Panjab University Chief Security Officer Professor Ashwani Kaul on Tuesday sought sedition charges against the students protesting against a fee hike at the varsity. In his complaint to the police, he wanted the protesters to be charged under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, according to Hindustan Times.
While there were social media posts on sedition charges being pressed, there are conflicting reports on whether they were included in the final FIR registered against the students. Senior Superintendent of Police Eish Singhal told Hindustan Times that they had found no proof of the claim in videos of the agitation. “Charges pressed include those for rioting and damaging public property, among others,” he said.
However, a report in The Indian Express quotes Singhal as saying that the police had “slapped sedition charges on the students, but the charges shall be dropped if no substantial evidence is found during investigation against those booked”.
Moreover, the chief security officer of Panjab University has said that the police had “misinterpreted” his complaint. Kumar told The Indian Express that in his complaint, he had stated that the protesters had raised slogans against the Human Resources Development Ministry, University Grants Commission and PU.
“The protesters were raising slogans such as ‘PU murdabad, ‘MHRD murdabad’ and ‘UGC murdabad’. Police misinterpreted and slapped sedition charges on them,” he said, adding that he had clarified the case with the Chandigarh Police after examining CCTV camera footage and videos of the agitation.
The demonstration against the fee hike at the university had turned violent on Tuesday afternoon after students had tried to enter Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover’s office to discuss the problem. The police had used batons and teargas shells to control the crowd outside the VC’s office and also brought in water cannons, according to NDTV. At least 40 people, including 22 policemen, were injured. The 52 students who had been arrested till the evening will be produced before a court on Wednesday.
The students have been demanding a rollback of the hike in tuition fee announced by the varsity senate last month for the academic year 2017-’18. For those studying BPharma, the fee has been raised from Rs 5,080 to Rs 50,000, while that for the masters in journalism course has been increased from Rs 5,290 to Rs 30,000. Those studying dentistry will now have to shell out Rs 1.50 lakh, a steep jump from Rs 86,400.
Varsity officials said they have hiked the fee by around 12.5% to tide over a financial crunch.