‘Protest against fee hike:’ Situation tense at Allahabad University after December 19 violence

Students assembled at the Allahabad University campus on Monday | Picture by arrangement

Students maintain that the attack on students was a conspiracy to end the peaceful protest of students against the ‘massive’ fee hike announced this year. 

TCN Staff Reporter 

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PRAYAGRAJ (UTTAR PRADESH): Situation is tense at Allahabad University (AU) in Prayagraj after an altercation between students and security guards on Monday (December 19) turned violent. 

More than a dozen Allahabad University students were wounded, four bikes torched, cars of teachers damaged and windowpanes of a building broken with stones in violence that broke out Monday after guards allegedly stopped an ex-student leader on the campus, where emotions were running high amid protests over a fee hike, the Times of India reported.

Commenting on the incident, student leader Priyanshu Vidrohi said that the attack on students was a conspiracy to end the peaceful protest of students.

“Students are protesting for the restoration of the student union for the last 800 days and against fee hike for 106 days,” Vidrohi said. 

He said the protest will continue and a massive agitation will be launched if demands to arrest the attackers are not accepted. 

Meanwhile, the AU administration claimed that some miscreants tried to break the locks of the gate and assaulted the security guards. In a communique issued on Monday night, AU public relations officer (PRO) Prof Jaya Kapoor said the miscreants vandalized property and torched vehicles at AU which caused an atmosphere of fear and chaos. 

“The miscreants were not students of AU but police did not take action against them even as they indulged in violence,” it added.

Former student union president and Samajwadi Party leader Richa Singh demanded a high-level enquiry into the incident. 

Talking to TwoCircles.net, she said, “The AU administration has now resorted to violence to suppress the ongoing protest against fee hike and restoration of student union”, she said.

How it happened
On Monday, a former student leader at the university and state Congress general secretary Vivekananda Pathak and three other students were allegedly assaulted by security guards following an altercation. 

As per a report in Times of India, Pathak alleged that he had gone to AU for some work in the bank located in the art department campus, but was stopped, questioned and manhandled by a guard. This led to an argument but was resolved by policemen present there.

“However, when I was sitting with other student leaders at the union hall, a large number of AU guards arrived and started beating them. Everybody ran for cover, but the guards caught me and assaulted me. I now have a head injury,” Pathak is quoted as saying in the Times of India report. He has also alleged that the guards fired several rounds in the air too.

As news of the altercation spread, scores of students arrived at the spot and allegedly threw stones at the guards. 

Reports said that cops tried to stop them, but they were outnumbered. The violence lasted two hours until police reinforcements arrived and secured the campus. 

Following the violence on campus, the AU administration declared a holiday on Tuesday (December 20).

On the complaint by Pathak, a first information report (FIR) against three named accused and nearly 40 unnamed security guards involved in the attack on students was registered at Colonelganj police station late on Monday night. 

“In the past, there has never been an incident of attack on any student or former student of AU by any security guard earlier. All students are now united against oppression. This incident of violence is a conspiracy of the AU administration,” Pathak said.

Talking to TwoCircles.net, the station house officer (SHO) of Colonelganj police station Ram Mohan Rai said two FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence at AU—one on the complaint of former student leader Pathak and another on the complaint of security guard Prabhakar Singh. In the second FIR, some students have been accused of attacking security guards and damaging and torching vehicles. 

“Police is scanning available footage of the violence and arson on Monday. No one has yet been arrested in this connection and action will be taken based on footage and other evidence,” he added.

On Tuesday, the students allegedly gave an ultimatum of 48 hours to the police and the university administration to take action against the accused security guards and withdraw FIR registered against students or else face a massive agitation.

Controversial fee hike decision
This year, Allahabad University announced a massive fee hike, where fees for undergraduate courses were hiked from Rs 975 to Rs 3900, while fees for postgraduation courses were hiked from Rs 1375 to Rs 4651. For hostel accommodation, the fees was hiked from Rs 15,000 to Rs 45,000. 

Students went on hunger strike for more than two months since the hike was announced. They carried out protest marches inside the campus and also demanded the removal of the allegedly “illegally appointed” vice-chancellor. However, the protests have yielded no action from the administration so far who have stood firm with the decision to hike the fee. The AU administration has made it clear that there is no question of withdrawing the fee hike as “it is already too less in comparison to other central universities and has not been increased in many years.”

Protesting students claim that the hike in fees will hit students from economically weaker sections, who are in good numbers at the university. 

Fee hike issue raised in Rajya Sabha
Earlier on December 12, the issue of fee hike and restoration of the student union came up for discussion during a session in Rajya Sabha

Raising the issue, Rajya Sabha member Imran Pratapgarhi said that Allahabad University, formerly known as Oxford of the East, has increased the fees four times stating that the government has cut grants to the university and the monetary gap is being recovered by the students. 

He said the hostel fee has also been increased along with undergraduate and postgraduate course fees. He also said that the student union at AU, which gave many veteran leaders to the country, has been lying defunct for years.