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No sedition charge against PU students after university takes back complaint

As many as 52 students were taken into custody after Tuesday’s protest against fee hike turned violent.

punjab Updated: Apr 12, 2017 18:22 IST
Arvind Chhabra
Arvind Chhabra
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Panjab University,Sedition,Fee hike protest
Students protesting against fee hike at Panjab University in Chandigarh on Tuesday.(Karun Sharma / HT photo)

Panjab University students who clashed with police on Tuesday over fee hike have not been charged with sedition, police have said.

The university authorities, too, have taken back their complaint of sedition and now insist their remarks were misinterpreted.

“Initially we said there were slogans against the state. But when I got to know that the police were slapping sedition charge, I personally went to police station and clarified in writing that the slogans were raised against UGC (University Grants Commission), MHRD (ministry of human resource and development) and PU,” university’s chief security officer Ashwani Kaul told HT on Wednesday.

“We also asked police to see video clipping. Everyone was there and saw what happened. There is no u-turn. We never meant sedition.”

Fifty-two students were arrested after groups of them clashed with police outside the office of the vice chancellor on the campus in Chandigarh, throwing stones and even flower pots at the personnel.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse them, injuring students and security personnel.

The Chandigarh Police, which reports to the union home ministry, too, were reluctant to register a case of sedition, which can invite death penalty, source said.

Senior officers asked the staff to verify if students’ acts amounted to sedition or waging a war against the state, sources said.

“We are not registering case of sedition though we can always add any more sections if these are needed after investigation,” a police official said.

Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana, is a union territory administered by the Centre.

The Modi government has been accused of stifling dissent and using campuses to back the Hindutva agenda of the ruling BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. The sedition charge would have been as added embarrassment.

The scale of violence in PU, which is also the alma mater of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, was unprecedented. The university, where Singh was a student as well as a teacher, resembled a war zone, with broken windows, glass shards, stones and flower pots littering the campus.

A few students, who were being chased by the police, entered a gurdwara on the campus. Police officials surrounded the shrine to force them out.

Classes had to be suspended in several departments due to the shutdown called by the students.

The fee hike, applicable from the coming (2017-18) academic session, is over 1,000% in some courses.

University authorities said the fee was hiked on the directions of the HRD ministry and the UGC, the country’s higher education watchdog.

The university is grappling with financial crisis for the last two-three years, with grants from the Centre and the Punjab government not coming in regularly. It is struggling to pay the faculty and other staff.

First Published: Apr 12, 2017 10:59 IST