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JNU protests against attendance policy: A ‘siege’ for nought?  

The JNU students, protesting a new mandatory attendance policy, blocked the administrative block for a day, but discovered that the vice chancellor wasn’t in

delhi Updated: Feb 16, 2018 21:20 IST
A Mariyam Alvi
A Mariyam Alvi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
JNU protests,JNU,JNU attendance policy
Students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University protest against a new attendance policy on campus on Thursday. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

There was high drama at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Thursday and Friday with over 500 students gathering at the off-limits “freedom square” of the university from 11 am on Thursday till around 2 am Friday, allegedly laying seige to the administrative block and confining academic and administrative officials inside.

The students were demanding that the vice chancellor come out and hold a dialogue with the students on the new attendance policy. However, unknown to the students, the V-C had long left the building; the “siege” may have really been for nought.

The students have been protesting a new mandatory attendance policy in the university and regularly assembling outside the administrative block since February 10 despite a Delhi high court prohibiting protests there.

On Thursday, they saw the V-C’s car outside the building when they started assembling at around 11 am and assumed he was in. When he did not come out to meet the students, they first formed a human chain around the building, and then gathered in small groups at each of the five exits of the building in the hope of intercepting him on his way out.

The university has alleged that the students “blocked the way” of officials, and “chased” them back into the building when they tried to leave. One rector was later taken to a hospital in an ambulance around midnight, after he said he was feeling dizzy and his blood pressure spiked. In a statement released by the registrar’s office, the university claimed that the students even tried to stop the ambulance shouting “let him die.”

Amita Singh, chairperson at Special Centre for Disaster Research and one of the teachers who had gone to the get their “confined colleagues released,” said that they were “gheraoed,” insulted with the “most shocking abusive wild sloganeering... which as an academic most of us had never heard from students,” and that two of the faculty members were “pushed” .

However, the JNU students union (JNUSU) has denied the allegations.

“We never stopped anybody. We were just asking the officials to go and request the V-C to meet with the students,” said Geeta Kumari, JNUSU president, who added that they had even tried getting an ambulance for the rector when they heard he was feeling unwell.

What they did not realise was that the V-C was never in the building, even though he was tweeting regular updates.

“When the gherao was happening, the V-C was not there. He had come in the morning at around 9 am, and left before the students started gathering... His car was there,” said Pramod Kumar, the university’s registrar.

The second rector left after the first left in an ambulance and when students subsequently entered the building they discovered that the V-C wasn’t there.

“When we went inside, the V-C was not there. The guards had said earlier that he wasn’t in there, but we thought he was trying to get us to leave,” said Kumari.

The university approached the Delhi high court on Friday, and according to PTI, an interim order, valid for the next three days, has been issued asking students not to obstruct the V-C and other staff from entering the administrative block to carry out their work.

The students said their strike, which began on February 9, is still on.

Kumari claims the car that caused the confusion was still there when they dispersed at around 2 am.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 21:19 IST