The Price of Demanding a Roll Back in Fee Hike: Lathis, Water Cannon, Tear Gas and Sedition Charges! SHAME on Chandigarh Police and Panjab University Administration
The SFI condemns in the strongest possible terms, the barbaric assault on protesting students by the Chandigarh Police and slapping of sedition charges against 60 odd students, for the crime of resisting an obnoxious fee hike in Panjab University. The shameful assault happened on 11th April when the students had called for a University Strike and a protest at VC’s office.
The Panjab University is considered by the MHRD as one of the very best by its own criteria. And yet, the University has been forced since long to ‘raise internal resources’ and face severe fund crunch. The ever compliant administration of the University duly implemented the steep fee hike, making it nigh impossible for all but the most privileged to avail education in this ‘topmost University’. According to estimates, the extent of the fee hike is bound to massively impact students.
Some courses have had a hike of as much as 1100% w.e.f. 2017-18 session. The actual amount raised ranges from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 86000 in a single go.
The B.Pharma course fee has been raised from Rs. 5080 to 30000
The MA Journalism Course fee was raised from Rs. 5290 to Rs. 30000
Dental Course fee hiked from Rs. 86400 to Rs. 1.5 lac.
Students have been protesting this ludicrous fee hike and arm twisting by the University administration and the MHRD for a while now. The protest on the 11th was one in a series of strikes, sit-ins, marches and talks with the VC which failed. In a brazen display of state power, the Chandigarh Police which comes under the Union Government, entered the University and soon started an indiscriminate round of water cannons, tear gas and lathi charge to break the protest of the students. Many students were injured in the lathicharge as well as by water cannons. Some women students fainted out of shock. The protesting students were forced to take refuge in a Gurudwara situated in the University Campus.
In yet ore arbitrary exercise of state powers, 60 students were arrested and charged under the notorious section 124a which means sedition. It seems that the definition of sedition has extended to include demanding your bread and butter rights. Last heard, the unity of students and the tremendous countrywide anger over the police action has forced the police to remove section 124a from the charges, but other draconian provisions remain.
The sinister designs of the Modi government to sell off education have reached a new crescendo after the appointment of Prakash Javadekar to the MHRD. The MHRD is now committed solely to the privatization of education. In JNU we are already facing the severest of institutional assaults on research through the massive seat cut. Panjab University has been facing fund crunches for many months now, with the UGC refusing to release funds even for salaries and infrastructure and apply strong arm tactics to ensure the passage of a neoliberal model of education.
The students’ resistance in the land of Bhagat Singh however refuses to die down in spite of the crackdown. The SFI stands in solidarity with the protesting students of PU and affirms its belief in the legacy of the glorious student movement to overcome these challenges.