Scores of JNU students were lathicharged by police on Monday and several of them detained when they tried to march towards Rashtrapati Bhawan against the hostel fee hike, throwing traffic out of gear and leaving metro commuters stranded for hours with three central Delhi stations being closed as a precautionary measure.
Amid heavy police deployment and barricades beginning right at the campus, the students began their march but were stopped near the Bhikaji Cama Place metro station.
When the students reached a cordoned area, they tried to jump the barricades and were lathicharged by the police.
According to JNU Students Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh, “Several students, including women, have been detained by police which brutally attacked the protesters, asking us to go back to campus. We will not budge from here until our demands are met and a complete rollback in the fee is announced,” she added.
The students took to social media to share images and videos of lathicharge by police.
“They first stopped and then attacked us while the march was going on peacefully. Over 30 students were injured. We will anyhow head to Rashtrapati Bhawan,” Shreya Ghosh, one of the protesters claimed.
The students wanted to march to the Rashtrapati Bhawan to seek an appointment with the president, the visitor of the varsity, to urge him to intervene and ensure that the hike in hostel fee is rolled back
Traffic movement was slow at various intersections in South Delhi due to the march, prompting the traffic police to issue timely advisories for commuters.
“Due to the demonstration, the traffic movement is affected on the road leading to Dhaula Kuan from AIIMS. The commuters should avoid the route. The traffic movement on Africa Avenue was slow and the route from Bhikaji Cama Place is obstructed. Kindly avoid this stretch,” Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.
Due to demonstration on Africa Avenue, traffic movement on Africa Avenue from Olof Palme Marg to Bhikaji Cama Place is obstructed. Kindly avoid this stretch. https://t.co/iII8G0NRNP
— Delhi Traffic Police (@dtptraffic) December 9, 2019
Earlier in the day, traffic movement was closed on Baba Gangnath Marg to Sarojni Nagar depot, Africa Avenue road, both carriageway of Sant Nagar depot and Hyatt to Leela Hotel due to the demonstration. Traffic was diverted from Leela Hotel towards INA.
According to police officials, heavy deployment of police was in place ahead of the march from the JNU and roads leading to the campus were shut for traffic and appeals made to students to protest peacefully.
The students circulated photos, claiming police have closed all gates of the university before start of the march. As they began, they shouted slogans like “Delhi Police go back” and “Education must be free for all.”
Entry and exit points at Udyog Bhawan, Lok Kalyan Marg and Central Secretariat metro stations were closed for over four hours by authorities following directions from Delhi police. The stations reopened around 5:20 pm.
“As advised by Delhi Police, entry & exit at Udyog Bhawan, Lok Kalyan Marg and Central Secretariat have been closed. Trains are not halting at Udyog Bhawan and Lok Kalyan Marg,” the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said on Twitter.
The students have been protesting for over a month inside the campus against the hostel fee hike and have also called for boycott of the upcoming semester exams, despite repeated appeals by the administration asking them to return to classes.
The HRD Ministry had set up a three-member committee to look into ways to restore normal functioning in the JNU and mediate between the agitating students and the administration.
The panel submitted its report to the ministry but no call has been taken yet.
The students’ agitation over the hike in hostel fee escalated on November 11 when thousands of them clashed with police outside the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) premises, where the university’s convocation was held.
Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was stranded for over six hours at the venue.
The JNU’s Executive Council had then announced a partial rollback of the hike for students belonging to the BPL category and not availing any scholarships. However, the protesters dubbed it an eyewash.
A week later, students staged a march from the JNU campus to the HRD Ministry but were stopped at multiple locations and finally outside the Safdarjung Tomb by police.
The protesters alleged that police personnel baton-charged and manhandled them, including a blind student, a charge which was denied by the force.
(With inputs from agencies)