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'Open house' demand sparks debate at Panjab Univesity
Tuesday August 27, 2013 11:34 AM, IANS

It was all about an open debate that has become a debating point on the sprawling Panjab University (PU) campus in Chandigarh. As the date for the elections to the PU students' council nears, student leaders and organizations are demanding the revival of the Open House debating session this year.

The Open House is an all-comers platform for top leaders from student organizations to debate their issues before hundreds of students just before the student council elections. The practice was discontinued by PU in 2010 after the Chandigarh Police and the local administration cited security concerns.

The Open House, conducted at PU's popular Students' Centre, used to attract over 2,000 students in one go. It was a festive and noisy affair with one top leader from each student organization being given a chance to put across his GROUP's agenda before the student voters. The atmosphere was quite charged up as student leaders attempted to outdo one another with their oratory skills. The Open House was the grand finale of the election campaign.

The students' leaders and organizations are now demanding that the Open House be revived to allow them to reach out to maximum students for the elections, tentatively scheduled for Sept 4. Student leaders say that the Open House gave them a platform to test their oratory and crowd-pulling skills.
PU authorities and the Chandigarh Police have however not yet decided on whether the session will be allowed this year, but from all available indications, it's unlikely. The session was banned from 2010 after university authorities and police felt it was leading to violent clashes on the campus.

PU Vice Chancellor Arun Grover has asked student organisations to come out with a feasible proposal to hold the session is a peaceful manner.

"In the past, there were incidents of violence, entry of outsiders on the campus and unnecessary pomp and show during the Open House. That is why it was stopped. We have received memorandums from student organizations for reviving this," PU Dean (Students' Welfare) Navdeep Goyal said.

He said that suggestions have been invited from student organizations for conducting a peaceful Open House. "We will consider reviving it if a concrete proposal is put up by them."

Student leaders are not too happy with PU disallowing the Open House.

"The students' elections have been reduced to a farce by disallowing the Open House. We are being treated like schoolchildren. We do not see anything wrong with the Open House session," PU Students' Union president Yadwinder Singh Dhaliwal said.

"I have myself attended Open House sessions and we do not see anything wrong with its conduct. University officials have reduced the elections to a farce and are treating us like we are studying in a school," he added.

Some student organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad have suggested that the Open House session be revived even though the number of supporters could be reduced to 50 for each student organization.

The Students Federation of India has suggested that a committee of faculty members and researchers should be formed to monitor activities during the Open House.

The National Students Union of India has said that the Open House should not be banned just because police are not able to ensure law and order.

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