This article is written by Sylvine Sarmah. Republished from A First Taste of Law archives.
Optimism is predominantly the prime state of mind of students who find themselves allotted to any National Law University.
I could say the same for myself (well, almost) when I was allotted National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam. However, quite a few acquaintances of mine were skeptical about the idea of me handing over my fate to a 3 year old infant university.
The first month in this university passed by in a haze and a recollection of those days only bring to my conscience snippetsof memories marked with misplaced enthusiasm, a determination to succeed and a desperate hunt for means to pursue this quest for success. It was only after me and my batch mates were halfway through the 1st semester that the reality began to sink in. It struck me and my peers hard – “how do we advance towards our success inthis university with our limbs chopped off?” We were appalled by the suffocating authoritarian administration, the non-existence of opportunities and most importantly, cognizance of the fact that we might be shoving almost ₹ 1.7 lakhs of our money down the drainpipe.
A very vehement accusation, I know. But any attempts on our part then to bring about a change in the administration of the university were quashed, remarkable proposals thrown into bins. Initiative after initiative taken by the students to participate in moot court competitions, organize fests, form a functional Student Bar Association (which are an integral part of law schools) or get ourselves published were subtly discouraged by the university. Inadequate and incompetent teaching staff made matters worse. Lack of any sort of aid from the university, excuse being paucity of resources and infrastructure slowly pushed us all towards a vapid existence confined to a handful of books in an under stocked library.
High scores in academics were preached to such an extent that by the time me and my mates got promoted to the 2nd semester, most of us were down on our hands and knees scraping for some kind of intellectual stimulation outside the choking walls of the 4 modules of our syllabus. We literally dragged ourselves through the humdrum of the 2nd semester brain dead. It was in our third semester 2 months ago that the students of this university reawakened from their drunken stupor.
The former Vice chancellor of the university Prof. (Dr.) Gurjeet Singh had completed his tenure and a new Vice chancellor was yet to be appointed. Conniving manipulations and deceptive assurances from the authorities that things would get better eventually once the permanent university campus became functional could console us no more. Zeal of fervour, resolute and determination brought the students of the entire university together. This agitated cohesive whole thrummed with an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, agony and rage which had accumulated over the years. We made up our minds – something has to done.
The foresight of a bleak future drove the students of the 7th semester to sit for a protest on the 20th of September 2014 as they felt highly aggrieved due to the lack of books and irregular lectures for their subject specializations. Our mid semester exams were to begin in 2 days and our seniors claimed that they knew practically nothing about the subjects. An unresponsive and unapproachable administration added such fuel to the fire that the very next day, all of us from each semester sat down in protest boycotting all the proceedings of the university. The press was called; grievances were shared in public and each face glistening with tears of frustration screamed slogans demanding justice.
A group of students who took their grievances to the Gauhati High Court in order to meet the Chief Justice (who is our Chancellor ) were turned away in such an undignified manner that the collective efforts of the incandescent students took the protest to a complete new level, thus forcing the then registrar to bring the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court to us. And he did come!
He sat down with us and one by one, we students poured our hearts out – an understocked library, incompetent and inadequate permanent staff, absence of a permanent Vice Chancellor, harrowing class timings, non-existent university journal and placement officer, refusal of the authorities to let us form a Student Bar Association, highly congested temporary campus and most importantly, exorbitant fees. Name a problem and we have it.
He heard us, calmly, patiently and empathetically. An official meeting was organized the next day comprising of all the students and the Chief Justice along with the then acting Vice Chancellor of the university sans the university authorities and staff. A manifestation of each demand and aspiration of the students was submitted to the Chief Justice in the form of a draft and he assured us that all our requirements would be met. But after all these years of oppression and hopelessness, mere assurances weren’t enough to pacify us. We gave an ultimatum of 3 days to the panel of higher authorities who were supposed to discuss this matter at length and demanded that we be given an official written notification stating that our demands have been complied with. After a lot of negotiations and debates, the meeting was concluded and the students en masse decided to boycott the mid-semester exams and sit on a hunger strike until a final resolution was chalked out by the panel of authorities adhering to a major part of our pressing demands.
After 3 days of starvation and bunking out in the open, the protest came to an end on the 25th of September, 2014 when late in the evening, the we were officially notified that the Executive Council of NLUJAA complied with most of our demands and immediate measures toward improvement have begun. It was believed that there would be visible changes after the Durga Puja vacations which were to commence from the 28th of September, 2014.
The university resumed from the 7th of October, 2014 and the system overhaul was remarkable! Class timing was reduced by almost 2 hours and in a span of 3 weeks on 21st October 2014, a new Vice Chancellor Prof. (Dr.) Vijender Kumar who was the former Registrar of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) was appointed. He took office and as of now, things have never been better.
Steps toward setting up of an SBA, stocking of the library, appointment of competent teaching staff, changes in the exam pattern, improvement in services, progress towards a university journal, resumption of the construction of the permanent campus among other things have set the wheels for the evolution of an outstanding National Law University in motion with excellent prospects in the legal field. After 3 years of stagnation, gloom and despair, the cheerful atmosphere of enthusiasm, healthy competition and hope has restored itself. Once more, the future of this university, which is so entwined with ours, seems bright. I guess my decision of studying in this university wasn’t wrong after all.