CHANDIGARH – Panjab University Protest (PU) turned violent on Tuesday as the week-long agitation over the steep fee hike suddenly turned ugly.
The police, which brought in water cannons, batons and tear-gas to control the crowd outside the vice-chancellor’s office, were targeted with stones and flower pots. Around 6 policemen and some of the students were injured, the police said.
The agitating students wanted to hold talks with vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover on the fee hike issue as they were observing “PU Bandh” against the recent hike. When the students were not called for discussion, they tried to forcibly enter the VC office in the varsity campus by jumping the barricades set up by police.
Later in the afternoon, the students took refuge in the Gurdwara in the university campus.
The PU chief security officer, Prof Ashwani Kaul, sought sedition charges against the protesters in his complaint to the police. However, the police did not add the relevant section — 124A of the Indian Penal Code — to the final first-information report (FIR).
On social media, there were posts that said sedition charges were pressed. When contacted, SSP Eish Singhal denied this: “There was a complaint for pressing sedition charge too. But we did not find any evidence regarding that after watching the videos.” Charges pressed include those for rioting and damaging public property, among others.
The students have been protesting against the “significant” hike in tuition fee announced by the PU senate last month for the 2017-18 academic year. In some courses, the fee hike was steep. In the B Pharma course, the fee was raised from Rs5,080 to Rs50,000 and in MA (journalism) course, the fee was hiked from Rs5,290 to Rs 30,000. For PU’s dental course, the fees was increased from Rs86,400 to Rs1.50 lakh. With the students demanding rollback of the fee hike, the PU had justified the average 12.5% hike while considering the financial condition of the university as the it has anticipated a deficit of Rs244 crore for the financial year 2017-18.