Shehla Rashid, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union vice president is in the eye of the controversy again. This time it is for her post on Twitter about the ‘internet censorship’ on the JNU campus. Shehla had tweeted on November 11: “Students can’t access content from AIB, The Wire, NDTV, YouTube videos related to student movements. Keyword search related to Mamata Bannerjee, Rahul Gandhi, Shehla Rashid, (Arvind) Kejriwal, Kanhaiya (Kumar) censored!!!”.
Through a notice dated December 7, the JNU administration (office of the chief proctor) asked Shehla to appear for a proctoral inquiry for her claims. The notice which Shehla claims was sent to her on her email was also put on the Twitter.
The notice reads:
A complaint dated 23.11.2017 against you, has been received in the Chief Proctor Office… It has been alleged that you were claiming on social media site (Twitter) regarding content blocking on the JNU Campus Wi-Fi.
“You are directed to appear for the hearing before the Proctor on 19th December…to explain your position in this regard. You may also bring any evidence which you wish to submit in support of your defence. You are required to present yourself on the date and time fixed for hearing. Upon failing to present yourself on the date and time appointed for the hearing, it shall be presumed that you have nothing to say on this matter. In such circumstances, the matter will be decided in your absence.
Note: No mobile phones and carry bags are allowed during the hearing of Proctorial Inquiry.
Reacting to the notice Shehla posted on Twitter again on December 14. “JNU Administration’s attempt to clamp down my freedom of expression is part of a larger directive from BJP IT Cell to target my Internet presence. My Wikipedia page is routinely vandalised. My FB page ratings are attacked with 1*s. Not to mention the abuses on each of my tweets,” she wrote.
She also uploaded the image of the notice and wrote “My university administration lives in some kind of repressive Victorian era where they call kids into their office (without cell phones, of course) for a spanking! This is probably the first notice anyone has received for posting on social media! It’s not even in their purview!!,”.
She told the media that she would not appear before the proctor inquiry on December 19 as the varsity administration “does not have a jurisdiction over” her tweets. “I have decided not to argue with them on the merits of the case, but on the grounds of purview,” she said, adding that she would send a written representation.
After going through the tweets by Shehla and the notice served to her one can say that the JNU administration has not gone out of their jurisdiction in asking her to explain her position. It is not a suo moto action by the university but an inquiry based on a complaint made to it. It’s very much in its purview to investigate the matter. The letter asks her to explain her position and nowhere pronounces her guilt or serves punishment. She is surely answerable to the university administration as a student and not just play the victim on social media.
When Shehla made a remark on the university of being repressive for not allowing cells during inquiry she forgot that cell phones are generally not allowed in any inquiry.
Being a student of the university Shehla is bound to follow certain rules and regulations and not flout them openly in the name of ‘freedom of expression’. It is yet to be verified if Shehla had complained about the ‘Internet Censorship’ to the grievance redressal department of the University. It is indeed her right and also a responsibility to prove herself correct and furnish the proofs during the inquiry to support of her claims and not just drumbeat on social media. However, if her claims are found to be untrue the university has the power to take legal action against her for spreading lies and defaming the institution.