Following police action against agitating students at the Pondicherry University on Tuesday afternoon, the students' union has decided not to back down and resume the indefinite strike as a meeting with the administration failed to yield any results.
The students were on an indefinite sit-in protest under the leadership of the Pondicherry University Students Union (PUSU) demanding reservation in the varsity for students from Pondicherry and complete rollback of a recently introduced fee hike. It was the 20th day of the strike when police entered the campus around 11:30 AM on Tuesday and started detaining the students at the administration building. The action comes ahead of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu's visit to the varsity on Wednesday.
Around 100 students were detained and taken to the South Asian Studies department in police vans and were later allowed to hold a meeting with the fee revision committee.
"The fee revision committee says they can't make any decisions and all it can do is communicate our demands with the administration. But our protests have forced the director to pay heed to our demands and they have agreed for another meeting on February 28. They want us to call off the strike until then, which is not going to happen," Parichay Yadav, SFI leader and President of the PUSU, said after the meeting.
They will regroup and march towards the admin bloc again in the evening, ready to be detained or arrested, the students said.
In videos that have gone viral on social media, police personnel can be seen forcefully evicting sloganeering students and pushing them into vans. Students say female students were manhandled by the cops and were abused for wearing sleeveless clothes in the campus.
"They pushed us into buses and took us to another department when we were peacefully protesting in front of the admin block. I was dragged into one of the halls there by a lady cop. I asked her not to use force on me when I am cooperating.
"I tried to convince her the strike against fee hike is for coming generations including your own daughters. She hit me on my shoulder in response saying she doesn't want her daughter to be like me. Look at you, you are wearing a sleeveless top, the officer said," Gayathri, a PG economics student and SFI activist, said.
"The police unleashed violence by brutally beating the students. The students were dragged through the varsity roads. The armed policemen greatly outnumbered the students and girls were punched on their breasts by lady constables," Swathy Karthik, a junior research fellow and former lecturer at the campus, said.
Earlier on Saturday, the university had released a circular stating that "no unnecessary assembling and movement" will be allowed inside the campus due to security reasons from February 24 to 26. The students' union had openly rejected this and declared they will not call off the strike.
The university had offered to reduce the fee by 20 per cent for economically backward students while citing that the fees had not been revised for the past 10 years. But the students were not ready to budge and demanded the complete rollback of fees.