikkar who was the only University authority who attempted to prevent the disruption of examinations, protect the students and redress their grievances, be revoked unconditionally with immediate effect.
    4. That the Governor, as the Visitor to the University, intervene and set up an inspection into all the official actions taken by the university authorities with regard to the Faculty of Fine Arts, as their actions clearly compromise the autonomy of the University and violate the sanctity and integrity of University education.
    5. That appropriate action be initiated against the Vice Chancellor for abdication of responsibility towards the University at a critical moment, failure to take action against the intruders and disruption of the examination process.
    6. To set up, in his Capacity as the Governor of Gujarat State, a Judicial Level committee to inquire into the entire events starting from the Fine Arts Faculty to the developments thereafter, like the announcement of a reward of Rs. 1 lakh for a nude portrait of Prophet Mohammed by Mr. Deepak Shah, a senate member of the University and the appearance of the nude portrait of Prophet Mohammed in the D.N, Hall in the main University Campus, that led to a riot-like situation in the Old City area of Vadodara.

    Such an inquiry, the staff members felt was of prime importance particularly since there was a clear indication that a section of the public was actively trying not only to vitiate the atmosphere in the University but was also instigating and provoking religious clashes among people of various faiths. The students and Chandramohan also petitioned the Governor about the events that occurred in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

  • The University reopened. The strike by the students which was suspended on 14 May was restared. More than 150 students gathered at the Faculty ; huge banners were put up reiterating demands to file FIR against Niraj Jain, to revoke suspension of Shivaji Panikkar and protesting University apathy in general. The students continue the dharna at the Faculty till 21 May. The students wrote a letter of appeal to the general public elucidating their point of view, and highlighting Chandra Mohan’s position as a student. Their appeal was carried widely in the Gujarati papers- and the heartening thing was that the local opinion and the local media were and continue to be quite sympathetic.
  • The Staff members also decide to protest against University decisions regarding the Faculty, primarily the decision to suspend Professor Shivaji Panikkar. The Dean, Professor Deepak Kannal tried to mediate between the University authorities and the Faculty of Fine Arts but no headway was made.
  • A delegation of staff members meet the VC to discuss the issue on the 22 May but the talks are disappointing as the University position did not show any significant shift from that of 11 May. The teachers later apprise the Chancellor of the meeting between them and the VC on the 27 May. The students also stage a dharna at the University office on 22 May for the first time and hand over a memorandum stating their demands to the VC. They continue staging dharna at the University office till date. They made the following demands:
    1. An FIR be filed against Mr. Niraj Jain and his associates by the University for disrupting the examination evaluation process and forcefully entering into the examination hall.
    2. The confiscated works be returned to the students/Faculty with an immediate effect in order to complete the evaluation process.
    3. Immediate and unconditional revocation of the suspension of Professor Shivaji K Panikkar.
    4. Disbanding of the biased inquiry committee.

  • On 23 June, the alumni of the Faculty were invited by the students to paint on canvases to symbolize solidarity with students and staff of the Faculty. Senoir artists like Jyoti Bhatt, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Natraj Sharma and others participated. The Painting Department building was draped in black plastic to suggest the gagging of the Faculty.
  • On 25 June the Baroda University Teacher’s Union demanded the revocation of the suspension of Shivaji Panikkar and condemned the attack on Fine Arts and disruption of Exams on 9/May/07. Later, on 2 July, BUTA members met with the Governor and urged His Excellency to look into the matter.
  • The general University position so far has been that Professor Panikkar should write a note of explanation/apology and the University would revoke the suspension. This however would not entail the dissolution of the Inquiry Committee which would continue to function. Professor Panikkar has refused to do so. The Faculty position is that any revocation of the suspension order should be unconditional and with honor.
  • On 26 June, students asked the VC to respond to their demands listed out in the Memorandum that they had given earlier. The VC said that he had conveyed the response to the Dean. The Dean denied being informed anything by the University authorities. The students, not getting a satisfactory answer from the authorities, decide to go on a relay hunger strike. On 29 June 70 students sit on a mass token hunger strike. This is followed by relay hunger strike by 5 students a day. This has continued till date. From 4 July onwards, the Faculty staff have joined the students on the relay hunger strike.
  • On 2 July, a protest rally was taken to the University office. Twice the Vice Chancellor met student representatives. The V.C. refused to respond to the queries of the students and merely asked them to return to their classes. The next day, University officials lock the entry gate to the office. When protesting students sat in front of University gate locked by University officials, they were accused of obstructing the functioning of the office. Students relocated away from the gate. V.C. addressed the protesters and instructed them to leave. The police were called in to arrest the peaceful and silent protesters. All students (about 45) detained at Fatehgunj police station. Striking teachers arrive at police station to lend support. The students were let off at 6:00 pm
  • On 5 July, Dean Deepak Kannal along with Prof. Shivaji Panikkar, Vasudevan Akkitham, i/c Head of the Painting Department and S Santhosh, meet with University authorities negotiate the matter with disappointing results. Representatives of the University merely reiterate the earlier position of the authorities. The officials accused the Faculty of Fine Arts of malpractices within the campus.
  • The next day, 6 July students turn up at the Faculty in large numbers. BUTA members join students in hunger strike, more than 100 University teachers join the Dharna in support. Dean Deepak Kannal resigns in protest of University apathy.
  • Prof. Shivaji Panikkar assaulted in Ahmedabad on 6 July where he had gone to inaugurate a students’ poster exhibition on communal harmony. In what was clearly a pre-planned attack, Professor Panikkar’s taxi-cab was attacked by about 15-20 assailants carrying lathis, stones and bricks as well as an iron drum which was used to shatter the windshield, windows and smash the body of the car. Professor Panikkar was manhandled, but managed to escape. His driver, Vijay Rajput sustained injuries on his face, hand and neck. An unknown outfit called Hindu Samrajya Sena has claimed the attack. An FIR was filed at Navrangpura Police Station, Ahmedabad. No arrests have been made so far, despite photographs of the attack being available.
  • On Saturday, 7 July, students block Faculty office in condemnation of the attack on Professor Shivaji Panikkar. Later students allow office staff to enter and then surround the office, stopping people from going in or out. The Registrar and Dy. Registrar ask the students to withdraw the protest. Students decline in the absence of concrete steps to resolve the issue. University releases Final year BFA students’ results. The next day, students along with staff members and Professor Shivaji Panikkar go to Ahmedabad to address meeting organized by All India Save Education Committee and appraise the gathering of the current situation.

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