Protestors in JNU 'pad yatra' lathi-charged
New Delhi: The march by students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) march against alleged sexual harassment in the campus turned violent on Friday evening, when protesters clashed with police, who used water cannon guns and batons to disperse the marching protestors.
Around 500 students and teachers – marching from the JNU Campus as part of the 'pad yatra' – were demonstrating against privatisation of education and the compulsory attendance rule, and demanded the arrest of professor Atul Johri, who is accused of sexually harassing several female students.
Cops halted the protestors, including members of JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) and JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA), near south Delhi's near INA market in the afternoon, where barricades were put up to stop the protesters from marching towards the Parliament complex.
Police said the protestors were refused permission to take out the march and were asked to return to the Campus.
However, the protestors relented and started storming the barricades, a police officer said, adding that cops resorted to batons and water cannons to disperse the protesters.
During the melee, several demonstrators and some media persons were reportedly beaten up and received injuries. Later, 20 persons among the crowd were detained.
At the time of writing this report, protesting students and teachers were still at the site of the incident, refusing to leave till the detained persons are released.
The 'pad yatra', organised by JNUSU and JNUTA, was stopped by police at the Sanjay Jheel area in south Delhi, the protestors said.
"As per schedule, we organised the 'pad yatra' to Parliament. But the police stopped us at INA. They told us that we have permission to protest only at INA and that moving towards Parliament without prior permission is illegal," a demonstrator said.
Meanwhile, CPI-M leader Brinda Karat, who had joined the protestors, said it was "shameful" that JNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar was supporting an accused in a sexual harassment case, "who has eight complaints against him".
"We are supporting the movement, be it sexual harassment case or educative reforms. The authorities do not understand that attendance cannot be a parameter to judge a scholar or a researcher's academic capabilities," Congress MP Sushmita Dev said.
JNUTA also criticised the varsity administration over what it called "selective inaction" by the University against a professor accused of sexual harassment.
During the protest, students also demanded that Johri be suspended, as they claim that is the correct procedure followed each time a serious charge is levelled against a staff.