JNU’s women students form a human chain from Sabarmati Dhaba to the varsity’s main gate, Friday. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)
Hours after meeting JNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar and officers-elect of the JNU Students’ Union Friday over the hostel fee hike, Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare said the varsity had addressed the students’ “basic demand” and requested them to end their three-month-long agitation.
JNU, at the HRD Ministry’s behest, clarified Thursday night that it would charge only the increased room rent, and the service and utility charges were to be borne by the University Grants Commission. Till date, about 3,500 students have registered for the new semester and agreed to pay the increased room rent. Roughly 7,500 students are studying in JNU.
However, officers-elect of the JNUSU told reporters after their meeting with Khare that the rollback of utility and service charges is not enough. They alleged the varsity was not honouring the compromise formula announced on December 12. “Although it is significant that such an administration was forced to concede even if their intention to ultimately raise (hostel fee) is clear, the approach of the MHRD is to wash its hands off, rather than address the crisis. May we remind the MHRD secretary it is only a part of the discussion that took place on 11th,” the JNUSU said in a statement.
“Considering the culpability of the V-C and his supporters within the faculty in the violence, the MHRD should follow up on advice it had given to the V-C, which he ignored, and take steps to remove him... We shall carry on our movement to save our university,” they added.
The Ministry, on December 11, had advised the V-C to take a lenient view of the “incidents that occurred since October 2019 as a part of the current agitation” and also recognise the students’ union as per the order of the High Court. However, JNU has neither withdrawn its police complaint against students till date nor has it recognised JNUSU.
On these demands, Khare said, “There can be any number of demands. The basic demand was of the fee issue. Whatever was decided earlier has been already implemented by the V-C.”
Khare had Thursday ruled out Kumar’s removal. On Friday, ministry officials reiterated the stand. “We have got the V-C to soften his stand, and he has issued a clarification on the service and utility charges. Students have to meet him halfway and call off the agitation. In the last five days, we have called the V-C thrice to the ministry. We can’t keep doing this. We have to maintain the dignity of a V-C’s office,” said an official.
This is the HRD Ministry’s second attempt at arriving at a compromise. The last one in December had ended with the transfer of the then higher education secretary R Subrahmanyam.
After meeting Khare Friday, Kumar released a statement saying the university is “implementing the record of discussions with MHRD issued on 11 December 2019” and also “making every effort to ensure all students and teachers have a conducive environment to pursue academic activities”.
Kumar further said in the statement, “In a meeting with the Deans and Chairpersons, it was decided that classes would start from January 13. MHRD was also informed that if required, the registration date for winter semester would further be extended. The university has strengthened security on the campus.”