With banners, tambourines and shouted slogans, hundreds of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students today protested against a new draft hostel manual that has provisions for fee hikes, dress code and curfew timings.
The ongoing protests eventually turned violent with angry students pushing against police personnel in anti-riot gear. The police for their part, employed water cannons to manage the crowd.
What does the new draft hostel manual say?
A revised hostel manual put forth by the JNU administration has proposed a nearly 999% hike in hostel fees.
From Rs. 10 for a twin sharing room and Rs. 20 for a double sharing room, the prices have now been changed to Rs. 300 and 600 respectively.
The one-time refundable mess security deposit charge has also risen greatly, from Rs. 5,500 to Rs. 12,000. Utility charges for electricity and water, which were not taken earlier will now be charged as per usage. Similarly, service charges have also been updated from zero to Rs. 1700 per month (as per actual).
What does the JNU administration have to say?
The JNU administration said that as the students of 16 hostels were previously not required to pay electricity, water and service charges, the University was "incurring an expenditure of more than Rs. 10 crores per annum for payment towards the above charges".
"These charges are not paid by UGC. As a result, the university has been meeting this expenditure from the general funds given by UGC" it said.
In a press note released by the University admimnistration it writes that there is no difference between the old and new Norms Governing Hostel Life and that the debate around curfew timings is simply based on "rumours".
"The residents should be back in their respective hostels latest by 11.00 pm or by half an hour after time for library closing, whichever is later," it read.
The difference, as the administration too points out lies in the fact that the timings for the library reading room has changed.
"Now the library reading room is open 24/7. Therefore, in effect, as per either the old rule or new rule, students can reach the hostel any time. However, those who are spreading misleading information are silent about the fact that in view of the library reading room being open all the time, students can actually reach the hostel anytime and there is no “curfew time” as alleged," it said.
The note also refuted allegations regarding dress code stating that the only change was that “properly” was replaced by “appropriately” in the how to dress part. "The New hostel manual has not introduced any new dress code rule," it said.
What are the measures taken so far to resolve the protests?
Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal, today met with JNU students and assured them that a solution to their issues will be found soon.
A delegation of Delhi Police, comprising Special Commissioner of Police (headquarters) R S Krishnia and DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa have also entered the JNU campus and are expected to hold a mediation meeting between students and Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, which was the demand of the agitating students to call off the protest.