Understanding the JNU attendance standoff: How protests turned into FIRs

Students have been accused of gheraoing officials.

The ongoing standoff between the administration and the students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over compulsory attendance refuses to die down as Delhi Police on Saturday registered an FIR against two students. The FIR was filed after students surrounded the administration block and restricted two senior officials from leaving the premises for hours.

Miffed over not being able to meet Vice-Chancellor M Jagadeesh Kumar, hundreds of students led by JNU students’ union, gathered outside the administration block to protest against the imposition of compulsory attendance, reports NDTV.

A file photo | Source: Indian Express

What is the issue all about?

Last year, the administration came up with the proposal of introducing 75 percent compulsory attendance from the subsequent academic year. Students of all part-time courses which includes BA, MA, MTech, PG Diploma, MPhil and PhD, would have to meet the minimum attendance requirement to qualify for the end-semester of their respective courses. It also said that relaxation (60 percent attendance) will be given to students absent on valid medical grounds.
The proposal met with strong criticism from both teachers as well as students who termed it a “unilateral decision taken by the Vice-Chancellor”.

ALSO READ: JNU students protest against mandatory 75% attendance rule

Earlier this month, a circular was issued regarding the attendance new criteria.

Here is what it said:

  • Any student who doesn’t reach the 75 percent attendance mark in a semester will be debarred from registering in the next semester.
  •  Those students will then not be provided with hostel, medical facilities in the University either.
  •   Fellowship and scholarship holders will have to make the attendance cut-off to “avail/continue with the concerned fellowship.”

A file photo | Source: Indian Express | Oinam Anand

So why are students protesting?

Students organisations say that imposing mandatory attendance is unreasonable, irrational and undemocratic. They have maintained that they are not against attending classes but against its forced implementation. They also accused the Vice-Chancellor of clamping down on academic freedom by arbitrarily bringing such an order without consulting other official bodies. JNUSU president Geeta Kumar says that the attendance criteria will affect MPhil and PhD students who are primarily into research as such courses do not have formal classes on a regular basis.

Many teachers also came out in support of the students with the JNUTA calling it ‘unproductive’ and ‘meaningless’ form of bureaucratic work for teachers.

ALSO READ: ‘It’s an attack on tradition’: Student body reacts as JNU makes attendance mandatory from Jan

Have the classes been affected?

The protests have led to the disruption of classes as students organisations have called for a boycott. However, many teachers are conducting classes outside classrooms.

What is ABVP’s stand?

Surprisingly, the RSS’ youth wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP) which is always at loggerheads with the left-backed unions, also protested against the mandatory attendance rule.


How is it done in other premier educational institutions of Delhi? 

In Delhi University, the minimum attendance requirement is 66 percent for undergraduate level. However, for research courses, there is no such requirement. In Jamia Milia Islamia, it is 75 percent while for Ambedkar University, it varies every year. At Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, it is the teachers who decide attendance for classes.

What are the authorities saying now?

On Friday, the university administration moved High Court with a plea to not allow students to protest outside the administrative block. It stated that the protest was hampering day-to-day functioning, including disbursal of salaries. The court prohibited students from protesting outside the block but asked the administration to not prevent students from peacefully protesting at a different site.

Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor M Jagadeesh Kumar posted several videos on Twitter saying that students gheraoed the officials and disrupted the official work.


The students, on the other hand, denied the allegations and maintained that their only demand was to meet the Vice-Chancellor.