'Make education affordable to all': Hundreds protest in Delhi against fee hike
Delhi: Hundreds of people took to the streets in Delhi on Saturday in support of the students' protest against the hostel and mess fee hike in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The protesters, including members of civil society, JNU alumna and students, raised slogans, asking the varsity administration to roll back the fee hike and the government to "make education affordable to all".
Kanhaiya Kumar, former Jawahalal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) president, said it is not a question of right or left but a question of right and wrong.
"There are some public universities that are doing good in the education sector, and thus have become an eyesore for the government. Spending money on universities is considered a waste of capital, but it is not a waste when it comes to building a statue of Rs 3,000 crore. The women and backward people will be hit due to this fee hike," he said.
A History student from Ambedkar University said, "Today, they have hiked the fee at JNU. Tomorrow, it could happen at other central and state universities. People say it's a matter of just Rs 300, that it is not a big deal but the manner in which this government is trying to suppress the students is not being spoken about. People who can't afford education elsewhere come to JNU. They belong to lower castes, come from poor families, are adivasis."
The protest saw the presence of people of all age groups and regions. The colourful flags from different universities filled the streets of central Delhi.
HC Pant (78) said, "In Class VIII, my father did not have '6.5 aana' for my school fees. He had sold ghee and submitted my fee. The education must be free for everyone. The privatisation of the education is not good."
"Two kids from my house are studying in government school in Rohini. The expense on one student is around Rs 8,000," he said.
It is the first time that members of civil society joined students in their protest that has been going on a for a week now.
"It's not just a fight for our education, but also for the education of the children of police personnel and media persons. Education should not get out of reach of common people," one of the protestors from the JNU said.
Students from different universities gathered at Parliament Street to support their JNU counterparts.
Neha Ahlawat from IIT-Delhi said, "It (fee hike) is not a good move. The fee of IIT-Delhi has also increased from Rs 26,000 to Rs two lakh. The government should invest funds on education and health."
An MBA student from Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), who did not wish to be named, called the JNU fee hike irrelevant.
"I have come here to support JNU students. I am pretty sure that after JNU, the government will target other universities like JMI," she said.
The protesters gathered at the Mandi House and started marching towards Parliament amid the presence of a huge police posse. Police personnel blocked roads leading to Connaught Place to prevent traffic snarls.
"We want the whole roll back of the fee hike and on November 27, we have planned for a national protest in the national capital," said Aishe Ghosh, president of JNUSU.
Members of student groups, including the SFI, KYS, AISF and NSUI among others, participated in the protest in large numbers.
Workers of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Dalit group Bhim Army also participated in the protest.
"Today, students from different colleges, including Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, IIT, AIIMS, have joined us in our protest. The voices, which are speaking for the JNU, should also speak for their rights also. We are planning to organise a nationwide protest," said N Sai Balaji, former JNUSU president.
National Federation for Indian Women's Delhi Secretary Alka Srivastava said, "We are in support of JNU students in the fight against privatisation. Education is not a privilege. It's a right."