The students' strike that took place at the Pondicherry University during the summer starts on Monday, July 27th 2015. Students directly begin to block the main entrances of the campus by a sit-in in the morning. The movement is led against the presumed corruption of the vice-chancellor and director of the University, Chandra Krishnamurthy, in office since February 2013. Is this strike of Indian youth can be understood as a proof of a new citizen consciousness against the political world?
Students prefer to remain anonymous and to hide their face during interviews at the beginning of the strike, because they are afraid of photos and police. Several students who had previously tried to question the vice-chancellor's authority were offended, censored, and even fired from the University. In July 2015 the movement finally impose due to the support and information brought by several professors, themselves hurt by the management and the numerous suspicions of the administration. Police presence is going to be partially contained by the professors' mobilization. Their support improves the student protest in a country where the professor is more than estimated.
Students demand the departure of Chandra Krishnamurthy without advance notice. This one is accused to have falsified her curriculum vitae at her appointment in February 2013: diplomas she supplied result from a Sri Lankan University that doesn't exist. The vice-chancellor proclaims she wrote three books but two were never found, and the first one could be plagiarized at 98%. About the nine doctorates supervision and scientific projects, there are only two that could be proved. Finally she claims to have written 25 scientific articles; the only one found is plagiarized at 75%.
Registration fees in an Indian university are very high compared to the level of life of the middle class. While they increase seriously over the last two years at the Pondicherry University, suspicions of financial corruption quickly appear in light of several events: a program for the construction of two thousands student housings was financed by the University but the residence was never build; no purchase of new books has been made since 2013. On the other hand the vice-chancellor's expenses have exceptionally raised; 5 million rupees were spent for her residence renovation, three new official cars have been bought and the University has paid huge phone bills.
Pondicherry University is used to be at the best places in the Indian universities' ranking: it is present in top 10 until 2013. Since the nomination of the new vice-chancellor the University falls every year, to reach the 61th place in 2015. Besides suspicions of corruption against the administration and excessive private spending of Chandra Krishnamurthy, the interrogation of her management is such important in the students' strike. 40% of them are interns and are thus gathered in student residences. In front of the high numbers of applicants, places are overloaded: four students pile up in rooms planned for two; they are sometimes six in rooms planned for three. New buildings are still closed to students.
During the 2000s students moved on the huge campus with bicycles and electric cars loaned by the University. Today these opportunities of use don't exist anymore. Fountains of filter water are not refilled. Graduation ceremonies take place sometimes one year after the end of exams. Finally the uncertainty increases in the campus, in particular for women.
In front of a sprawling corruption and a disastrous management, it's normal to ask how an application like this one could be elected. Rumours can't be verified, but it's plausible that Chandra Krishnamurthy reached the post of vice-chancellor due to her relations in New Delhi, in particular at the Ministry of Interior. Students assert they sent several messages to the federal government in New Delhi since 2014, which manages Universities in the Union Territories. In front of the lack of response, the strike is finally the last solution to be heard.
The strike starts on Monday, July 27th by a first sit-in of the students to block the main entrances of the University; they show some slogans such as "we want justice" in Tamil but also in English and Hindi, as a symbol of the students' melting pot and their multiple origins. Policemen use their baton several times against protesters, and some employees try to enter in the campus to join their work by force – sometimes with their bikes. The University closure and students' demands will continue several weeks. Under the growing influence of professors in the ranks of strikers, it's all the professors' association (PUTA for Pondicherry University Teachers' Association) that joins the movement.
The strike grows in importance during the next weeks, partially due to an important media repercussion that's crossing the Territory of Pondicherry and India beyond. In a country where hierarchy is paralyzed by the system of castes and deeply marked by the male domination, it's rare that young students make a strike during several weeks to impose their views over a public administration. Especially when this one is directly under the supervision of New Delhi.
On Thursday, August 6th about fifteen students with three girls start an indefinite hunger strike until the Ministry of Human Resource Development reaches their requests. They are admitted four days later to hospital because they are suffering of diverse disorders; fifteen other students continue their hunger strike.
On August 14th, the Ministry of Human Resource Development asks formally to the vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy to leave her post at the University on August 22nd for an indefinite duration; an investigation will be led about the strikers' charges. It's the first time in the history of Pondicherry University, opened 31 years ago, that its vice-chancellor is suspended. The echo is even more important because Chandra Krishnamurthy was the first woman elected to this position. The dean of professors Anisa Basheer Kahn is chosen to take this responsibility. Students welcome the new with joy and excitement.
On August 18th, some students opposed to the strike enter on the campus and commit acts of degradation on buildings and university's cars, and even use violence against students and professors on strike. Victims testify about the police inactivity, which took a long time to intervene. They claim that it's a fight in answer to the detention of the General Secretary of University by students the day before, who forced him to recognize the charges of corruption against him and his complicity with the vice-chancellor. The same General Secretary suffers from cardiac problem and is admitted to the hospital in the evening as well.
The professors' day was on Monday, September 7th; the new vice-chancellor Anisa Basheer Kahn announced that a general auditor from New Delhi would come to audit the University's financial accounts. The new director announces news funds for the construction of student houses. A study committee is also set up to collect the complaints of students and to find recommendations. All the campus would also be equipped with WIFI before October 31st, 2015.
At the same time the panel of three professors chosen to study charges against Chandra Krishnamurthy returns its report on October 23rd: the six charges are all proved. The panel qualifies the famous false University of Sri Lanka as the "largest degree mill in the world".
This students' protest movement had a national resonance, because it's a local application of a national phenomenon. Through metropolises and their regions, the various components of the Indian population become conscious of their citizenship and of different means to claim it. In a country where the caste system is historically anchored, the poorest classes develop a global voice to be heard. The humblest workers multiply strikes against an economic world they consider overwhelming. Citizens realize the flagrancy of corruption in their political elites and turn away from them. Women claim their rights against the misogyny and its different forms of violence. Finally the youth understands the weight of education in its future and looks for a better situation that the previous generation.