New Delhi: “Today is a black day for Jawaharlal Nehru University. I call it so because as a batch of students acquired their degrees, the rest were brutally manhandled by the police,” declared D.K. Lobiyal, president of the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA).
Students protested on Monday for the 15th consecutive day, outside the AICTE auditorium where the university convocation ceremony was being held. They were agitating against a steep hike in the hostel fees at the university. According to the students and faculty members, the vice-chancellor has refused to engage with them on this issue.
During the protest, police forces used water cannons and lathis to try and disperse the student. The convocation was attended by human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu.
JNUTA members held a gathering within campus to express their solidarity with the students.
“The VC is hell-bent upon asserting his arbitrariness on every occasion. He wants to ensure that this university doesn’t cater to people who have not been historically privileged to afford higher education, which is a constitutional right,” explained Atul Sood, who teaches at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development.
“A non-cooperation movement has to be launched against the VC in all possible ways we can think of,” he said to the audience of more than 50 faculty members and 100 students.
JNUTA condemned the alleged police brutality against student protestors and demanded that the VC step down from the post. “He doesn’t deserve to be a leader of any educational institute,” said Pradeep Shinde from the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies.
JNUTA members were critical of what they called the “illegitimate” recruitment process for faculty members, “fictitious” meeting minutes being presented, and the administrations “disregard” for institutional mechanisms.
The university gates were heavily barricaded on Monday morning to restrict a march of more than 3,000 students. Students who managed to get past the barricade were detained by the pre-deployed CRPF and police forces. The police also resorted to lathi charge and water cannons, and students allege they were beaten, manhandled and mistreated. A few were reportedly taken to a hospital because of their injuries.
“They had bamboo and fibre lathis. Fibre ones don’t show up the marks but hurt,” a student told The Wire.
“They have a certain technique to grab you which makes you defenceless,” said another.
Even after the event ended, paramilitary and police forces were deployed outside JNU campus till after midnight.
The students also claimed that some police personnel were in civil attire, and a few had duty slips with no personal information but just a sector incharge’s signature.
“I salute our students. Another day, they braved it and yet did not relent,” said Amir Ali, who teaches political science. “JNU is being demonised because it represents a force which resists the evil incarnate who does not want to run this place but rather wants to run it down.”
Authorities’ primary argument to explain the fee hike has been a funds crunch. Teachers questioned the use of funds on biometric attendance, surveillance and online entrance examinations, which replaced systems that were not broken.