JNU students march again, stopped by police; traffic choked in south Delhi
Hundreds of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students were on Monday stopped and lathi-charged by police on Ring Road near Hyatt hotel in south Delhi when they were marching to Rashtrapati Bhawan to submit a memorandum to the President over the hostel fee hike.
Traffic was thrown out of gear and metro commuters were stranded for hours as three central Delhi stations — Udyog Bhawan, Lok Kalyan Marg and Central Secretariat stations — were closed as a precautionary measure.
A day earlier, the JNU administration had warned students that police assistance may be sought to conduct end-semester examinations in the university, which students had threatened to boycott.
On Monday, over 1,000 JNU students marched amid heavy police presence to submit their memorandum to the President, who is also a visitor of the university.
Vehicular traffic was disrupted on the carriageway towards Safdarjung Hospital as protesters marched. When police intervened, the students scattered and a group sat near Hyatt Regency, blocking traffic.
Police said this caused a long traffic jam on the stretch and on connecting roads. The police said they appealed to students to clear the roads as ambulances were stuck in the traffic. Three major hospitals are located in the vicinity.
As protesters continued with the demonstration, traffic police issued alerts on social media regarding traffic blockade and diversions.
“They had an intent to create a traffic situation similar to the November 13 incident. As protesters were creating traffic issues, police had to push them back to the previously decided spot to avoid a similar situation,” said Anil Mittal, Delhi police spokesperson.
On November 13, JNU students organised an impromptu sit-in near Safdarjung Tomb after police stopped their march to Parliament, causing major traffic snarls.
For over a month, JNU students have been protesting against the new hostel manual, which proposes a substantial fee hike.
The students wanted the President’s intervention in ensuring complete rollback of the fee hike and release of a report prepared by a three-member committee appointed by the HRD Ministry to look into the issue. .
The protesters were allegedly lathicharged after they attempted to take a different route for the march. Preeti Umarao, a PhD scholar at the School of Life Sciences, said: “We got to know the police had put up barricades near Leela Palace, so we changed the route. But the moment that happened, police started hitting us with batons. I was slapped and kicked. I broke my spectacles and lost my phone.”
Several others like Umarao were beaten, dragged and put in police vehicles, students said
Police denied the charges. “There was an understanding between students and senior officers that protesters will march till Sarojini Nagar bus depot and will not proceed towards Rashtrapati Bhavan or disturb traffic on Ring Road. When that happened, police tried to push students to the earlier spot,” Mittal said.
JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh said, “I was pushed and thrown to the streets Protesting students just had posters in their hands and they could have been managed instead of being beaten.”
Registrar Pramod Kumar on Monday again asked students to call off their strike and said it was open for dialogue. “The call given for boycotting the end semester examination is clearly against the academic careers of thousands of their fellow students,” he said.
Officials in the HRD ministry, meanwhile, brainstormed on finding a way to resolve the stalemate. “HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has given clear instructions that there is an urgent need to resolve the crisis in a way it is acceptable to all sides and reasonable in nature. However, there needs to be a willingness among both the sides to accommodate,” said a senior official who wished not to be identified.
“The JNU being an autonomous university it is preferable that its administration is involved in whatever solution emerges. It is important that both sides are willing to talk, which is not happening at this moment. This will only lead to a delay in finding a solution,” a second official said.
The matter is being discussed with top UGC officials as well. A source said an attempt was being made to find a solution late night at a dinner hosted by the UGC chairman D P Singh even as this copy was being filed.