Over 100 students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University were detained by the Delhi Police on Monday as they marched towards the Parliament demanding a complete roll back of the hostel fee hike. Students also suffered injuries as police allegedly baton charged the protests. The agitation brought traffic and metro services to a halt in parts of the National Capital.
The detained students were released late in the evening and office-bearers of JNU Students Union (JNUSU) were escorted by police to meet the HRD secretary. Thousands of protesters camping outside the Safdarjung tomb were allegedly forced to go back to the campus by the police.
JNU students, who have been agitating for three weeks against a hike in hostel fees and a draft hostel manual which imposes dress codes and curfew timings, on Monday took out a protest march towards the Parliament, where the Winter Session commenced. The protesters, who carried banners that read "save public education", "fees must fall" and "ensure affordable hostels for all", were stopped at multiple points on their march.
As protesters refused to relent and continued to charge forward, police detained many students including the JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh. Police also baton charged the protesting students on two occasions, injuring students. According to the JNUSU, one student was admitted to AIIMS while several others sustained injuries, the images of which were shared along with the hashtag #EmergencyinJNU on Twitter.
The police however, denied having used force against the students and said that it had acted with restraint despite continued defiance from the protesters. "The Delhi Police staff acted with restraint all along and despite continued defiance by some groups of students, methods of persuasion were resorted to, and there was no use of water cannons, tear gas shells or lathi-charge at any stage of the protest," said the police in a statement.
The statement also added that over 100 students had been detained for "showing aggressive defiance" to the directions of the police.
"After protracted persuasive tactics and the general approach of physical containment by Police, students mostly seemed convinced, but a group of them suddenly broke away and somehow managed to proceed towards New Delhi area through the Aurobindo Marg. They were effectively stopped and contained at Safdarjung Tomb.However, some agitated groups still attempted to forcibly break barricades again. Around 100 students were detained for showing aggressive defiance to the directions of the police," said the statement.
The protest march affected traffic in Lutyens' Delhi and also brought metro services to a temporary halt. The entry and exit points of three Delhi Metro stations near Parliament were shut down temporarily and trains did not halt at Udyog Bhawan and Patel Chowk. The services resumed four hours later.
The students reiterated their demands for a complete roll back of the hostel fee hike and withdrawal of the draft hostel manual. The JNU administration had on Wednesday announced a partial roll back in the fee hike. However, the protesting students dubbed the move as eyewash and demanded that the JNUSU be treated as a stakeholder by the administration and the HRD. They also reiterated their demand for the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor on the university.
"We are being given a lollipop in terms of partial rollback. I'm the first one in my family to study in a university. There are many others like me. Education is not the birthright of a privileged few," Priyanka, a student of the university told PTI.
The protesters were initially allowed to proceed but were stopped barely half a kilometer from the JNU campus by the police. Around 10 companies had been deployed near the Parliament and police had also said that security personnel would accompany the students to "prevent any untoward incident".
The students managed to march till Safdarjung Tomb near Lodhi Road, where they were stopped again as the Delhi police officials tried to strike a dialogue with them. Police officers asked the protesters to sit in one lane on Safdurjung road and clear the rest of the passage for vehicles.
Special Commissioner of Police, Lawand Order (South), RS Krishnia had urged protesters to clear the roads. "We have been requesting you since morning, please start leaving towards the university. The routes of ambulances for Safdarjung Hospital are being impacted," PTI reported him as saying.
Aishe Gosh had earlier said they took out a peaceful march from JNU. "The police thought they would detain two office bearers and the movement would end, but every student is a leader. We are all fighting together. Till the time there is not a complete rollback of the hike and of the IHA manual, we will continue our agitation." She had also asked why male police personnel were detaining women students.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Human Resource Development appointed a three-member committee to recommend ways to restore normal functioning of the JNU which has been witnessing periodic protests by students over a variety of issues. While the committee will initiate dialogue with the students and varsity administration immediately and submit recommendations on actions to be taken, the UGC will provide required support for functioning of the committee, the HRD secretary said.
Akshat, a JNU student had said, "The students' union has not been informed by the ministry about the formation of a panel. The administration's officials and the panel should speak to the elected union to solve the issue."
CPM, RJD leaders extend support
Meanwhile, political leaders including CPM's Sitaram Yechury and RJD's Tejashwi Yadav extended support to the protesting students and condemned the use of force by the police.
"This is Modi's emergency. The number of police personnel present at the spot of the protest is higher than what we saw during emergency," Yechury said during a press briefing in Delhi. "This is not the right way to deal with democratic protests. The Modi government is trying to provoke the students," PTI reported him as saying. He added that beating up students shows the "use of extreme authoritarianism on the part of the government".
The RJD's Tejashwi Yadav took to Twitter to condemn the use of force by the police and expressed solidarity with the students. He said, "We condemn the violence used by the police against JNU students, who were opposing a fee hike by using their democratic rights. We support the student organisations in their fight. In the video, the police can be seen misbehaving with students Rajad Netri and Priyanka Bharti."
अपने लोकतांत्रिक अधिकारों के तहत फ़ीस बढ़ोतरी का विरोध कर रहे JNU छात्रों पर दिल्ली पुलिस द्वारा किए गए बर्बर व्यवहार व प्रताड़ना का हम विरोध करते है।हम इस लड़ाई में सभी छात्र संगठनों के साथ खड़े है।विडीओ में छात्र राजद नेत्री प्रियंका भारती के साथ कैसे दुर्व्यवहार किया जा रहा है https://t.co/pwAJtYpuB4
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) November 18, 2019
Pawan Khera, spokesperson for the Congress, told News18 the crackdown by police shows that the government is afraid of the youth. Opposition leader Sharad Yadav accused the JNU administration of acting at the behest of the Union government to "play" with the career of poor students. He also condemned Delhi Police action against the students protesting against the fee hike, saying it was "completely unjustified" and may further flare up the situation.
The protests also found mention in the Parliament, with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member Danish Ali urging the government to ensure that poor students are not denied the facility of higher education for an affordable fee.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2019 12:18:08 IST