22 cops hurt in Panjab University fee-hike protest
The protest against fee hike turned ugly on the Panjab University (PU) campus on Tuesday, with police using tear gas and water cannons against the protesting students, who in turn, resorted to stone-pelting, leaving 22 cops and some students injured.punjab Updated: Apr 12, 2017 12:45 IST
The protest against fee hike turned ugly on the Panjab University (PU) campus on Tuesday, with police using tear gas and water cannons against the protesting students, who in turn, resorted to stone-pelting, leaving 22 cops and some students injured.
The police arrested 52 students, including three women, after 68 were booked by name for violence and damaging public property. The police also resorted to mild canecharge. At least 15 policemen besides some students had to get medical help; some were still in hospital and said to be in a stable condition. More than 50 protesters were taken into custody.
The fee hike for the 2017-18 session — purportedly necessitated by a financial crunch at PU — meant some courses saw an increase of up to 1,000%. The Union ministry for human resource development (MHRD) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have been pressuring PU to increase income from internal resources if grants are needed.
On Tuesday, student parties, except the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), had called a strike. The ABVP is protesting separately and their hunger strike entered its 10th day on Tuesday.
Right from 9am, members of the Students for Society (SFS), a leftist union, was moving from department to department asking students to join the stir.
Around 10.30pm, hundreds of students gathered outside the vice-chancellor’s office and started sloganeering against V-C Arun Kumar Grover, MHRD, UGC, and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. Members of Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU), Students’ Organisation of India (SOI) and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) also joined.
Students managed to dodge the police and university authorities to enter the arena right outside the V-C’s office.
As students tried to push their way to enter the office, the policemen pushed back. When the water cannon was used, stone-pelting started which smashed the windowpanes of the water-cannon bus of the police. However, some leaders then tried to pacify the students and told them not to throw stones.
Students sat down and told the policemen to call an ambulance for those injured. They were also demanding to call the V-C out, but the authorities said he was out of station. When students charged for a second time, the police resorted to using water cannon and lathicharge. Students then hurled stones and flowerpots at the cops.
At this, teargas teargas shells were fired by the police. Students dispersed but cops chased them and nabbed some of them, assaulting many in full public view. A tear gas shell entered a classroom in the chemical engineering department too.
Even photojournalists had to bear the brunt as police used force. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Eish Singhal also visited the campus.
Students again got together briefly to put a blockade near hostel number 3. But, when the police marched, stone-pelting started again and the cops replied with tear gas.
Elsewhere on the campus, police chased students from the library to the Students’ Centre to hostel number 4. Some complained the police hit them even when they were not part of the protest.
Finally, some students took shelter at the university gurdwara, which was surrounded by cops. Prof AS Ahluwalia, who heads the management of the gurdwara, did not allow police to enter the sanctum sanctorum. The SSP too came to the spot.
The students eventually surrendered after calling the president of Chandigarh district bar association and other lawyers from the district courts there. Forty students were thus taken into custody.
Amritpal Singh, SFS leader, who also surrendered, said, “Our female members were injured and we were calling for an ambulance.” SFS president Damanpreet Singh said, “Fee hike is also a form of structural violence. Our right to education at PU is being denied.”
On the situation going out of control, deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Ram Gopal said, “Students are not criminals. We have to take care of their careers also. But today they did not leave us with any option.” Damanpreet Singh, who was leading the agitation, is absconding.
STUDENT UNION CHIEF CONDEMNS INCIDENT
Nishant Kaushal, president, Panjab University Campus Students’ Council, condemned the stone-pelting, though he part of the protest.
Nishant Kaushal said, “Leaders of student parties sent me on behalf of the PUCSC to meet the dean of university instructions and student welfare, and the chief security officer.”
“The officials told me the fee issue can be resolved only by the senate and the vice-chancellor. Then I called up the vice-chancellor, who was in Delhi and told me to wait for a few days,” he said.