The Central University of Jammu (CUJ) administration, on February 12, decided to revoke fare of the university’s bus service after a meeting with hostellers late at night.
According to News18, the decision came after over 200 students walked for 25km from their hostel to the campus in protest against the abrupt suspension of bus service – their only mode of transport in that secluded region. However, this was not a victory achieved overnight.
Students have been holding peaceful protests since August 2018 when the administration abruptly increased the bus fee from Rs 1,000 per year to Rs 1,000 per month.
However, CUJ’s administration, on February 9, 2019, had cancelled bus service for hostel residents entirely, leaving a significant number of students stranded and unable to attend classes.
Students said the university’s decision not only went against the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines (which say no fee can be increased until 2020) but also violated their basic right to education.
Scared of retaliation from the college, students collectively, and anonymously, had outlined their situation in an email. And one student, who wished to remain anonymous told LiveWire that the college had even threatened students by telling them that they won’t be allowed to sit for their exams – for some, with only one semester left and exams just round the corner – the implications would have been serious and monetarily exhausting.
The discontinuation of the bus service came on the heels of a dharna the students held on February 5, which ended in a bout of violence with one student even being beaten up.
According to the students, some outsiders disrupted the dharna forcing them to immediately call off the protest. Talking about the presence of these outsiders in the campus, a student on condition of anonymity told News18, “we feel threatened and isolated at the hostel premises.”
According to one student, university administrators present at the scene insulted some of the protesting students based on their skin colour and the fact that they were from Kerala – outstation students are the most adversely affected by the fee hike and the discontinuation of the bus service – leaving students feeling unsafe.
Initially, the vice chancellor had allegedly refused to engage with the students, despite the involvement of the International Human Rights Council, which wrote to the VC asking him to take action.
“It is very sad that we are receiving complaints from various students of different departments of Central University of Jammu that they are being mentally tortured and harassed after their peaceful and democratic protest… Therefore you are requested to look into the just complaints and resolve it at your end,” said the letter.
Featured image credit: Twitter