23 March 2018: Black Friday
An eyewitness' account on JNU Students Long March
April 4, 2018
It was alarming and highly disturbing to see the manhandling and violence that was perpetrated by Delhi police on peacefully marching students on 24th March 2018.
Most mainstream media channels grossly underreported the number of students who attended the march. These students were not only from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) but also from Delhi University (DU), Jamia Milia Islamia, and Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi (AUD). The long march also included teachers from both JNU and DU.
Even before the protesters reached the Parliament, they were cornered by the Delhi Police and CRPF. The security forces seemed to have come prepared to go to any lengths to stop the protesters from reaching the Parliament, the proposed end point of the long march. They had water cannons, tear gas shells, and barricades that they used to curtail the protester’s movements, all of which they used on the peacefully protesting students and teachers. As if these measures weren’t extreme in themselves, considering that the protesters came armed with only slogans and placards, they also ordered a lathi charge.
Not only did both female and male police officers brutally lathi charge the peaceful protesters, they also resorted to physical assault. There were many among the protesters who reported that their clothes had been forcibly torn off. Even female students and teachers were beaten up. It was only after the intervention of some senior security officers that the situation was brought under control. There were some whose injuries were serious enough for them to be taken to the AIIMS trauma centre.
Later, we found out that about 20 students had been detained by the police.
Contrary to Times Now’s coverage, which termed it as protest demanding “Azadi to bunk classes in JNU,” the protest took up some very important issues.
The two demands were:
- The immediate arrest of Prof Atul Johri, who occupies three important positions in JNU. Several students have accused him of sexual harassment. Moreover, he has also been accused of misappropriating crores of funds that were issued to his deptartment.
- The recent MHRD mandate, passed by the MHRD Minister Javadekar, which grants “autonomous” status to 42 of India’s premiere universities, be immediately taken back. The move towards automonomy is a move towards privatisation of higher education.
What they were protesting against:
- The march was also meant to protest against the many other measures that the government has taken for the privatisation of higher education. Privatisation, in all likelihood, would make the cost of higher education staggeringly high, making it accessible to a select few. Those who may not be in a position to pay the fee but want to study will have to resort to student loans. For the vast majority, though, it would become a distant dream.
- The march was against the University Grants Commision’s notification which imposed a drastic seat cut in JNU’s student intake in its MPhil and PhD programs. The seat cuts, about 80-84%, also meant that there were hardly any seats left for the reserved categories.
- It was against the dismantling of the independent student body, Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), and its replacement with the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
- It was against unceremonious removal of seven reputed chairpersons and one dean from their respective departments after a circular was issued overnight. The reasons for this were their refusal to comply with the compulsory attendance order. It was also meant to protest against the new chairpersons and dean who replaced them, as these were seen as political appointments. .
The March was against the systematic regimentation of education and the dismantling of one of the country’s premiere institutes of learning.
I urge my family, friends and colleagues not to believe in the blatant lies of the mainstream media that has been bought. They should take a long hard look at the facts and the changes being brought in, and then decide who they want to believe.
The images and videos are provided by the author with the permission of the photographers.Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.
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