The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Fee Hike protest took a dramatic turn yesterday when Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) with thousands of students tried to march from the JNU Campus to the Parliament. As a result a heavy police deployment was put in place and around 100 students were detained, along with JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh.
JNUSU in its statement said that the march was a “way to appeal to lawmakers to fight on our behalf inside the floor of the house”. The Delhi Police along with CRPF had put in around 1,200 troops around the JNU Campus and in Central Delhi. Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) in its statement said, “barricading the campus to stop the students from taking out their planned march will thwart the students from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights”. Before the protestors could reach the parliament, Delhi Police had enforced Section 144 in areas surrounding the JNU Campus and the Parliament. The march was first halted at Ber Sarai road wherein most of the detainments took place. From here the students initially started moving back, but after three hours by 3 p.m. they gathered around Safdarjung Tomb area, and stated that they would not disperse until all of the detained students were released. Apart from this Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, as advised by Delhi Police, had to close Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk, Lok Kalyan Marg, and Central Secretariat metro stations on the Yellow Line. Along the way the protestors and the forces were locked in a constant struggle. The march saw use of violence by both sides like the breaking of barricades by the students, and baton charges by the forces. All the students detained were released by 9:30 p.m. which marked the end of the march. The effects of the protest could clearly be seen in the Parliament as questions were raised on the Bharatiya Janata Party Government during Zero Hour by Bahujan Samaj Party’s MP, Danish Ali.
The extensive protests have been organised since 1st November against the newly enforced Draft Hostel Manual by the IHF (Intel Hall Administration) which is the regulating body of JNU Hostels. According to the manual a host of new charges, from mess bills to water bills, were to be added while some charges were to be increased in the student fees which would increase the annual fee of a resident student in JNU from Rs. 8,000 to around Rs. 50,000. This extreme hike had caused a uproar by the not only JNUSU but also political groups like All India Students’ Association (AISA), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), etc. Though students earlier claimed that the manual also mentioned rules relating to curfew timings and dress code but the JNU Administration via a notice on 1st November clarified that the manual housed no such rules. The Students’ Union also alleged that neither the Vice Chancellor nor anyone else from the Administration is ready for a dialogue with the students. Even though the protest has mostly been peaceful, but two events specifically have tainted the nature of the protest. Firstly, the vandalizing of Swami Vivekanand’s statue and writing of slogans such as,“Bhagwa Jalega” and “Long Live Fascism”. Secondly, confinement of the Associate Dean of Students, Prof. Vandana Mishra, by the Students for around 24 hours.
Seeing a such a massive opposition the Education Secretary via his Twitter handle tweeted that the fees has now been halved, and special provisions have been made for Below Poverty Line students. Still, JNUSU termed the step a gimmick and demanded a full roll back of the manual. Till now the JNUSU delegation after yesterday’s march has submitted their demands to the Ministry of Human Resource Develipmemt (HRD) after a meeting with GC Hosur, Joint Secretary of the HRD Ministry.
Speaking to DU Beat, Surajit Mazumdar, Secretary, JNUTA, said, “The calling of the JNUSU delegation and the constitution of the 3 member committee itself shows us that the government acknowledges the failure of the JNU Administration. Secondly, the JNU Administration till now hasn’t even recognized the JNUSU, so even when the education minister wanted to meet the union the administration refused. JNUTA also hopes the committee will provides a fruitful solution. We have also put forward our demand that the VC should step down as he has time and again proved to be incapable of the post”. Ashutosh Singh, ABVP State Media In charge adds, “ABVP from the starting has been against the fee hike and we even put aside our ideological differences to protest with JNUSU and since they did not have roadmap for further actions we had to part ways after the first 13 days of the protest. We even have protested outside the UGC on 13th November which resulted in a very positive dialogue between us and UGC. ABVP also condemns the vandalizing of Swami Vivekanand’s statue as he is one of India’s greatest figures and disrespecting him is wrong. We have demanded strict action against those who did it”. The JNU Administration and JNUSU could not be contacted for a statement on the same.
Feature Image Credits: NDTV India
Aniket Singh Chauhan