Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi have been agitating since October 28. They are protesting against the steep hike in hostel charges proposed by the university authorities as well as other restrictions imposed on the students.
At a meeting on October 28, the JNU Inter Hostel Administration (IHA), which manages 18 JNU hostels, introduced a new hostel manual which proposes sweeping changes in existing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) hostel rules — including a revision of hostel fee structure. The JNU Students Union was not called for the meeting, not were the students’ representatives consulted before introducing the manual.
According to the new hostel manual, the students will have to pay a service charge of Rs 1,700 per month. This charge did not exist earlier. The rent for a single-seater room has been increased from Rs 20 per month to Rs 600 per month, and for a double-sharing room from Rs 10 per month to Rs 300 per month. The mess security fee, which is refundable, has been revised from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000. The manual also mentions several other restrictive rules for the student using the hostel facilities and a fine of Rs 10,000 for breaching hostel norms.
The students have been demanding that the authorities withdraw the new rules. They have been requesting the authorities that the students’ representatives be consulted before framing the new rules, so that the concerns of the students may be addressed. They have been holding protests at the campus since October 28. They have been highlighting the difficulties that the fee hike would impose on students, many of whom are from rural and remote parts of the country, who brave severe poverty and deprivation, caste and gender discrimination, and work hard to secure admission in JNU, in the hope of having a better future for themselves and their families. The JNU Students Union (JNUSU) which is leading the struggle has also sought a meeting with vice chancellor (V-C) Jagadesh Kumar to discuss the issue. However, despite repeated requests, the VC has refused to meet the agitating students.
On November 11, hundreds of students held a protest outside the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the venue for JNU’s third convocation. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal were the chief guests at the event. The police lathi-charged and used water cannons to break up the students’ protest, while scores of students were also arrested and detained. The students protesting outside the auditorium were also joined later by many of the students who had received their degrees, and were in full support of the demands. The HRD minister was finally forced to talk to the agitating students and “assure” them that he would look into their grievances.
The agitating students issued a statement on November 11, condemning the “unprovoked police violence” on the protesting students. Denouncing the VC’s refusal to discuss with the students, the statement called upon the university administration to fulfill the student’s demands, including rolling back the hostel rules and the fee hike. It called upon the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the JNU authorities to immediately hold a dialogue with the students to resolve the matter. It pointed out that the proposed fee hike would pose “a threat” to the hopes and aspirations of receiving higher education, for “a large number of students from marginalized social background”. Highlighting the support for the agitation by the majority of students, the statement said “For a university where a majority of students come from the most marginalized backgrounds in this country, it no wonder that many of the degree receiving students participating in the convocation also joined the protest”.
JNUSU has also announced a protest outside the university campus during the meeting of the Executive Council of the university on November 13, which is being held to officially ratify the new rules.
The agitation has been supported by students in many universities across the country. Students of FTII, Pune and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have expressed solidarity with the JNU students and staged protests. The students of Delhi University’s Campus Law Centre also released a statement to condemn the alleged police brutality on the protesting JNU students. Students of Ambedkar University also held protest actions in support of the JNU students’ demands.
The struggle of the JNU students is entirely just. It is a part of the struggle being waged by students across the country, against the increasing attempts of the state to withdraw from its responsibility of providing good quality higher education at an affordable cost to the majority of our youth.