Army Institute of Law protests: Strike called off, but spirit of protest remains

Army Institute of Law protests: Strike called off, but spirit of protest remains

After calling off their strike on October 21, students of the Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali have asserted that they will be vigilant in ensuring that the administration remains accountable to the promises they had made in response to the popular uprising.

A press release issued by the students states,

The road ahead shall be marked with the underlying spirit of the protest which is kept alive even after the culmination of strike. Such culmination in no way indicates the submission of our spirit to a state of imposed fear by the authorities, but an act of marching towards a better future. The strike has ended only to fuel the ongoing protest and the voice of this protest shall echo an everlasting movement.

The students had formally announced the halt of their strike in the wake of messages being sent to parents that protests were initiated with “vested interests” and notices being issued threatening disciplinary action against the students.

The press release also alleges that the administration resorted to personal intimidation and suppression of media reportage. In this regard, the Institute’s Registrar is said to have declared, “the consequence that ensues upon any student who contacts any person from media is penalty for the major offence of ‘bringing disrepute to college’.’

The failing health of the students and the upcoming Diwali break added to the students’ decision to break their strike, following which classes formally resumed on October 22. However, students maintain that the end of the strike does not signify the end of student protests.

A source told Bar & Bench that the visible shift in the environment of the institute was evident shortly after the strike was called off, when wardens of the hostel were themselves forced to take the students’ roll call. The student press release also makes note of the incident,

In less than 2 hours of conclusion of strike, the roll-call in the hostel was compelled to be conducted by the respective wardens for no member of the previously existing prefectorial body co-operated.

Following the strike, the prefectorial student body submitted its resignation and an interim democratically nominated body currently represents the students.

Another incident concerned the quality of mess food, which also featured in the list of grievances submitted by the students during the strike. After insects were found in the mess food after the protest, a complaint by the students saw the mess contractor being fined the same day, for the first time.

The continuing spirit of protests also carried on to a candle light march that was conducted by the students, a day after the conclusion of the formal strike.

Students during the candle light march at the Army Institute of Law
Students during the candle light march at the Army Institute of Law

There was just one message (informing the students of the march) and people showed up in huge numbers”, Bar & Bench was told. “All of this shows that people have started making the authorities accountable for their actions.

The administration had earlier refused to completely accede to eight principal demands put forward by the protesting students, including a demand for the constitution of a democratically elected student body. However, the management agreed to the constitution of a nominated student body, the draft charter for which is to be submitted by November 15.

Similarly, while it refused to revoke provisions of the Army Institute of Law Code of Conduct, challenged as arbitrary by the students, the administration has agreed to review the Code, in consultation with students and all parentsThe students have also been asked to submit their recommendations as regards this review, as stated in a notice issued by AIL on October 22. Accordingly, the release informs,

“… a draft titled,‘Recommendations to the Code of Conduct’ has been submitted by the newly appointed interim student body and addressed to the Principal and forwarded to the Chairman for due deliberation and consideration, as on 25th October, 2019.

Notably, a formal complaint has also been filed against the hostel warden of the girls’ hostel, which is said to have been forwarded to the Chairman of the Institute. Once classes resume following the Diwali break, students intend to push forward to ensure that their complaint is duly considered.

However, for now, the student release intimates,

The warden-student interaction in the allegedly abusive girls’ hostel is visibly minimal and not even a single incident of abuse at her hands has come to become the subject of discussion.

In the meanwhile, the administration has not taken any disciplinary action against the students yet, although there are apprehensions that penal action may be taken against certain students later on. However, the students have resolved that they will stand up for any student who is personally targeted for participating in the strike. In this regard, their release states,

An additional demand to seek justice for every baseless disciplinary action speculated to follow this monumental strike shall find its way. The stance stands strengthened by the abundance of alumini support, and zealous instinct of esteemed legal luminaries who propose to intervene and extend support.

The release adds,

As the constitution of a permanent student body, revocation of draconian provisions of the code, and institution of inquiry against allegedly abusive female warden is underway, it is the resolve of every student to ensure the fulfillment of everything promised and implementation of everything which is rightfully ours. That being stated, the student community awaits and is consistently pursuing a prompt response to the replies and complaints filed…

[Read the student press release]

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