For the second time in three weeks, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were lathi charged and dragged during a ‘padyatra’ to Rashtrapati Bhavan Monday to protest against the hostel fee hike.
Unlike last month, however, this time Delhi Police admitted to the use of “mild lathi charge”. “Students were removed forcefully after they turned right from Africa Avenue towards AIIMS. Their plan was to go straight towards Sarojini Nagar depot but they changed the route at the last minute,” said DCP (Central) Mandeep Randhawa. A senior police officer told The Indian Express that “mild lathi charge” was used to disperse students.
The ‘padyatra’ started from campus around 2 pm and remained undisturbed till around 4 pm when students reached near Bhikaji Cama Place metro station, and turned towards AIIMS. Police, who expected them to go straight, then used lathi charge.
Preeti Umarao, JNUSU councillor at the School of Life Sciences, claimed she was pushed to the ground and hit by cops with a ‘daphli’ she was playing. She said her glasses and phone were also snatched. “There were four constables and two CRPF personnel, all of them men. They also hit me with lathis on my abdomen,” she alleged. Shreyasi Biswas, another protester, claimed she was hit on her left hip and thigh.
Due to the police action, students split up and a sizeable lot parked themselves in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Ring Road. They refused to move till all students were brought there.
After much negotiation with police, the march started again around 5:15 pm, with JNUSU vice-president Saket Moon saying they would turn towards Moti Bagh. They had barely marched when police directed them towards R K Puram, effectively sending them back to JNU.
Students did not relent and a scuffle ensued. JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh climbed atop a jeep to address students: “Stay here, don’t go anywhere.” But she was soon removed by a woman police officer, following which a second round of lathi charge began.
Nivash Prakash, a student, was put into a jeep and taken to R K Puram metro station. “They kept me there for two hours and hit me on my genitals, shoulders and legs,” he alleged, adding that he was referred to Safdarjung Hospital for a check-up by the JNU health centre. JNUSU general secretary Satish Yadav alleged he was dragged and kicked repeatedly.
Vikalp Kumar, a student, said he was left with a bleeding hand. “They have indiscriminately lathi charged every student,” he said. Angered by the police action, students attempted to block the road, but were removed from there shortly.
Meanwhile, JNU Vice- Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar had a meeting with senior ministry officials Monday during which the compromise formula proposed by the government was discussed. As reported by The Indian Express Monday, the government, over the weekend, had advised the JNU administration to notify the students’ union and withdraw all police cases against the students as a first step to resolve the crisis.
The government also wants that the university should withdraw the service and utility charges, but the students should accept the hike in room rent. The ministry plans to meet officers-elect of the JNUSU on Tuesday.
However, JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh claimed she had already refused a meeting with the ministry for Monday morning. “They should first release the high-powered committee’s report. I also asked them to hold the meeting after our march, but didn’t receive a response,” she said.