‘Democracy dying a slow death’: Students detained, lathi-charged as JNU protesters marched to Parliament

Several students were injured, and the crowd sat in protest near Safdarjung Tomb when barricades stopped them from going any further.

WrittenBy:Chahak Gupta and Samyak Jain
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The protest in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, entered its 20th day today, in a day marked by heightened security, the detention of about 100 students by the police, and several students being injured. Despite the imposition of Section 144, the students had attempted to march to Parliament, where the Winter Session has just begun.

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. 

Early this morning, students began gathering near the main gate of the university. The police had already barricaded the area. Central Reserve Police Force personnel and 10 police companies were deployed, each company comprising 70-80 officers. 

As the students walked toward the main road outside the varsity’s campus, the police surrounded them and prevented them from going further. Some students and student leaders were detained. Around 100 detained students were pushed into buses and taken to four different police stations. Trucks with tear gas and water cannons moved alongside them.

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(top) Detained students in the police bus. (bottom) Students sitting in protest.

The police lathi-charged the crowd, seriously injuring some of the protesters. This included a student called Sandip, who was severely injured. A visually-impaired student called Shashi Bhushan Samad, described as a “revolutionary, councillor and singer” by fellow students, was brutally beaten by the police, according to reports. Eye-witnesses claim the police stomped on his chest with their boots after beating him. He is currently admitted in the trauma centre of All India Institute of Medical Sciences where his condition is critical.

Students allege that other physically challenged students were beaten up too, including visually-challenged students, who were caught in the police attack since they didn’t know where to run. Some JNU professors who were part of the protest were allegedly beaten up too. The police chased the protesters till INA metro station. 

At this point, the march briefly halted. Students began running to find another route to Parliament. Before the police could react, they had climbed over the Parthasarathy Rocks in the JNU campus and headed to the Parliament building through African Avenue. Here, they split into groups of three and marched to Bikaji Cama Place, where they walked in single file over busy flyovers. The students looked out for each other, building human chains to halt the traffic to let the procession pass. 

Over 3,000 students were part of the march. They held placards saying “No To Privatisation” and “Education Is Not For Sale”, and shouted slogans such as “Hum le ke rahenge azaadi” and “Inquilab zindabad”.

Near Green Park, the students reunited and walked towards Safdarjung Tomb. The police had already blocked the road with barricades and so, the students sat there till evening. They sat in circles and sang songs of freedom and revolution, including Hum honge kamyab, and Keh do toh lag jai dhak se from the movie Article 15

The police later lathi-charged the group, according to reports, to try and disperse the crowd.

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A poster at the protest.

There was heavy media presence during the students’ procession and subsequent sitting protest. At one point, students surrounded an anchor from Sudharshan News, shouting slogans like “Go back, Godhi media”. The students had previously criticised sections of the TV news media for their “biased coverage” of their protests.

The metro stations at Jor Bagh, Lok Kalyan Marg and Central Secretariat have been closed by the police, and services at these stations are temporarily suspended. 

The students say that they will continue protesting until their demands are met. 

‘Is this the democracy of the Delhi police?’

Today’s protest comes a day after the JNU administration formed a committee to resolve the students’ issues. However, the committee did not include a student representative. The protesters have now said they will not leave the protest site at Safdarjung Tomb until a student representative is included, and the detained students are released. 

Satish Chandra Yadav, general secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, was one of the students detained by the police. He gave a statement to Newslaundry on today’s events: 

“The students of JNU wanted to march peacefully and lawfully to the Parliament. They want to keep their justified demands before the parliament. We want the vice-chancellor to have a conversation with us. We want to put forward these demands so that all the students from economically deprived sections can continue to study here. But the government and administration have used the force of the military and police to impose their authoritarianism. They have detained the students who were protesting peacefully. Our democratic principles are being shunned. It’s pitiful that in a country where the prime minister is elected democratically by the people, in the same country, democracy is dying a slow death.”

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Two JNU students injured during the protest.

N Sai Balaji, former president of JNUSU, said he wants to ask the Ministry of Human Resource Development why the fee hike hasn’t been suspended yet when efforts are being made to initiate a dialogue with the students. “We have been arrested by the Delhi police and their personnel in civil dress have beaten us up. I was hit on the head with a stick. They abused us, used sexist cuss words — is this the democracy of the Delhi police? Can we not keep our demands, our concerns, before the parliamentarians? We appeal to everyone to fight against this injustice.”


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