Chandigarh: Fifty two students were arrested after a protest against fee hike turned violent at the Panjab University campus on Tuesday as the agitators clashed with police, forcing the latter to use force, resulting in injuries to both sides.
Some journalists were also injured during the protest. After registering a case of rioting and damage to public property against the protesting students, police have arrested 52 students out of the 66 identified by the university authorities, 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.
Police resorted to water cannons to disperse the angry students. The situation turned violent when students allegedly started pelting stones and flower pots at cops, forcing the police to lathi charge and lob tear gas shells, leading to injuries to several students including girls.
Several student bodies including Students for Society (SFS), National Students Union of India (NSUI), Punjab University Students Union (PUSU) had given a joint call for ‘Panjab University Bandh’ in protest against the fee hike.
“We resorted to use force after students turned violent," UT Chandigarh SP Eish Singhal said, adding that some police vehicles were also damaged. “On our side 22 cops sustained injuries," SP said. “We have arrested 52 students so far for rioting and damaging public property," he said. After police used force, some protesting students took shelter in a Gurdwara situated on the campus.
Earlier, the protesting students boycotted classes. Some students could also be seen forcing the shops to close. Some photo journalists and reporters who were covering the protest have also sustained injuries allegedly caused by police cane charge. Chandigarh Press Club strongly condemned the alleged lathicharge by the police on photographers and journalists.
In a release issued, the Press Club’s president Jaswant Rana and secretary general Barinder Singh Rawat along with the governing council members demanded inquiry into the incident and registration of FIR against those police personal who were involved in lathicharge. A delegation of the Chandigarh Press Club will meet the UT Administrator, UT Adviser and UT IGP in this regard to take strict action against those involved in this incident, the release said.
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 ₹ ,080 to ₹ 0,000 and in MA (journalism) course, the fee was hiked from ₹ ,290 to ₹ 30,000. For PU’s dental course, the fees was increased from ₹ 6,400 to ₹ .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 ₹ 44 crore for the financial year 2017-18.