Disagreement over marking attendance in Jawaharlal Nehru University took a turbulent turn on Friday in the campus after students were allegedly not allowed to leave classrooms without signing the attendance sheet.

Students from JNU’s Centre of Economic Studies and Planning said they were forcibly confined on Friday afternoon and were not allowed to leave without marking their presence on the sheet during the Monetary and Banking Institutions lecture.

“A few students refused to sign the attendance sheet in accordance with the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union’s call for boycott of compulsory attendance. Approximately 25 students were forcibly detained by professor Pradipta Chaudhury and were not allowed to leave without signing the attendance sheet,” said a former student of the Centre of Economic Studies and Planning on the condition of anonymity fearing action.

The row has erupted over JNU’s decision of 75 per cent compulsory attendance, a new mechanism which requires MPhil and PhD students to sign a register in the centre office daily. The new eligibility criterion has been introduced in this semester and will determine if a student can sit for end semester exam. The decision was taken in the university’s academic council meeting held in December.

The students’ union has boycotted the new method, terming it a vice-chancellor’s “diktat” and the protest saw support from the varsity’s teachers’ association, who have called it a faulty concept and uncalled for.

“Students were forced to stay inside and give attendance. Can confining students to sign the attendance sheets be the basis of a teacher-student relationship? Departments like School of Social Sciences, School of Languages have pulled out as teachers are not against the 75 per cent requirement but the concept behind the move,” said Ayesha Kidwai, president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association.

Calls and messages sent to professor Pradipta Chaudhury were not answered at the time of going to press. She had faced no problem of absenteeism and most of her students, including research students, have maintained exemplary attendance record, she added.

“It is a bureaucratic measure taken to convey to the outside world that V-C is bringing an anti-national university into shape to give an impression of accountability,” she told Mail Today.

However, some professors have decided to mark the attendance and accept the decision taken by the university administration to ensure accountability of invisible students and teachers on campus.

Amita Singh, a professor at JNU’s Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, said, “The fact is that many students in JNU hardly attend the classes and are never seen owing to which the university does not have a strong attendance record of students. Teachers are continuously writing them emails to locate their students. Some teachers are not tech-savvy, so they do not send the mail but keep trying to locate them with the help of others who attend classes,” Singh said.

“There is no proof to evaluate the work put in by students and then students frame teachers for being anti-Muslim or anti-SC,” said Singh.

“JNU should have teachers and students on campus and many go absent for months on the pretext of fieldwork. Fieldwork is dissipating as one needs to be theoretically adept before stepping out in the field.”