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Students clash with media, allege they were ‘harassed, groped’ by cops

Delhi police filed two FIRs in connection with the protests

After the events of yesterday’s protest march by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University — when nearly 100 students were detained and several injured during a lathi-charge by the Delhi police — the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association held a solidarity protest in support of the student movement. Students allege they were harassed and even groped by police personnel when they sat in silent protest last evening near Safdarjung Tomb.

The students are protesting, among other things, a proposed 999 per cent increase in their hostel fees, cited in the Inter Hall Administration draft manual, a change in the curfew timings, and more conservative dress codes for female students in the dining hall.

The JNUTA protest began at Ganga Dhaba and circled the university campus, with protesters shouting slogans against the JNU administration and the police brutality inflicted on students yesterday. Professor DK Lobiyal addressed the crowd, saying, “JNUTA salutes the courage of the students who took part in the march. We extend our support to every demand of the students. This fight is important for poor students who are coming from across the country.”

The air was filled with slogans like “Fee hike wapas lo (Roll back the fee hike)”, “JNU VC must resign” and “Padhne ka adhikar maangte, nahi kisi se bheekh maangte (We demand our educational rights)”.

A student participating in the protest told Newslaundry: “The fee hike is very arbitrary. If it is not revoked then students like me, coming from a rural area in Bihar, will have to drop out of the course.”

Earlier in the day, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union held a press conference on the campus. A visually-challenged student, who was allegedly beaten up by the police, said: “I was attacked on my leg with a lathi and the student who came to help me also was attacked. I was only demanding my right for education and this is how the police treats me.”

A verbal altercation also broke out between reporters and students. N Sai Balaji, former president of the JNUSU, said the media was trying to “run their agenda”. Other students told Newslaundry that many of the reporters have “sold out to corporate interests”. During the press conference, one student demanded that the “fourth pillar of democracy act with maturity”.

A member of the Students’ Federation of India who was present at the march told Newslaundry, on condition of anonymity: “At around 7 pm, our [union] president was addressing the crowd after returning from the police station. She had been detained earlier in the day. In the middle of her speech, the streetlights were switched off. The police had their faces covered with napkins, their badges removed and some were even in civil clothes. In the darkness, they beat us, groped us and molested us. They chased and harassed us… It was a traumatic experience for many.”

N Sai Balaji told Newslaundry: “We are just demanding public education for all. If education is inaccessible, then where will the kids of jawans, the middle-class and the poor study? What happened yesterday is unfortunate and Delhi police will realise its mistake.”

He added that the Ministry of Human Resource Development must suspend the proposed fee hike before it tries to negotiate with students. The union is demanding they be treated as a stakeholder in the negotiations.

The Delhi police registered an FIR in connection with the protests under Sections 186 (obstructing a public servant in the discharge of public functions) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code. A second FIR was later filed by the police against students of JNU.