A massive protest erupted on Monday at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) against the proposed hike in the hostel fee by 300 per cent. Protesting students blocked the roads, held placards, raised slogans and tried to break the police barricades. The police had to use water cannons to disperse the crowds, which is also objecting to the imposition of dress code and curfew timings.
Led by the JNU student union, students marched from Freedom square in JNU to the AICTE auditorium, Vasant Kunj, where the central university was holding its convocation ceremony with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu as the chief guest. The police used force to stop them from entering the auditorium. A few student activists have also been detained.
Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, who was accompanying the Vice President, met the JNUSU representatives and assured that he will ask the Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar to resolve their concerns.
About 7,000 students stay in 18 hostels on the campus. While students earlier paid Rs 10 and Rs 20 per month for a single-seater and double-seater room respectively as hostel fee, the JNU administration has revised it to Rs 300 and Rs 600 which will be applicable from the next academic term.
The hostel security fee has been hiked from Rs 5,000 to Rs 12,000. In addition to these increased charges, a new charge of Rs 1,700 per month as maintenance has been introduced. The administration has also done away with reservation policy in allotment of hostel rooms.
Navneet, a student activist, said, “These Draconian rules are an attack on accessible and inclusive public education system which the JNU stands for. Currently, around 40% of students in JNU come from marginalized sections, and if these rules are implemented, then only those students will be able to take admission in JNU who can afford the hefty fee.”
He alleged that “Vandana Mishra, the acting Dean had made a remark that we want only those students who can afford to study here.”
Student representatives and hostellers alleged that they were not allowed in the meeting of the Inter Hall Administration where the rules were finalised. Students have been protesting against the administration for over 15 days now. While the administration has maintained they have only updated and simplified the existing hostel rules, the student union alleged that it is an attempt to make JNU a “regimented RSS camp”.
“If a student does not follow these regressive clauses, the manual vests the authorities the power to rusticate or evict a student, impose a penalty of up to Rs 20,000 and even expel a student”, alleged Qasim, a student activist of Students’ Federation of India (SFI).
He added that “just like the restrictions on dhabha timings on the campus, identity card checking at every entry point and curtailing spaces of protest, this is another sinister plot to curtail our democratic rights. It must be fought tooth and nail.”
The student union is demanding a roll back of the measures proposed at the IHA meeting held on October 28 and that the student union and hostel presidents have a say in drafting the new rules.