The standoff between students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and authorities over a proposed increase in boarding fee escalated on Monday as protestors attempted to march towards Parliament on the first day of the Winter Session.
The police and Central Reserve Police Force deployed to contain the demonstrations reportedly tried to stop the students a few metres from the university, leading to an altercation. A number of students were roughed up and at least 100 were detained. The protestors accused the police of beating them with batons near Safdarjung Tomb. Some students suffered injuries and pictures on social media showed some of them bleeding. According to some accounts, a few students were admitted to hospital.
Meanwhile, as tensions mounted, Delhi Metro authorities shut down five stations in Central Delhi. They reopened a few hours later. The police have denied using batons to beat the protestors.
Here is how the protest unfolded:
10.10 pm: The JNU Teachers’ Association will stage a protest at 4 pm on Tuesday against the “police brutality” on protesting students, and demand the vice chancellor’s resignation, reports The Indian Express. The protest venue will be announced after consultations with the students’ union.
9.38 pm: JNUSU Secretary Satish Chandra Yadav says the students want the vice chancellor to resign, and the hostel fee hike to be rolled back, reports PTI.
9.35 pm: The Delhi Police in a statement say they did not use water cannons, tear gas shells, or baton-charge the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, The Indian Express reports. “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,” the statement says.
9.07 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav criticises the police action against the protesting students, and expresses solidarity. Yadav says the demonstrations are part of the students’ democratic rights.
9.01 pm: The police have escorted the office-bearers of the JNU Students’ Union to meet the Ministry of Human Resource Development secretary, reports PTI. The police have reportedly forced thousands of protestors outside Safdarjung Tomb to go back to the campus.
8.24 pm: Normal services have resumed in all Metro stations.
6.40 pm: Minister of State for HRD Sanjay Dhotre tells ANI that Jawaharlal Nehru University has produced leaders in various fields. “There can be different ideologies but such incidents are not right,” he adds, criticising the protestors. “We should not take extreme steps or go to a point of no return.”
6.32 pm: Delhi Metro says trains will not halt at Jorbagh station. The station has been closed temporarily.
6.31 pm: The entry and exits at Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk and Central Secretariat stations have reopened, according to Delhi Metro. Trains are now halting at all three stations. However, entry/exit gates at Lok Kalyan Marg are still closed and trains are not stopping at the station.
5.21 pm: Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera says the police action shows that the government is afraid of the youth. “It is afraid of any university which encourages free school of thought,” News18 quotes him as saying. “The proposed fee hike would make JNU one of the most expensive universities, students are right in demanding a roll back.”
5.15 pm: Traffic in parts of Lutyens’ Delhi has been disrupted by the protests, reports The Times of India. Vehicles are moving slowly near Nelson Mandela Marg, Aurobindo Marg and Baba Gang Nath Marg, according to the police.
5.04 pm: Delhi Police say accusations of students being hit with batons will be looked into. “We are trying to talk to the students about their demands and convince them to not take law in their hands,” the police’s Public Relations Officer, Mandeep S Randhawa, tells ANI.
5 pm: Many students have been taken to Badarpur police station, according to a number of accounts.
4.56 pm: Several injured students are in Safdarjung hospital, according to CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan. “Women students tell us that CRPF Delhi Police tore clothes, beat them up, molested them,” she alleges. “No women cops in the bus!”
4.53 pm: N Sai Balaji has also tweeted the image of a student reportedly injured by the police. “Does Delhi Police want to jail students who want to meet their parliamentarians?” asks the former JNU student leader.
4.51 pm: Former JNU Students’ Union President N Sai Balaji retweets a video of Delhi University Students’ Union presidential candidate Madhurima being roughed up by police.
4.45 pm: Metro trains are also not halting at Lok Kalyan Marg, and entry and exit gates at the station have been closed temporarily.
4.35 pm: Metro trains on Yellow line are not halting at Udyog Bhawan and Patel Chowk, says Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The decision has been taken following the police’s advisory. “Exit/Entry Gates for Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk and Central Secretariat have been closed temporarily,” it adds.
4.32 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has accused the Narendra Modi government of “trying to provoke the students”. Yechury says the police action against the demonstrators is not the right way to deal with democratic protests, reports PTI. “This is Modi’s emergency,” he tells reporters in New Delhi. “The number of police personnel present at the spot of the protest is higher than what we saw during emergency.”
4.26 pm: The JNU students’ union says “the established process in JNU cannot and must not be short-circuited in the name of any high powered committee decisions”. It has called on the government to hold the vice-chancellor and the university administration accountable for the current disruption in the institution’s functioning, according to The Indian Express.
4.24 pm: In a statement, the JNU Students’ Union has placed four primary demands, reports The Indian Express. It has asked the Ministry of Human Resource Development to withdraw the draft IHA manual and Executive Council decisions about its adoption. It also wants the government to treat it as a stakeholder along with the university teachers’ association. “An explicit assurance must be given that any decision on the manual will be taken as per the proper and established process,” the students’ union added.
4.18 pm: JNU students have been charged with batons near Safdarjung Tomb, reports The Indian Express. The students are on a sit-in on the road and refusing to move.
3.12 pm: Students rerouted their march and are now walking from the Munirka DDA locality towards the Parliament, reports The Times of India.
3.02 pm: Agitating students decide to deviate from planned route of march as police prevent them from going forward, reports The Indian Express.
2.44 pm: JNU Teachers Association voices concerns over the prevailing the situation in the campus, reports PTI.
2.30 pm: A protestor tells CNN-News18: “Many of us have been detained. Police beating us up badly. We don’t know where police is taking us.”
Prasenjeet Kumar, a student leader, tweets a similar message.
2.29 pm: Priyanka, a student, tells PTI: “We are being given a lollipop in terms of the partial rollback. I am the first from my family to reach university. There are many others like me. Education is not the birthright of a privileged few.”
2.27 pm: Students’ placards read “save public education”, “fees must fall” and “ensure affordable hostels for all”, PTI reports.
2.18 pm: Akshat, a JNU student, tells PTI that the HRD ministry has not informed the students’ union about the formation of a panel. “The administration officials and the panel should speak to the elected union to solve the issue,” he says.
2.12 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury offers his support to the protesting students. “JNU under seige; such a massive deployment of forces was not seen even during the Emergency,” he tweets. “A peaceful protest march to Parliament against the unprecedented fee hikes is being forcibly stopped by the police. Strongly condemn this denial of basic democratic right to protest.”
2.08 pm: Balaji alleges: “Delhi Police personnel in civilian clothes assaulted us. They are not taking into account our civil rights and asking more personnel to beat up students.”
2.05 pm: JNU Students Union President Aishe Ghosh, union’s secretary Satish Yadav and former union president N Sai Balaji are among those taken by police personnel, reports The Indian Express.
1.25 pm: Students break three levels of barricades, reports News18. CRPF personnel have now been brought in to control the students.
1.20 pm: Reports say students are being detained.
1.15 pm: Former JNU Students’ Union President N Sai Balaji tweets that the police have stopped the march.
1 pm: The police have brought in water cannons near Kendriya Vidyalaya, Baba Gang Nath Marg, News18 reports. They order students to disperse or face action.
12.50 pm: Some reports say students break barricades and march towards Ber Sarai. The police stop students at Ber Sarai, ANI reports.
12.40 pm: The police say they have made adequate security arrangements and deployed personnel at all entry points, News18 reports.
12.30 pm: The police have placed barricades at several areas to restrict movement, PTI reports. They initially removed the barricades outside JNU gates and allowed students to march but later stopped them around 500 metres from the entrance.
12.15 pm: Around 700 to 800 police personnel have been deployed outside JNU, reports PTI. Police personnel are accompanying the students during the march. Students are carrying banners reading “Save public education”, “fees must fall” and “ensure affordable hostels for all”.
12 pm: JNU students march towards Parliament, ANI reports.
11.30 am: The Ministry of Human Resources Development appoints a three-member committee to address the concerns of students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, PTI reports.
The committee comprises former University Grants Commission Chairman VS Chauhan, UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain and All India Council for Technical Education Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe. It will aim to restore the “normal functioning” of JNU through “dialogue with all stakeholders and to advise the university administration for resolution of contentious issues”, a government order said.
11.15 am: Students are demanding a complete rollback of the proposed increase in fee for the hostels and mess, which the university’s executive council had partially reversed on Wednesday. Students marched towards Parliament on Monday.
11 am: Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Code of Procedure were imposed around Parliament. Some reports said police personnel were deployed outside JNU to stop students from marching.
On Friday, the vice chancellor had urged the protesting students to call off their agitation, and said that dialogue was not possible through “coercion and illegal methods”.
The new charges are Rs 200 for a single-seater room and Rs 100 for a double-seater. Service charges of Rs 1,700, which was introduced in the draft hostel manual, will continue to be levied. The students will also be charged Rs 5,500 as the caution deposit for the hostel mess.
The university authorities in a meeting on October 28 had reportedly decided to raise the rent for a single-seater room in the hostel from Rs 20 per month to Rs 600. The amount for a double-seater room was increased to Rs 300 from Rs 10 per month. The one-time refundable security deposit for the hostel mess was raised from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000.
Protesting students have rejected the partial roll-back and described it as an eyewash with former JNU Students’ Union President N Sai Balaji claiming that “95% of the fee hike remains”.
Protests had escalated last Monday when the Delhi Police used water cannons to disperse agitating students. The students, who had called for the protest on November 10, tried to march towards the auditorium where the university was holding its convocation ceremony, with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu as the chief guest. Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal was stuck inside the JNU convocation venue for over six hours as protests escalated.
On Sunday, unidentified people were booked for alleged vandalism at the university last week during student protests. The university administration claimed that students had allegedly defaced campus property.
The university administration has said that it incurs costs of Rs 10 crore per annum on water, electricity, and service charges. The registrar had said in a statement recently that the management was making the payments out of the general funds that it received from the University Grants Commission. The university also argued that it had not raised the fee in the last 19 years.