NEW DELHI: The HRD Ministry-appointed committee met JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) members on Wednesday with an assurance to visit the campus on Friday, even as visually-challenged students of the university staged a protest outside the police headquarters here against the alleged lathi-charge by the force on those protesting against a recent hostel fee hike.
"The high-power committee of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry met students from the JNU on Wednesday and took stock of their views at a cordial meeting at Shastri Bhawan.
They agreed to meet the students again on Friday at the JNU campus to find solutions to the current issue," a senior official of the ministry said.
"The committee appealed to the students to restore normalcy on the campus immediately, to which the students responded positively," he added.
When the meeting was underway, visually-challenged students of JNU staged a stir outside the old police headquarters here against the alleged lathi-charge by the force on the differently-abled students of the university taking part in the protest against the hostel fee hike.
The students met Delhi Police Public Relations Officer (PRO) and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa and apprised him of the alleged instances of "lathicharge and manhandling" of differently-abled students during the protests on Monday.
The students have been agitating for over three weeks, demanding a rollback of the hostel fee hike.
The HRD Ministry constituted the three-member committee on Monday to recommend ways to restore normal functioning at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
The panel consists of former University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman V S Chauhan, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe and UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain.
"We had a cordial meeting. We will have more meetings and if necessary, also go to JNU. Once we listen to all the stakeholders, we will be able to finalise our recommendations. However, there are issues that need to be resolved at the earliest so that normalcy is restored and we are trying for that," Sahasrabudhe said.
A total of 34 student councillors of JNU and four office-bearers of the students' union met the committee members.
Later in the day, the panel members held a meeting with the hostel presidents of the university.
The JNUSU put forth the demand for a complete rollback of the hostel fee hike and said till the time the committee submitted its report, the fee hike must be put in abeyance.
"We demanded that the inter-hall administration committee meeting that was held on October 28 without the students' union be reconvened and the hostel manual be passed only after suggestions are taken from us," JNUSU secretary Satish Chandra Yadav said.
"We also put forth the point about the vice-chancellor not meeting us for the last three years, which has brought the situation to this level.
There has also been an attempt to de-legitimise the students' union by notifying it for two years," he added.
The JNUSU issued a statement, saying, "Our demand is to arrive at a new manual through an acceptable deliberative process. The current manual disregards affirmative action and does not guarantee reservations to SC, ST and PwD students in hostel seats, which we cannot accept."
"We shall neither deviate nor deter from our demands -- complete withdrawal of the manual and the decisions taken at the council meeting.
The MHRD must ensure accountability of the JNU administration through the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor or recommend constitution of a visitorial enquiry," the statement added.
While students and teachers from the Delhi University and various IITs came out in support of the agitating JNU students and condemned the police action, the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) said the students' union had "compromised" on the movement by meeting the government-appointed panel members, adding that they will stage a protest outside the HRD Ministry on Thursday.
The panel members met JNU officials on Tuesday.
While the JNUSU alleged that the registrar and the VC refused to meet the panel members, the university maintained that only the deans of all schools were called for the meeting.
"The committee had called the deans of all schools of the university and patiently listened to the views of the deans, where the rationale for the increase in hostel charges was explained in considerable details," the JNU said in a statement.
The executive council (EC) of the university had announced a partial rollback of the fee hike, only for the students from the BPL category without any scholarships, but the students had dubbed it as an "eyewash".
The EC had also removed the provisions for curfew timings and a dress code from the draft hostel manual.
The protests escalated when the students staged an agitation outside the annual convocation venue, resulting in Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal "Nishank" getting stuck at the venue for over six hours.