Save CHS Library
This is an appeal to the national and global academic community at large, including JNU alumni as well as teachers’ associations, student bodies and individual professors and students across the world. This is also an appeal to all relevant public officials.

In a huge blow to the student and research community, the administration of Jawaharlal Nehru University, India has decided to shut down the library of Centre for Historical Studies (CHS). As such, the Centre is a world-class department for the study of Indian history, and the library is an indispensable, lifelong resource for scholars.

The library is being vacated and replaced by a new Special Centre for Tamil Studies. The foundation of a new Centre is welcome, but it cannot be at the cost of academic resources of existing centres.

Rs 10 crore (100 million) have been allocated to the university (out of which 5 Crore had been handed over in December 2022) by the Government of Tamil Nadu for the establishment and construction of the new Tamil Studies centre. Those funds should be utilised adequately to create a separate infrastructure for the new centre as was expected and implied in the Tamil Nadu Government grant.

Facilities built for a particular purpose with public funds cannot at will be transferred for other purposes. It was in the 1980s that the UGC scheme for awarding special funds to department of excellence, which was called Departmental Special Assistance Programme (DSA), was mooted and CHS applied for the assistance and it was given the grant after very rigorous process of scrutiny and evaluation where the publications of the faculty as well as the research which was done by the students as well as the teaching played a very big role. The grant was utilised to build and expand the library as no good institution can survive without a library.

The library houses tens of thousands of books and rare documents, many of which are out of print or unavailable elsewhere. Many of these have been donated or sourced from the private collections of legendary scholars such as Bernard Cohn, Satish Chandra, and DD Kosambi. Liquidation of archived private collections would be a loss in the eyes of any institute. The library collections of CHS are being reallocated and dispersed and with the risk of imminent disposal of the rest.

Hundreds of books are being packed and shifted to EXIM Bank library, which barely has a few dozen shelves. There is also the issue of seating space and access for the students from the department and visiting researchers. This amounts to destruction of one of the best department libraries in all of India for history, and a lifelong resource for students, alumni and visiting scholars. The decision was made without any consultation and knowledge of the CHS student community.

Student Community appeals to the JNU Teachers' Association, to all JNU faculty members and teachers' bodies across the world to intervene to help prevent the destruction of the CHS library.
Student Community,
Centre for Historical Studies, JNU

Oil in Manipur Hills
Discovery of oil is another reason attributed to the ongoing clashes in Manipur. The southern part of the state is believed to be sitting on a bowl of oil estimated at being almost five trillion cubic feet in size.

This is said to be covering the hill districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam, all of which are inhabited by the Kuki-Zo people.

The responsibility for oil exploration was given to Jubilant Energy, a Netherlands-based company while government firms like the ONGC which is drilling in Upper Assam were ignored.

It is reported that 30 oil well locations are said to have been identified and many more could still to be located. However, the deal has been questioned by environment experts who feel that it would disturb the rich soil conditions that exist in these areas besides harming the flora and fauna.

The Kuki-Zo people are aware of this rich resource available in their areas. Many think the Meitei push for ST (Scheduled Tribe) status is because of this reason.

Being granted ST status would allow the Meiteis access to these tribal areas and with governance being dominated by them anything would be possible thereafter.

Gonsalves and Ferreira on Bail
People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) welcomes the Supreme Court order granting bail on merits and release of Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, two of the accused in the infamous Bhima Koregaon case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

In a significant judgement, on 28 July 2023, the top court granted bail for two primary reasons: the fact that the accused had already been incarcerated for 5 years with the trial not having commenced yet, and that the NIA had been unable to justify, even prima facie, the allegations against them. The UAPA effectively prohibits bail to persons accused of terrorist activities and association if the State is able to show, prima facie, that they are guilty of the alleged offences. In this case, besides observing that no electronic evidence was recovered from their devices, the court has maintained that mere possession of literature does not constitute an unlawful activity; that collection of funds for legal aid for undertrials cannot prima facie be treated as an instance of terror funding; and that it is not sufficient to simply call an organisation as a front of a banned organisation as the links have to be proven.

The Supreme Court judgment, significantly, rolls back the stringency of its 2019 judgment in NIA v. Watali, which effectively gags the accused at bail proceedings by preventing them from challenging the materials of the prosecution, or bringing forth their own defence. The present judgment allows an examination of the probative value and reliability of materials in NIA’s charge-sheet.

However, the court has created a set of bail condition for both based on the fact that Vernon Gonsalves was once convicted and that there is a pending criminal case against him. Among the seven conditions imposed by the top court, including the conditions that they do not leave the state of Maharashtra, the instruction that the duo use one mobile phone each with its location available to the investigating authority all 24 hours is disturbing as it places Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreria under constant surveillance. Such tracking suggests that their release from prison is at the cost of their movement and privacy, a point which further curtails the licensed liberty available under bail.

However, what is even more disturbing is that the apex court has allowed for further conditions to be set by the special trial court, conditions that the latter may “consider fit and proper”. Accordingly, on July 31, the special NIA court has set further stringent conditions making the bail unfair and unjust.
Joseph Mathai, Paramjeet Singh
Secretaries, PUDR

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Vol 56, No. 9, Aug 27 - Sep 2, 2023