Outside the UGC office in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar/CatchNews
Sakshi is pursuing her degree with Delhi University. In the day, she goes for her classes. She comes here every night. According to Sakshi, if UGC takes this step now, she will not pursue a Ph.D in the future. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
A student puts on her her sweater in front of a police barricade at the protest site. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Mohit Kumar is pursuing his Ph.D in media studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Graffiti on ITO Metro Station Gate 3. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Nishita hails from Uttarakhand. She is a doing her graduation from Delhi University. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Hem Mishra and his friends sing a Janvaadi song for students. Hem Mishra was arrested two years ago over allegations of being a Naxalite by the Gadchiroli police. He was released on bail a few months ago. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Mohammad Talha is a student at Delhi University. He came here because he felt that the UGC is not doing its job well. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
A Masters student studies on the street. She wishes to not reveal her name or face. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Waquar Azam is a third year undergraduate student at DU. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Protesters shout various slogans through the night. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Anjani is a second year student from DU. He came to protest because he feels that the UGC needs to increase its fellowship money instead of cutting it. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
As midnight dawns, a group of students light up a bonfire and sit around it for some warmth. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Harsh Vardhan Tripathi is pursuing his Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Not all work and no play: A midnight cricket match on the streets. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Sukrita is from Nagpur. She is doing her MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Time for dinner: two parathas and a piece of lemon pickle for everyone. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Raj Singh is from Gazipur. He is a student of Delhi University. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
Its 4 in the morning. Students peacefully sleep in front of a colorful police barricade. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
A student prepares a ply card at night. Photo: Vikas Kumar/Catch News
#UGC protest: what makes students brave chilly November nights?
The rush hour traffic was just about over when I reached Delhi's ITO Crossing. I was there to spend the night with students opposing the University Grants Commission's (UGC) decision to end non-NET scholarship.
I wanted to ask them what kept them away from hostels and campuses, by the roadside, for 10 days?
The students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jamia Milia Islamia have found support from outside Delhi as well. Most of those sitting in dharna felt the government should increase scholarships to encourage research.
On the contrary, the UGC was planning to scrap it altogether. Currently, it pays Rs 5,000 to 'Non-NET' M Phil scholars and Rs 8,000 to 'Non-NET' PhD scholars.
Every day, 200-300 students have been present at Bahadur Shah Zafar Road to mark their protest. Even at night, the number has not been less than 40-50. The chilly November wind hasn't helped . At times, the students have burnt wood to keep themselves warm.
Not far away, a police barricade was covered with placards proclaiming the students' demands. About 20-25 police jawans stood near the barricade, relaxed but still keeping an eye on the protestors. As a student invited them to share the fire, the policemen politely refused.
The atmosphere was more and more alive as the night progressed. 'Janwadi' songs along with the beat of a tambourine added fervour. There were slogans against the UGC, the human resource development ministry and the government.
The songs and slogans continued until the wee hours with little sign of fatigue among students. Amid the sloganeering a group of students were discussing a news report in an English daily about how their agitation was adding to the garbage outside ITO metro station.
Many students relaxed on beddings they got from their hostels. Some sought out relatively secluded corners to study.
The dawn was about to break, but the enthusiasm was undiminished. The students were hopeful their struggle would usher in a better tomorrow.