Hundreds of slogan-shouting students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) clashed with the police outside the campus on Monday as they protested against the administration’s “anti-student” policies, including a 300% raise in hostel fee.
The protests, which started in the morning, escalated as the day progressed with angry crowds of students pushing against police personnel in anti-riot gear.
It forced Union human resource development (HRD) minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ to remain inside an auditorium close to the campus for more than six hours.
The students are demanding the withdrawal of the draft hostel manual, which they claim has provisions for the fee hike, dress code and curfew timings.
JNU has hiked the rent for a single room from Rs 10 to Rs 300, that for a double room from Rs 20 to Rs 600 and one-time refundable mess security deposit from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000.
Watch: JNU students clash with cops during protest against fee hike
“Police while exercising restraint have kept the situation under control. We are in contact with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) authorities as well as students. Our talks with the students are on,” Delhi Police’s spokesperson Mandeep S Randhawa said, according to news agency ANI.
Earlier in the morning, the students wanted to march to the auditorium of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), about 3km away from the university campus in south Delhi, where vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu was addressing the university’s convocation.
But they were stopped a short distance away. AICTE’s gates were locked and security personnel were stationed in and outside the premises.
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 on Baba Balaknath Marg and in nearby areas, a police officer said.
Delhi Traffic Police issued an advisory on Twitter asking commuters to avoid Nelson Mandela Marg where the JNU students are protesting.
“Traffic movement is closed on Nelson Mandela Marg from Vasant Vihar to Vasant Kunj (both carriageways) due to demonstration. Kindly avoid the stretch,” they tweeted at 5:47pm.
Students broke police blockades and marched towards AICTE around 11.30am. They beat tambourines, shouted slogans like “Delhi Police Go Back” and called vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar a “thief”.
The police had to use water cannons to disperse the protestors and detain some of them, officials said.
Union HRD minister ‘Nishank’ was stuck inside the AICTE auditorium for more than six hours as protests by JNU students escalated, forcing him to cancel two events later in the day, news agency Press Trust of India reported.
‘Nishank’ along with vice-president Venkaiah Naidu was at AICTE to attend JNU’s third convocation ceremony. While Naidu left the premises before the protest escalated, Nishank had to stay inside.
JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) said in a statement that the fee rise “crushes the dream of equality”.
“The fee hike will affect an overwhelming number of students. It denies those from the deprived sections to avail education if they cannot pay,” JNUSU said in a statement.
“It crushes the dream of equality irrespective of the ability to afford. Other provisions like Dress Code and Curfew timings reflect the regressive dystopia that the admin wants JNU to become,” the students’ body added.
The Union HRD minister left the AICTE premises around 4.15pm after he spoke with the office bearers of JNUSU and assured them that their demands would be looked into.
“Human Resource Development Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank held positive talks with JNU students about their problems today at the AICTE campus. The Union Minister assured that their problems will be resolved soon,” the ministry tweeted.
‘Not the end’
The HRD minister has promised that students’ union would be called for meeting to the ministry.
“Historic day for us that we broke barricades, reached the convocation venue and met the minister. This could happen because we were united,” JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh said.
“This is not the end of our movement. We urged the HRD minister to ask the V-C to have a dialogue with the students. It is due to the V-C that things have come to be like this,” the JNUSU president said.
“We will have to ask the executive council members to reject the hostel manual in its upcoming meeting on Wednesday,” Ghosh said.
They, however, were not able to meet V-C Jagadesh Kumar.
Students wanted to meet the vice-chancellor and demand the withdrawal of the draft hostel manual.
The protest is part of the agitation against several other issues like restrictions by the administration on entry to the Parthasarathy Rocks, attempts to lock students’ union office, according to the students.
The students’ union has been on a strike against the draft hostel manual, which was approved by the inter-hall administration. The union has said they would continue to until the hostel manual is withdrawn.
(With agency inputs)