New Delhi: Two groups of Jawaharlal Nehru University students have begun an indefinite hunger strike in protest against the punishments awarded by the university in connection with an event on the death anniversary of Mohammad Afzal Guru on February 9.
While five protesting students are from ABVP, 20 others including JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar belong to different groups.
The hunger strike began at midnight after the students took out a torchlight march from Ganga Dhaba to administration block, which has been the venue of protest ever since Kanhaiya was arrested in a sedition case over the event against Guru’s hanging during slogans against India and in favour of Kashmir’s freedom were chanted.
Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, who were arrested in the case, are now out on bail. The university had earlier this week announced punishments to various students on the basis of recommendations of a five-member probe panel.
While Kanhaiya has been slapped with a penalty of Rs 10,000 on grounds of “indiscipline and misconduct”, Umar, Anirban and Kashmiri student Mujeeb Gatoo have been rusticated for varied durations.
Fourteen students have been imposed financial penalty, hostel facilities of two students have been withdrawn and university has declared the campus out of bounds for two former students.
“The administration thought that if the action is taken during exams there will be no protests from students. Please do not question our intellect, we can write our theses while sitting on protest and clear our exams,” Kanhaiya said.
“This high-level drama of high-level committee was the reason behind suicide of Rohith Vemula. We do not want to learn things by losing our lives but by fighting these agendas,” he added.
The protesting students also include the ones who have not been punished but are agitating in solidarity.
“What kind of students does JNU administration want? The boot-licking, opportunist, pro-establishment, pro-administration types, who will stand against their own fraternity, in the hope of being favoured by the government of the day?,” JNUSU Vice President Shehla Rashid Shora said.
The ABVP members, who are sitting on a separate strike, are demanding withdrawal of penalty on Saurabh Kumar Sharma who was complainant of the event.
Sharma, who is the lone ABVP member in JNU students union has been slapped with a penalty of Rs 10,000 for blocking traffic.
The ABVP is alleging that the university has equated “nationalists” and “anti-nationals” while deciding the punishments and has set a bad precedent by criminalising “patriotism”.
The university officials reiterated their stand that the decision was made after thorough investigation by the probe panel and are in accordance with varsity norms.