24 March 2017: Around 500 students participated in a protest demo led by the JNUSU outside the University Grants Commission (UGC) office against the implementation of the UGC gazette notification of May 2016, which resulted in an 86% reduction of seats in MPhil and PhD for the upcoming academic year, with several centres offering zero intakes. The JNUTA also extended its support to the protesting students. This comes in the wake of extended strikes in the university which are expected to continue till 28 March.
Meanwhile, a handful of students led by former JNUSU Vice President, and ex-AISA member Anubhuti Agnes Bara blocked all the university gates preventing movements of vehicles from and into the campus.
Around 3:30 pm the students gathered in front of the UGC office and demanded to meet the Chairman, Ved Prakash. Not surprisingly a huge deployment of police officials armed with lathis and water cannons, barricaded the gates preventing entry. A resultant scuffle ensued between the students and police in an attempt to break down the barricade, with accusations of manhandling of female protestors. The students subsequently also blocked the ITO road in front of the office causing intense disruption to traffic. The blockade lasted for about forty minutes leading to a massive traffic jam.
After several more unsuccessful attempts at getting past the barricades, JNUSU president Mohit Pandey and a few others were allowed to go inside and meet the officials. The Union declared that the commission would conduct a meeting on 28 March 2017 regarding the matter and that the strike would continue till then, with another protest outside the UGC. This continued system of strikes is not favoured by several groups of students including those of CSSS, who are expected to conduct a GBM on this matter.
The blockade of the North Gate has been criticised for unilateralism by several groups. Late post-midnight on the same day, students who had blocked the North Gate called for an open house to decide the future course of action post-blockade. DSU criticised the unilateralism of the initiators and did not support the blockade while AISF questioned the lesser involvement of students in the decision-making process but maintained that it supported the blockade.
The visible absence of the majority of MA students, whom the gazette is expected to affect the most, can also not go unnoticed, although this may be attributed to mid-term exams and submission deadlines. In a rather difficult time of seat-cuts, the mobilisation on 28 March shall determine the future course of the movement.
Noyonika Bose is an MA student at CESP and Kumar Prashant is a BA student at CRS. They work for News Pool of The Informer.