Days after the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) stopped students from holding protests at the administrative block, the site has now been barricaded with iron grilles. The move comes amid increasing tension between the administration and students over Najeeb Ahmed, a student who has been missing since October 15.
Late on Sunday night when a protest led by the JNU students’ union (JNUSU) reached the spot they saw iron grilles being put up at the two porches in the administrative block. The spots have been frequently used by students for protests and hunger strikes. “We were holding a march against the VC’s decision to give a token punishment to the ABVP members for beating Najeeb. When we came to the admin block we saw these cage-like structures,” said Mohit Pandey JNUSU president.
Pandey said this is an attempt by the authorities to crush dissent. “First they sent show-cause notices to us on various issues, then they stopped us from protesting and now they have blocked the area. Why is the V-C so scared of students?” he said.
The two spots, and the area around it, earned the name of ‘Freedom Square’ following the February 9 incident when anti-national slogans were allegedly raised at a function. The issue had culminated in the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and the popular ‘Azadi’ speech. However, students claim they have always used the area to hold protests whether it was the issue of Rohith Vemula, fellowship cut-down by UGC or hostel crunch.
The administration, however, claimed the spots were used by higher officials to park their vehicles. A top JNU official told HT that the spot will now be used as office space due to space crunch in the building.
“Grills have been put only at the side entrance of the administrative block to carve out some space. There is space crunch in the administrative block and this extra space will be used for creating office space,” the official told HT.