New Delhi, January 9 (The Hindu): Several students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Thursday were beaten up by Delhi Police personnel as they tried to march towards Rashtrapati Bhavan after “unsatisfactory” talks with officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD). At least four students received injuries when police used “mild force” to disperse the march. Around 11 students were also detained but later released.
Scores of people had assembled since late afternoon outside the HRD Ministry as a protest march starting from Mandi House culminated there. HRD Secretary Amit Khare met a delegation of nine representatives from JNU Students’ Union and JNU Teachers Association demanding the removal of Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar.
The Ministry ruled out Mr. Kumar’s removal. “Removing the V-C is not the solution. The basic issue on which the whole problem has arisen needs to be addressed first. Changing X, Y or Z is not as important as resolving the issues that have come up,” said Mr. Khare.
Around 100 students have been detained by Delhi Police as they tried to march towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on January 9, 2020.
Ministry officials, however, asserted that the “formula” decided during consultations with students and administration needs to be implemented. University officials, including the Vice- Chancellor, have been called at the Ministry on Friday over students’ claims that the revised fees, as decided during the MoHRD’s intervention, are not being implemented.
Towards evening, JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh addressed those gathered outside Shastri Bhawan and termed the MoHRD meeting “unsatisfactory” and called for a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Students and protesters started moving but were stopped by the police. In the melee, several protesters were beaten up by the police and taken away in police vehicles. A male student suffered head injuries during a baton charge.
Earlier, several political leaders and activists addressed a crowd of thousands of people, including ordinary citizens, students and professors from various universities outside Shastri Bhawan, while talks were going on inside.
“No resignation, he [the V-C] has to be removed. For three hours, he allowed a rampage on campus despite the police being present outside. They were only called in when it was over. This can only mean that the V-C is also complicit in the incident,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury, referring to the January 5 violence on the campus.
Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar said, “The Home Minister keeps referring to the ‘tukde tukde (divisive) gang’. I want to tell him that I own the term proudly. We will shatter into pieces their dream of dividing the country.”
Sana Khan, a PhD scholar who was among the protesters, said the character of JNU had changed since Mr. Kumar had taken charge. “When I joined ten years back for my MA course, JNU was a space where one could have debates and students from various classes mingled. It was a place which helped us break stereotypes. Suddenly, the entire character of the university has changed with the V-C bringing in all kinds of restrictions,” she said.
Sohini Dasgupta, another JNU student, was seen carrying a blank poster. “We have so much to say that it cannot fit in one poster. While the fee hike should be revoked completely, the V-C should immediately step down. This is an issue affecting thousands of students. If we students don’t speak up now, who will?” she said.
International Academics’ Protest
Over 250 senior academics and university administrators from various countries have called for the immediate resignation of Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar over violence on the university campus on January 5, 2019.
The signatories are from universities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, Norway, France, Italy, Denmark, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Taiwan, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Brazil, Portugal and New Zealand.
They include the former Archbishop of Canterbury and current Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, Dr. Rowan Williams; president of the American Anthropological Association, Professor Akhil Gupta; president, Association for Asian Studies, U.S.; Prof. Prasenjit Duara, and professors Dame Caroline Humphries and Sir Christopher Clark, Cambridge.
The signatories said that the incident, “which took place on January 6 when an armed and politically motivated mob was allowed to enter the JNU campus” violated every norm of democracy.
It violated the norms of academic freedom, of the protection of universities from arbitrary state power and of the duty of university administrators to protect their students and faculty, they said.
With regard to the failure to call for police protection “as well as the university authorities’ criminalising of peaceful student protest”, they said the JNU administration, and especially the Vice-Chancellor, had lost all national and international credibility.
Amartya Sen’s Call
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Wednesday rallied behind the JNU students who were attacked inside the campus and criticised the role of police in dealing with the violence, saying there was a “big absence of justice in the matter”.
Speaking to a Bengali TV news channel after reaching the city on Wednesday, Sen questioned how those who were beaten up by “masked outsiders” were named in the FIR lodged by the Delhi Police.
On the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, Sen who has been vocal against the Narendra Modi government, said it should be scrapped.
The professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University said, “Some outsiders came and tortured the students of the (Jawaharlal Nehru) University and indulged in lawlessness there. The University authorities could not stop it and even the police could not come on time.
“… They (police) have failed to nab anybody till date. I have heard that the cameras (CCTVs) were not working.
“I have also heard that there were some problems in their (police’s) report and that’s why that cannot be submitted. And instead, an FIR was lodged against those who got beaten up.
“That there is a big absence of justice in this matter is very conspicuous,” Sen said.
Violence had broken out at JNU on Sunday night as masked men armed with sticks and rods attacked students and teachers and damaged property in the campus, prompting the administration to call in police which conducted a flag march.
At least 28 people, including JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh, were injured.
On the Citizenship Amendment Act, Sen said it should be scrapped and the Supreme Court should turn it down on grounds of it being unconstitutional.
“I think the CAA must be scrapped because it cannot be an Act … That’s the job of the Supreme Court to see whether what was passed in the Parliament can be legally attached to the Constitution,” the Nobel laureate added.