Emergency Files: Part 4 – JNUSU President D. P. Tripathi and Councillor Sitaram Yechury Arrested

An old photograph of CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury when he was studying at JNU during emergency days

(As students all across India are fighting to defend their political freedom from assaults by the central government and the Sangh Parivar, Bodhi Commons is republishing the Emergency Files, a series of pamphlets brought out by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in Jawaharlal Nehru University, during the period of the Emergency (1975-77). This is the fourth part of the series. The previous parts can be read here (part 1) and here (part 2) and here (part 3).)

The assault on the people intensified as the Emergency progressed, and found reflection in the JNU campus as well.

The elections to the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) had been banned soon after the Emergency was declared. Hence the Constitution of the Union was amended through an Extraordinary University General Body Meeting (the University General Body Meeting is the highest decision making body of the students in JNU), and the terms of the office bearers were extended till such time as elections could be held. This was duly conveyed to the JNU authorities by the Union President D. P. Tripathi in a letter dated 24 September, and the University had transferred the Students’ Union funds to the Union's account. On 1 October, the Union President received a letter from the JNU authorities - in which he was addressed as ‘President, Students’ Union’ - inviting him to attend the next Academic Council Meeting.

In early November 1975, a fresh wave of attacks began on the students of JNU. Sitaram Yechury, then Councillor of the JNUSU from the School of Social Sciences (and today the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)), was arrested on 4 November.

The administration had earlier tried to "do away" with the Union by declaring that membership to the Union would be voluntary. However, to their surprise, almost all students became members of the Union, thus foiling the attempt. And now an Academic Council meeting was scheduled to take place on 7 November to discuss the notorious recommendations of the Deans' Committee, which included the withdrawal of all the rights of the Student-Faculty Committees (see Emergency Files: Part 2 for details) with regard to admission, making "A minus" the qualifying grade to be promoted to Ph.D. after M.Phil. (JNU has an integrated M.Phil./Ph.D. programme), the introduction of purely "merit scholarships" in place of the "merit-cum-means scholarships" (the latter took into account the family income of the student along with academic performance) etc. However, the administration knew that the Students’ Union would prove to be a stumbling block in the implementation of these proposals, and that the Union's activities had to be curbed to facilitate the authoritarian designs of the administration and the government in the future as well.

In early November 1975, a fresh wave of attacks began on the students of JNU. Sitaram Yechury, then Councillor of the JNUSU from the School of Social Sciences (and today the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)), was arrested on 4 November. On 6 November, the JNUSU was "derecognised" by the administration, notwithstanding the fact that the JNUSU was formed by the students themselves and not by the administration. On 7 November, the JNUSU President D. P. Tripathi was prevented from attending the Academic Council meeting. But he insisted that he be allowed to attend the meeting and to express his views, and the meeting was 'adjourned' before it could begin. In retaliation, an order was issued by the Vice-Chancellor on the night of the 7th, expelling Tripathi from the University. The very next day, four and half months after the Emergency was declared, D. P. Tripathi was arrested by the police.

Here is the pamphlet by 'The Resistance' which reported the latest developments:


The Struggle Will Continue!

13 November 1975

In the last four months the University authorities have in collusion with the police and government been launching one attack after another on the students of JNU and particularly the Union office-bearers. The students have been unitedly meeting these attacks and their determined resistance has foiled all these attempts to suppress the Union and the functioning of the left and democratic organisations on the campus. The latest round of attacks began on the night of 4th November when Sitaram Yechury (student councillor) was arrested from his residence under Sec. 108 of Cr.P.C. On 6th November, the Registrar informed the Union of its ‘derecognition’ by the authorities. On the 7th they did not allow D.P.Tripathi, President of the Union and ex-officio member of the Academic Council from attending the Council meeting. On the same night Tripathi was served with an expulsion order from the University for six months. Finally, on the 11th evening, Tripathi was arrested by the police inside the campus in the notorious ‘Purkayastha kidnapping’ style. He has now been detained under MISA. All these reprehensible activities once again illustrate the hand in glove working of the Nag Chaudhuri clique with the Congress bosses and the police.

Having failed to stamp out rising protest on the campus, one bunch of henchmen of Indira headed by Nag Chaudhuri ‘derecognised’ the Union’ seeing that it would not disrupt Union functioning, another bunch of henchmen headed by the DSP, Hauz Khas Police Station have resorted to arresting Tripathi. We salute Devi Prasad Tripathi for ably and courageously leading the students in the last four months at such great risk. We are confident that the students will continue to nurture and support the Union in his absence.

The main task of the student community is to preserve our democratic forum – the Students’ Union. It is our duty to see that the Union functions in a new way on a long-term basis in a situation characterised by severe repression. This will be the most effective rebuff to the gang of desperadoes ruling this country and administering our university. Their storm-troopers cannot stomach the fact that a strong leftist union continues to function in a university in the capital city. That is why in the past four months, 9 students have been arrested under DIR (including the General Secretary of the union); 2 students have been expelled from the university. For this record of black deeds the culprits in the University echelons will meet a just and fitting retribution soon.

Prof Nurul Hasan, Union Minister for Education is visiting the campus on 14 November to attend the function being held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the Centre for Russian Studies. On this occasion to mark a venture in Indo-Soviet cooperation, we should like to remind the honourable minister and the pseudo-progressives on the campus that they are celebrating what Lenin called the “barracks method in the treatment of students and liberal intellectuals.”

Concrete plans must be drawn up by mutual consultations amongst left and democratic organisations on the campus to keep the resistance to the dictatorial regime and in defence of our democratic rights growing and link them up with action elsewhere. We appeal to the students to continue to maintain their magnificent unity and unite with the karamcharis and democratic teachers to further strengthen our common struggle.

(Please read and circulate this leaflet widely)

(To be continued)