Thousands of Jawaharlal Nehru University students, carrying placards and chanting slogans, marched towards Parliament on the first day of the Winter Session on Monday, demanding a total rollback of the hostel fee hike, but were stopped by police around half a kilometre from the institute's campus in south Delhi.
The students, who were holding a protest on the university's premises for the last three weeks, hit the streets seeking to get the attention of Parliament about their demands, asserting they will not relent until the government withdraws the hike.
Hundreds of police personnel stopped the students on the Baba Ganganath Marg, around 600 metres from the main gate of the university and some of them were forcefully blocked from moving ahead.
Several leaders of the agitation were detained by police when they were insisting on marching forward.
Former JNU Students' Union president N Sai Balaji said, "Delhi Police stops JNU students peaceful march to parliamentarians! The Mhrd is fooling students by forming a committee. Why didn't the committee suspend fee hike till dialogue is happening? We are demanding a rollback of the fee hike."
Akshat, a JNU student said, "The students' union has not been informed by the ministry about the formation of a panel. The administration officials and the panel should speak to the elected union to solve the issue."
Priyanka, another student said, "We are being given a lollipop in terms of the partial rollback. I am the first from my family to reach university. There are many others like me. Education is not the birthright of a privileged few."
Students took out the march carrying banners which read "save public education", fees must fall" and "ensure affordable hostels for all".
Another student, who did not wish to be identified, said, "We haven't seen our VC in a long time. It's time that he comes out and talks to us. Instead of appealing to us through teachers and other methods, he should initiate a dialogue with us."
The JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) expressed concern over the deployment of police outside the varsity.
"The massive police deployment and barricading at the gates of the JNU campus, which on the face of it appears to be only for the purpose of preventing the students from taking out their planned march to Parliament," it said.
"Such measures or use of force to thwart the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights and to impede the students from peacefully taking their voice beyond the campus would be extremely unfortunate and the JNUTA hopes that no such situation will eventually arise," the association said.
The students' protest against the increase in hostel fees has been going on for the past three weeks, even as the JNU administration on Wednesday announced a partial rollback of the hike.
The union had termed the decision an "eyewash".
Police officials said adequate security arrangements have also been made along the route of the march.
Police personnel have been deployed at all entry points leading to Parliament, a senior police official said.
JNU V-C M Jagadesh Kumar also urged the protesting students on Sunday to return to their classes as exams are near.
In a video message released on the varsity's website, he said he has been getting e-mails from worried parents and students about the situation in the university which is affecting academic activities.
"If we still continue with the strike and cause academic loss, it is going to affect the future of thousands of students.
"From tomorrow, a new week will begin and I request the students to come back to the classes and resume your research activities. From December 12, the semester exams will start and if you do not attend classes, it will affect your future goals," Kumar said.
On Sunday, a section of teachers also held a press conference and claimed that a handful of students have terrorised other pupils and are not allowing them to attend classes.
"There are 8,000 students in the university and at least 6,000 of them want to attend classes. But 200 or so students are not allowing them and have created an atmosphere of terror," said one of the professors at the press conference.
University registrar Pramod Kumar also appealed to students to get back to classes.
"Due to the ongoing strike by a group of students, thousands of students who wish to participate in the JNU academic programmes and plan to complete their academic requirements for continuance in the university, are adversely affected," he said in a circular.
"It is in the interest of the students to adhere to the academic norms and academic calendar of the university according to which they need to appear in the end-semester examination that commences from December 12," he said.
The last date for submission of MPhil dissertation and PhD thesis in the schools and forwarding the same to the evaluation branch is December 31 for the monsoon semester.
"Since the academic calendar has been approved by the Academic Council and the Executive Council, there is going to be no relaxation in the above deadlines," the registrar said.
If the academic requirements are not met in time, thousands of students may be affected, he added.
The HRD Ministry on the other hand, appointed a three-member committee Monday to recommend ways to restore normal functioning of the university, officials said.
The committee will also initiate dialogues with students and administration, submit recommendations on the resolution of all issues.
"With a view to restore the normal functioning of JNU through dialogue with all stakeholders and to advise the university administration for resolution of contentious issues, the government has appointed a three-member high power committee," HRD Secretary R Subrahmanyam said.
The panel includes former UGC Chairman VS Chauhan, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe and UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain.
"The committee will initiate dialogue with the students and varsity administration immediately and submit recommendations on actions to be taken. The UGC will provide required support for the functioning of the committee," Subrahmanyam said.
The varsity's Executive Council (EC) had later announced a partial rollback in the fee-only for students belonging to BPL category and not availing any scholarships.
(With PTI Inputs)