NEARLY 300 foreign students in Gujarat University’s Study Abroad Programme (SAP) have been directed to sign an undertaking that they will not approach the media or police without prior permission of university officials.
The directive to not approach the media or police comes after several students from South Asian countries complained of “unhygienic, cramped accommodation” provided to them and warns that “engagement with any outer agency like media or police without prior permission of Gujarat University authorities shall invite immediate expulsion for violating the code of conduct from university/colleges and deportment to their country”.
And among the 300 foreign students, 35 from Afghanistan, in September, were shifted against their wish to a Muslim-dominated area of Lal Darwaja, some 10 km from the campus in Ahmedabad, because of “their eating habits and culture”.
“The (Afghan) students staying at the Lal Darwaja facility are mostly, in fact, all are Muslims. So, looking at their eating habits, community and culture they are put up there. There were attempts to provide a hostel facility in the western parts of the city but we received complaints from both students and neighbours about their habits of eating non-vegetarian food. The students also complained that they do not get non-vegetarian food easily. So these facilities were shut down,” SAP and Diaspora Studies Advisor and coordinator Neerja Gupta told The Indian Express.
Gupta, who is also the principal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan PG College of Arts and Commerce in Khanpur, also said that the directive to foreign students was necessary. “Of course we did (take the undertaking). We have a reason to do so. There was a false report about hostel conditions of boys flats (which is known as Information and Library Network, INFLIBNET) in a local channel some time back. Students do not understand the consequences of such a thing but it tarnishes the image of our country,” she said.
The students, primarily from South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation(SAARC) and African countries, are part of the Study Abroad Programme (SAP) under Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) scholarships.
The 300 students are enrolled in the Gujarat University’s departments and around nine affiliated colleges in and around Ahmedabad. Three hostels are provided — one for girls and two for boys — by the university to accommodate these students, said Gupta
One of the residents at the INFLIBNET block said, “I have been staying in this hostel for two years and whenever my family makes a video call and asks me to show the place where I stay, I make an excuse and go to the terrace to talk to them. I cannot show them this condition. This is really not what we had expected before coming here.”
At one Gujarat University hostel, students are accommodated in a two-storey building with 16 rooms on each floor. Three women are crammed in one poorly-ventilated dingy room with little storage space, no canteen, proper drinking water or even toilets.
“The last time when we complained to the authorities … we were threatened against approaching any authority and forced to sign an undertaking,” said another student.
An Afghan student at Lal Darwaja said: “All Afghans do not eat non-vegetarian food. Provide me with a hostel near my college I will not eat non-vegetarian food.”