Their academic calender torn, students in the lurch

Garima Singh Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 06, 2020 Published on January 06, 2020

Students seen leaving the JNU campus in New Delhi, on Monday, following violent attacks by goons the previous day   -  RV Moorthy

While some leave campus due to fear, others choose to stay back for unavoidable reasons

Young Palash Banerjee’s (name changed on request) forehead is creased by lines of worry as he talks about his delayed M.Phil thesis and the uncertainty triggered by last evening’s violence in the JNU campus by masked goons.

“My work is already delayed because of the virtual shutdown of the university over the last two months over the proposed fee hike and now things have got worse. A plant grown painstakingly by my friend for his project has died because of the shutdown of the labs. We are in a mess. Many of my friends have gone home after yesterday’s violence but I have to stay back as I can’t give up my Ph.D plans,” said an almost tearful Banerjee, yearning for the safety of his hometown in Bengal.

Banerjee’s anguish and anxieties are shared by hundreds of other fellow-students who are frustrated about academics coming to a standstill at the university. “My friends and I badly miss our classes. Our teachers miss teaching us. We beg the administration to sort out the fee hike mess and let us continue with our studies,” said Himalika, an M.Phil student of Women’s Studies.

Fee hike feud

JNU students have been protesting against a fee hike proposed by the administration in November 2019, which increases tuition and hostel fees several-fold. A student may have to pay ₹60,700 per year for a double-occupancy room in the hostel and up to ₹62,500 for a single-occupancy room, according to some students. For a below-poverty-line (BPL) student, the annual hostel charges under the revised plan could be up to ₹46,600.

“The students who are protesting against the fee hike are not the ones who work for political parties. They are the affected students. For them, a peaceful protest is the only way for a rollback in the fees. The Vice-Chancellor has tried multiple times to forcibly make us sit for our exams, but we can’t give in,” said a student from Bareilly, adding that her parents are anxious about her.

‘Politics’ and ‘protests’ are not bad words if you are fighting for what is legitimate, said Vikas Bajpai, Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health.

“We are fighting to ensure the right to education and decent facilities for students and to make it possible for students from the poorest areas to come to the university. If students remain aloof, they will suffer the most,” he said before hurrying off to participate in a human chain formed by students and faculty members of JNU to demonstrate their solidarity. While there’s little certainty in the campus on how the future will unfold, most seem ready to fight to protect their turf.

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Published on January 06, 2020
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