The CPI(M) on Monday (November 11) condemned the attack on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students who are fighting for an affordable education. A statement by the Central Executive Committee of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) said that the demands raised by the students should be met immediately.
“Today the protesters marched to the venue of convocation demanding an immediate withdrawal of the anti-student hostel manual and asking the Vice-Chancellor (VC) to meet the student community. Instead of engaging with the students, the administration have sought to oppress them by using brutal force. Many students are injured and have been detained by the police,” the party said in a press release.
VP Sanu, national president, SFI, the student’s wing of the CPI(M) said, “The present movement in JNU is also part of a larger struggle against commercialisation of education. In recent years, there have been an active attempt by the BJP-backed JNU administration to turn the university an experiment lab for their neo-liberal reforms and make education nothing less than a product in the market. The draft hostel manual is the latest and one of the most regressive steps they have taken towards this.”
Earlier in the day, a protest by students at the AICTE auditorium in Vasant Kunj, where the annual convocation was taking place, turned violent, with police using water cannons and resorting to lathi chare. The students were demonstration against fee hike, curfew timings and dress code restrictions in the institute.
Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was inside the AICTE auditorium since morning, had to cancels two scheduled events as hundreds of students blocked the roads. The minister was given passage after he met the students’ union president and assured the students there that their demands will be addressed.
Earlier, when the students broke barricades and raised slogans, calling Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar a ‘thief’, police used water cannons to disperse them.
The protesting students who wanted to march towards the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), where Vice President Venkaiah Naidu is addressing a convocation, were barred from entering the area.
CPI(M) leader, former party general secretary and JNUSU ex-president, Prakash Karat, said, “The university authorities and the vice chancellor are bent upon destroying the very character of the university. The latest move to hike the hostel fees is being done with an eye to change the varsity’s character. The violence against the students by police today is an attack on democratic protest by students. The move is also aimed to bring in the students and faculty in a line of discipline, which will destroy the very essence of the university. JNU students will continue their legacy and they won’t take this laying down, they will continue to fight and resist.”
Meanwhile, a teacher’s assembly held by the JNU Teacher’s Association (JNUTA) on Monday adopted a resolution condemning the incident. “We condemn the brutal police action against peacefully protesting students today which severely injured a large number of students. We demand that the vice-chancellor, at whose behest this action was taken, step down from his position. The police action was clearly only to defend the obstinate refusal of the vice-chancellor to engage in any dialogue with students on their concerns,” said DK Lobiyal, president, JNUTA.
The teacher’s said that the assembly was an expression of the collective view of the JNU faculty that the changes in the hostel manual and the steep increase in hostel charges were unacceptable.
“Many students have been injured in the protest. Besides using water cannons, police resorted to lathi charge and some students have sustained serious injuries. At least a dozen students are in the emergency ward of Safdarjung Hospital. All the students want is to talk to the vice-chancellor. When HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal can talk to students, why can’t the VC speak to his students? Why is he hiding behind the police?” asks Surajit Mazumdar, secretary, JNUTA.