Friday, 16 November 2018

The Lucknow University of yore was way different from what we see…

The Lucknow University of yore was way different from what we see today. The university we went to was notorious for being an unsafe place which routinely saw brawls amongst students with the student leaders often lending their clout making the campus one that most parents were wary of sending their children to. In my three years there we had become quite adept at scramming the minute there was tension in the campus and yet many a times we saw students being beaten by gangs which did not baulk at brandishing country-made firearms, pistols are also known as “Kattas “, student leaders and their ilk swaggered around corridors fearlessly intimidating other students and the PAC camped leisurely in the parks watching over the mismanagement quite benignly.

The year was 1998 and a deceptively frail looking lady with a spine of steel took over as acting VC and single-handedly swept the campus free of criminals and criminality alike! She successfully evicted the much disliked PAC, which had been camping there for decades, from the premises calling it an eyesore and saying it would never give peace a chance.

Roop Rekha Verma, Ph.D. formerly, the Vice-chancellor, Professor & Head of the Philosophy Department and Dean, Faculty of Arts Lucknow University has taught there from 1964–2003. She has also been a recipient of the Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship for Oxford and has had the honor to be invited to deliver lectures and present research papers in various conferences/international seminars at many Indian and foreign Universities.

Professor Verma is a well- known Social Activist and has intervened in several dozen cases of Violence on Women and Communal Violence, and fought for justice for the victims. She has been awarded Begum Hazrat Mahal Award for Communal Harmony and Life Time Achievement Award in 2006 by Indian Social Science Association.

Lucknow knows her as an honest and upright lady, a formidable social activist, founder secretary of,”Sanjhi Duniya”, a social organization that provides legal aid pro bono to those in need and someone who stands firmly beside justice no matter the consequences.

At seventy-five she still drives her own car, lives a simple clutter free life and works tirelessly for others. She is an open and staunch critic of the right wing, which some feel is why she is now being targeted with the HC filing a case against her for what the University Administration claims is inciting unruly students to violence against the VC and which the activists say was just showing support for a peaceful protest. Professor Verma apparently visited the campus lending support to a group of 25 student leaders carrying out a peaceful protest. she and a few other known social activists of Lucknow joined Pooja Shukla, a student on hunger strike protesting against the high handedness of the university administration in withholding her result and refusing further admission. Incidentally, the same student was earlier arrested for showing black flags to the chief minister in another protest.

Protestors at Lucknow University being detained by police. Credit: PTI

A day later some students got into a scuffle with the VC as he passed the protest site and the protesting students were picked up by the police and the proctor named the ex VC professor Rooprekha Verma as one of those inciting violence even though the Professor says she wasn’t even present on the said day.

The entire society of Lucknow is buzzing with discontent at this action of the government and have come out in solidarity with the Professor on social media as well as in a press conference held for the media after the filing of charges.

Copy-edited by Adam Rizvi

Tazeen is a freelance writer based in Lucknow. She describes herself as a "Dreamer Forever, social justice warrior, believer in peace and equality, fool for love, wit and poetry."

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