Hundreds of JNU students clashed with police Monday as their protest over hostel fee hike escalated, leaving HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhrial stranded for over three hours at the varsity’s convocation ceremony. The dramatic protest saw Delhi Police using water cannons to disperse students as they moved from JNU Campus to the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) auditorium, where the university’s third convocation was held today. JNU protests LIVE Updates
The HRD minister and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu were chief guests at the event. While Naidu left the premises after addressing the convocation, Pokhriyal was stuck inside the premises as the protesting students blocked the path. The minister was able to leave the premises around 4.15 PM. Before that, he met JNUSU members around 2 pm and listened to their problems. Officials told news agency PTI that the minister assured them of a solution.
They, however, were not able to meet the VC and raised slogans “we want V-C”.
“This is not the end of our movement. We urged the HRD minister to ask the VC to have a dialogue with the students and he assured us that he will direct the VC to talk to the students. It is due to him (the VC) that things have come to be like this,” said JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh.
The students are demanding the withdrawal of the draft hostel manual, in which service charges of Rs 1,700 were introduced and the one-time mess security fee, which is refundable, has been hiked from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000.
The rent for a single-sharing room has been increased from Rs 20 per month to Rs 600 per month, while rent for a double-sharing room has been increased to Rs 300 per month from Rs 10 per month.
The draft hostel manual also has provisions for dress code and curfew timings, the students’ union alleged, even as the administration denied these two claims.
The protests escalated as the day progressed with crowds of angry students, holding banners saying “Roll back fee hike”, trying to push through a wall of anti-riot police personnel to reach the venue.
Several barricades put up by the police were broken by the students, who started their march from JNU towards the AICTE premises, about 3 km away from the campus in south Delhi, around 10.30 am, reported PTI.
Some of the students were also detained.
The students shouted slogans like “Police ko aage karta hai, JNU VC darta hai (JNU VC keeps police in front as he is afraid)” as they demanded that vice chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar meet them and listen to their demands.
During the scuffle with police personnel, the students raised slogans like “Police-walo ki ek bimari, Tis Hazari, Tis Hazari“, referring to their clash with lawyers at the city’s Tis Hazari court a few days back. Slogans supporting lawyers, who are on a strike following the clash, were also heard.
Barricades were placed outside the north and west gates of the JNU campus, as well as on the route between the AICTE auditorium and the university at Baba Balaknath Marg, and nearby areas but the marching students broke one after the other.
JNU students’ union vice-president Moon said, “The unprecedented situation in the campus is a result of the intransigence of the administration regarding the hostel manual and the fee hike.
“The fee hike will affect an overwhelming number of students. It denies those from the deprived sections to avail education if they cannot pay. It affects those people who are pursuing education independently.”
The protestors also raised several other issues like restrictions on entry to the Parthasarathy Rocks — a hillock inside the campus, and attempts to lock students’ union office.
The tenure of the present VC M Jagadeesh Kumar has been marred with controversies. The infamous sedition row of 2016, lockdown of his office multiple times and the Union HRD Minister getting locked down for over three hours today are a few instances that mark his controversial tenure at the country’s top educational institute.
-With PTI inputs