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Delight, dismay and demands at JNU

New Delhi, May 26: One group of students repeatedly raised the slogan “Modi zindabad” at the Periyar hostel of Jawaharlal Nehru University while another group held a protest at the administrative block not far away as Narendra Modi took oath as Prime Minister.

The students at Periyar lit candles and distributed sweets. About 40 had gathered in the hostel common room to watch the swearing-in ceremony on television. When Modi arrived, they started clapping. As President Pranab Mukherjee administered him the oath of office, they were euphoric. “Modi zindabad” echoed in the room.

“I am a neutral person. But I am participating in the celebrations expecting that something good is going to happen to India. I hope Modi will deliver,” said Bhupendra Kumar, an MPhil student of population studies.

Kumar, from Siwan in Bihar, said the BJP has got a good mandate and has no excuse for not delivering. “I expect the next government to deliver on economic growth and jobs,” he said.

Abhishek Srivastav, a PhD student and an ABVP supporter, said the students have high expectation of the new government. Listing their problems, he said nearly 500 students are staying outside the campus now as there are not enough hostels. With seats increasing every year, about 1,000 will have to stay outside the campus next year, he said.

“The university implemented the 27 per cent OBC quota and has been increasing the seats every year. But commensurate expansion of infrastructure has not taken place. Even the classrooms are small,” Srivastav said.

He claimed that a procession to celebrate BJP’s victory, from Chandrabhaga hostel to Ganga Dhaba on the campus, on the day of the results had drawn 500 participants.

Ashis Verma, a student of French, said the grand ceremony attended by Saarc members reflected India’s standing as a strong leader in South Asia. “This kind of congregation has not happened in swearing-in ceremonies earlier. It happened for Modi. It shows India is growing stronger,” Verma said.

The Saarc leaders attending the ceremony would boost regional cooperation and reduce conflict in South Asia, he said.

But scores of students, together with contract workers, many affiliated to the Left-wing students’ organisation All India Students Association (AISA), staged a protest.

“Today is a black day in India’s history. The BJP is known for promoting saffronisation in school education and imposing a majoritarian philosophy on minorities. It will not be good for the secular fabric of the country,” said Akbar Chowdhary, president of the JNU Students’ Union. Chowdhary said the protest would continue through the night.

The protesters also demanded better salary and job security for contract workers employed in the hostel mess, construction work and security duties.

The union had sent a team of students to Varanasi to campaign against Modi, Chowdhary said. It also staged a protest in front of Gujarat Bhavan on Saturday against the illegal arrest of six innocent Muslim youths in connection with the attack on Akshardham temple. The six have been acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The BJP’s victory is backed by 31 per cent votes, which means 69 per cent voters have rejected the party, Chowdhary said.