Amid the stalemate between the administration of New Delhi's South Asian University (SAU) and the students over higher stipends, Ammar Ahmed, a student of MA Sociology, collapsed and was hospitalised on the night of Tuesday, 22 November.
"He is currently in the ICU and not very stable. He suffered a cardiac arrest and was admitted to Primus Hospital in Chanakyapuri. His motor functions are low," Tathagat, a second-year Master's student, told The Quint on Thursday, 24 November.
For over 40 days now, students at SAU have been agitating for an increase in stipend for Master's students to Rs 7,000, and demanding parity for international PhD students within the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).
The varsity's general student body alleges that Ahmed, who hails from Bihar, took ill over "SAU administration's persistent mental harassment."
Meanwhile, in a response to The Quint, the university stressed that "it got the student admitted in a super speciality hospital and the doctors there have been taking good care of the student."
"Our medical officer and the administration is in constant touch with the treating doctors," the varsity added.
Why This Matters
Prior to his hospitalisation, Ahmed was actively participating in the agitation, and was sent a rustication notice in light of his demands.
On 17 October, Ahmed expressed that he could not survive on the stipend of ₹4,000 a month in a meeting with the varsity administration.
"He narrated the situation of his family, about ailments of his mother and father.... However, on 4 November, he was sent a rustication notice from the office of the proctor without any due procedure or show cause notice," a press release by the student's body indicated.
Speaking to The Quint on the condition of anonymity, a university staff member said, "The student is in a very critical condition. Never before has a student been hospitalised in this manner due to the ego of administration officials."
He added, "Even though the university mitigated his rustication and changed it to suspension till 11 November, he was informed of this change only on 23 November."
At least four other students were served these notices – two were expelled, one rusticated and one suspended.
The students have alleged that the university is being unresponsive to their grievances, and the administration is "abusing the power of their office and also threatening other students with expulsions."
"They blocked our numbers and cut our calls. They called the police for the second time yesterday (23 November), which was unprecedented. The police have now urged them to form a committee and have a meeting today (24 November), at 12 noon," Tathagat told The Quint.
However, by Thursday evening, no meeting had taken place.
What Else is the University Saying
In their statement, the varsity claimed that it "has accepted the requests of the students who were suspended/rusticated/expelled to reduce the degree of actions taken against them - expulsion got reduced to rustication till 22 November 2022, rustication got reduced to suspension till 11 November 2022 and suspension got reduced to a fine of INR 500."
Further, it indicated that the students who were on a hunger strike have called it off.
What Are the Students' Demands?
Increment in Master's scholarships
Increment in PhD stipends in parity with JRF
Modifying the extension policy for PhD scholars affected by COVID-19
Equal stakeholder membership in critical bodies in the university
"Earlier, students used to get Rs 5,000 per month, in terms of financial assistance as well as merit scholarships. Now they've reduced it to Rs 4,000. They've also reduced the number of students who receive this scholarship," Tathagat told The Quint.
Now, the protestors have also added revocation of suspension and rustication orders as one of their requirements.
Additionally, the students have lodged a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking their urgent intervention in the matter.
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