New Delhi: “I feel like a criminal for just asking for my basic rights,” said a postgraduate student and a hostel resident at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as she got past the police barricade to continue the march towards Parliament Street.
Amid heavy security deployment, she quickly hid her poster in her bag and boarded an auto to join another branch of the student-led march a few kilometres away from the campus.
One of her friends didn’t wish to speak at all, fearing backlash from the police hovering around the area. “They are staring at us, please don’t talk to me,” he said.
On Monday, the two students, along with more than a thousand JNU students, gathered at the university’s Sabarmati dhaba to start the beginning of a peaceful march towards Parliament street.
For the past couple of weeks, the students have been protesting against the draft hostel manual which has provisions for hostel fee hike, dress code and curfew timings. Although the administration on November 13 had rolled back the proposed fee-hike, the students and professors rejected it calling it an “eyewash”.
The students had thus decided to take out a march on the first day of winter session in parliament.
As soon as the students marched outside the university’s entrance gate, the were met by police barricades and scores of policemen. Around the same time, Section 144 – which prohibits the assembly of more than four people – was also imposed in the area.
The students, however, tried to continue to move ahead. Immediately after, the security personnel intervened and, according to some students, even used physical force to disrupt the agitation. On Twitter, #emergencyinJNU started trending as many shared pictures of police brutality.
Despite d brutal police crackdown & nearly 100 students, including JNUSU leaders, being detained, students continue to march to parlmnt. Many are walking with injured limbs. The msg is clear: Our march will reach parliament to make our voice heard, come what may!#EmergencyinJNU pic.twitter.com/PY4kxZNyMC
— Nisam Asaf (@nisamasaf) November 18, 2019
“I saw my friend being dragged by a security personnel. She was seriously injured. Another friend lost her phone in the middle of the stand-off,” said a student who couldn’t cross through the barricade and had to stay at the campus.
After over 500 students managed to leap over the barricades, the Delhi police detained a bunch of student leaders, including former JNUSU president N. Sai Balaji, current JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh and around 50 others.
The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has condemned the deployment of police outside the university. “The massive police deployment and barricading at the gates of the JNU campus, which on the face of it appears to be only for the purpose of preventing the students from taking out their planned march to Parliament,” it said.
“Such measures or use of force to thwart the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights and to impede the students from peacefully taking their voice beyond the campus would be extremely unfortunate and the JNUTA hopes that the no situation will eventually arise,” the association said.
In the same vein, students at Lucknow University have extended solidarity to the protesting students.
“We, the students of the University of Lucknow…condemn the severely crushing of students’ movement and serious threats to crumble their voice,” the student body said.
Meanwhile, the ministry of human resource development has issued a notice saying that the government has appointed a high-power committee to “restore normal functioning in JNU”.
Balaji, however, said that the notice is only a “fooling tactic”.
Detained students said that they were beaten when they were packed in the police van. “Many of us have been detained. The police are beating us badly. We don’t know where police is taking us,” a student told LiveWire from inside a van. The students, Balaji said, have been taken to Bahadurpur police station.
The rest of the protestors used a different route to march towards the Parliament Street. Amid a heavy lathi charge in which a lot of students were injured, the protestors were forced to disperse near Safdarjang Tomb.
At around 3 pm, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said that the exit and entry gates for Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk and Central Secretariat had been temporarily closed due to “security reasons”. This was announced at different stations.
Yellow Line Update
As advised by Delhi Police, trains are not halting at Udyog Bhawan and Patel Chowk. Exit/Entry Gates for Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk and Central Secretariat have been closed temporarily.
— Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (@OfficialDMRC) November 18, 2019
As the protest continues, the JNU administration has yet to release an official statement with regard to the events of today.
The postgraduate student, who had had hid her poster in her bag, pulled it out when she joined the march at Jor Bagh. She said she would continue to protest until the administration restores the previous fee structure for hostels and rolls back all the other provisions in the new hostel draft.
“There is no other way,” she said.
Featured image credit: PTI/Ravi Choudhary