It has only been a few days since the FTII protest was called off. Rankling the Modi-led government for months, the FTII protest had gathered immense support across all quarters, including student communities around the world.
Call it coincidence or sheer chance, another student protest is on its way to becoming a headache for the government. The Occupy UGC movement, spearheaded by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU), Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi and students from various campuses in Delhi has officially completed 15 days of protest before the University Grants Commission (UGC) office.
Braving the odds, including two rounds of brutal lathicharge and forceful detainment, student protesters are determined to stick to their demands no matter what. “We are planning for the next phase of protest. This would involve mobilising students across the country and focus on the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). We would also send batches of students to various campuses to garner more support,” says Anirban Bhattacharya, PhD scholar at JNU and a member of the Democratic Students Union (DSU).
It all started when the UGC circular putting an end to non-net fellowships, came to the notice of students. Maintaining that the fellowship would be provided to the students who were already availing it, the UGC along with the MHRD flatly stated that it would not be available to students joining research the next academic year.
For the uninitiated, non-net fellowships are a small monthly sum provided to students pursuing research at central universities. While a student pursuing MPhil is provided a lump sum of Rs 5,000 per month, a student pursuing PhD gets Rs 8,000 per month. This isn’t a huge amount, given that the students are expected to find ways to fund research material, attend student conferences, go on field trips and find alternative accommodation if university hostels are unavailable.