Students of Assam Women’s University (AWU) on Monday went on a 36-hour hunger strike in protest against various statements made by Assam Education, Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the past few days regarding the status of the University and the degrees offered by it.
A total of 25 students started the hunger strike with support of other students and teachers of the University from 1 pm in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office complex.
They submitted memorandums to Deputy Commissioner and the mentor of the University, KM Bujarbaruah, who is also the Vice Chancellor of Assam Agricultural University.
The students have demanded appointment of a permanent Vice Chancellor and making the University a full-fledged one with permanent teachers.
Minister Sarma had initially told the media that he was planning to degrade the University into a Technical Institute and that the degrees of the students and jobs of teachers would be taken care of.
In a later statement he said that he was planning something bigger and better for the University but that the degrees of the students were of no value as the University did not even have a Vice Chancellor. He had also said that there was no point of having a University only for women.
The memorandum also mentioned the statements made by the State Minister due to which the students had come out in protest for the second time.
Earlier, the students of Assam Women’s University had staged a protest and observed black day on International Women’s Day on March 8 when they had first heard about the State government’s plan to convert the University into a technical institute.
The agitating students said that they had been forced to become activists as their future has been hung in the balance and they were not able to make their dissertations or study due to this uncertainty.
“We condemn the attitude of this government which is not bothered about the future of the citizens of the State especially in regard to women’s education,” they said.
From among those who have passed out a few have passed the National Eligibility Test (NET) for teachers, a few are doing MPhil under Dibrugarh University and a few doctorate under North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) while several have also got jobs in the public and private sectors as well.
The Assam Women’s University started its session from 2014 after an Act was passed in the State Assembly in 2013.
It may be mentioned that when the Act was passed it was Himanta Biswa Sarma, the then Education Minister in the Congress-led ministry in the State, who had also concurred to the passing of this Act.
A source said that Sarma’s statement regarding the degrees being of no value holds no water as the official website specifically states: “The university has been established by an Act XXII of 2013 of State Legislature of Assam as a State University vide Notification LGL. 149/2011/92 dated 21.08.2013 and is empowered to award degrees as specified by the UGC under section 22 of the UGC Act 1956 through its own departments”.
Sources, however said that the statements made by the State Education Minister widely published in the media had cast a shadow on the University and would adversely affect future admissions, effectively destroying the University.
The University is housed in a makeshift renovated grain storage facility of the Assam Agricultural University.
The facility houses 15 departments and offers graduate and post graduate degrees
Two batches of students have passed out and about 500 are still studying.
The teachers are all working on ad hoc basis since inception.