The Delhi Police lathi-charged and detained Jawaharlal Nehru University students outside the premises of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on Thursday evening.
This after a meeting between ministry officials and the varsity's student union did not yield a positive result, with JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh calling the talks 'unsatisfactory' and telling protesters that officials had not agreed to suspend JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar for his alleged inaction during the 5 January incident of violence in the campus and calling for the march towards Rashtrapati Bhavan to continue. At least one person was injured in the scuffle.
The rally, which saw the participation of hundreds of students and members of civil society organisations, began at the Mandi House area in the National Capital on Thursday afternoon. Demanding Kumar's resignation, they carried placards and banners and walked towards the HRD Ministry. Slogans of 'halla bol' and 'inquilab zindabad' were raised.
Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University students hold protest at Mandi House demanding removal of the university's Vice Chancellor, following Jan 5 violence. pic.twitter.com/8AjxbkOtT6
— ANI (@ANI) January 9, 2020
Banners with messages such as 'No CAA, No NRC', 'Ban ABVP from university campuses', 'Reject Violence', 'Education is not a commodity to be bought or sold' dotted the swelling crowd that demanded strict action against those involved in the campus violence that left more than 35 injured.
JNUSU, JNUTA meet HRD officials for discussion on demands
A delegation comprising members of the JNUSU and JNU teachers' association met officials of the HRD ministry, including the secretary Amit Khare, after the rally was stopped by police at Shastri Bhavan.
Escorted by the police, Ghosh and other office bearers Saket Moon, Satish Yadav, and Danish along with the president of JNUTA DK Lobiyal met HRD officials and reportedly raised the issue of the 5 January violence along with the hotel fee hike, against which there have been sustained protests in the university.
They also put forth the demand to suspend Kumar from his post.
After the meeting, Ghosh briefed the protesters gathered outside the MHRD premises and was quoted by The Indian Express as saying that the meeting had been "unsatisfactory". Stating that the students and faculty will not relent with the protests till Kumar is suspended, she said they had appealed to HRD ministry for the same.
She also added that the ministry had said a dialogue on the issue will be held on Friday. She said, "We will not compromise with HRD ministry over the removal of the VC. It is still thinking whether the VC should be removed."
However, the ministry also issued a statement soon after the meeting and said that the suspension of the vice chancellor was "not a solution" and said that the government's focus is to address the main issues that have cropped up on campus.
Ministry officials, however, asserted that the "formula" (regarding the hostel fee hike) decided during consultations with students and administration needs to be implemented. "Removing the VC is not the solution. The basic issue on which the whole problem has arisen needs to be addressed first. Changing X, Y or Z is not as important as resolving the issues that have come up. The basic bone of contention needs to be resolved," Khare said.
On the issue raised by students of their union not being officially notified by the university, he said, "The ministry's focus is on academic issues on campus and not political".
The varsity administration, including Kumar, have been called for a meeting on Friday over students' claims that the revised fees as decided during HRD intervention are not being implemented. The ministry has also invited the students for another meeting after the one with the administration.
"We will talk to the university administration that the fees changes which were decided last month are implemented. We are working on resolving the issues and restoring normalcy. It is a prestigious university and should remain that way," Khare said. Kumar, however, denied claims that the formula arrived at by the ministry is not being fully implemented and said that there was no deviation from it.
"As far as the fee issue is concerned, there has been no deviation from the formula arrived at the HRD ministry last month. As decided, students are not being charged any services or utility fees," Kumar told PTI. "We have also written to UGC to release funds for covering the utility and service charges as decided."
The HRD ministry had in November formed a three-member panel to mediate between the agitating students and administration and restore normalcy in the campus. According to the formula proposed by the ministry, the JNU administration would charge only the increased room rent and the service and utility charges were to be borne by the University Grants Commission.
Soon after the meeting, Ghosh gave a call to continue the protest march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the meeting had not yielded a positive response to their demands. At this point, Delhi Police appealed to the protesters to call of the march, but the protesters were insistent, sources said.
As a result, a scuffle broke out between personnel and students, with the police resorting to lathi-charging and detaining the protesters. Using loud speakers, the police also appealed to the crowd to maintain peace, PTI reported.
Delhi: Police detain protesters near Ambedkar Bhawan. They were marching towards Rashtrapati Bhavan demanding removal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Vice Chancellor following Jan 5 violence in the campus. https://t.co/9T6ruAZnf6 pic.twitter.com/mCMtGwi9Zl
— ANI (@ANI) January 9, 2020
Opposition leaders criticise Centre over 5 January violence
CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Prakash and Brinda Karat, and LJD leader Sharad Yadav were also part of the march on Thursday, before the meeting between the JNU delegation and the MHRD. Brinda, referring to the ruling BJP at the Centre, said, "People have started speaking up and that is what these people are not able to take. They are manufacturing stories that the protests have nothing to do with students or workers but are political."
Yechury added, "For three hours, people wearing masks beat up varsity students. They entered the campus with police being present at the main gate." Alleging that the incident could not have occurred without the vice-chancellor knowing about it, he said, "The VC has to go."
The Congress also slammed the Centre over the 5 January violence. Addressing a press conference, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh alleged that the violence in JNU was "officially sponsored goondaism" and said Home Minister Amit Shah and HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal were responsible for it.
The Congress demanded that those behind the violence must be identified and arrested immediately. It said normalcy in the JNU campus was not possible till Kumar resigned.
"The violent incident that occurred in JNU was not a sudden development, but was planned. Everyone knows who was behind this violence. I make a direct charge that HRD minister and the home minister are responsible for the incident. This is nothing but an officially sponsored goondaism," Ramesh said.
He added that 72 hours had passed and the Delhi Police knew who should be arrested but no arrest has been made so far. "This is a deliberate negligence," Ramesh alleged.
Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar also addressed the protesters outside the premises of the MHRD on Thursday. Taking a dig at the Centre, he referred to the row over Deepika Padukone's presence at a protesting sit-in at JNU and said that Padukone was patriotic when she was an ambassador for a Modi government initiative but turned anti-national after visiting JNU.
Padukone and shuttler PV Sindhu were on last year named as ambassadors for 'Bharat Ki Laxmi', an initiative by the Modi government aimed at bringing to light the commendable work done by women across the nation ahead of the festival of Diwali.
On 5 January, a mob of masked men stormed the campus and targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods by hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2020 22:18:52 IST