Over 30 students, across streams, from Hyderabad’s English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) went on a 24-hour hunger strike, starting at noon on Sunday, demanding the reopening of the hostel facilities for students.
The students raised slogans and placards in protest and staged the hunger strike in front of the gates of the campus. But around 14 of them were detained by the police at around 5 pm.
The Station House Officer (SHO), Osmania University Police Station speaking to TNM said, "The students have been blocking the gate of EFLU since 12 pm, in view of the law and order concerns and taking the issue into cognisance we took them into preventive custody.” He further added that the 14 students who had been taken into custody had since been released. The students said they were released at around 8 pm after being kept in custody for around 3 hours.
The students had gone on strike as they wanted the hostel facilities to be opened, citing their difficulties in accessing online education among other logistic issues.
Students of EFLU-Hyd sat on 24hr strike demanding opening of the campus hostels. The University has closed hostel facility in the backdrop of COVID19 pandemic. @thenewsminute pic.twitter.com/RdAgzsSfFE— CharanTeja (@CharanT16) March 14, 2021
A postgraduate, second-year student, on condition of anonymity, told TNM that they had mainly been protesting for the students who come from remote areas. These students have network issues or in some cases, no access to the internet at all and are unable to attend online classes. "For a two-hour Zoom class, we need more than half GB data and good quality internet, Many students from low-income backgrounds don’t have enough data or proper network facilities,” he said. “It becomes tough to access online classes and we want the university to open the hostel in a phased manner and announce the date to begin the procedure for the same."
He further added, "Also research scholars and PG second-year students from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) and rural backgrounds need to submit their dissertations or research papers for which they need to be able to use the university’s library for research purposes."
A female student, who is in her second year of PG, said that the prolonged closure of hostel facilities has put a burden on the students coming from rural areas, especially women. She said, "It is close to a year that the hostel facility was closed due to COVID19, but now everything is opening up with certain safety measures and guidelines. So what is stopping the university from opening hostels, women students back home are being pressured to get married or burdened with household work."
The student, who hails from Kerala, further said that many female students, like her, have been forced to run back to Hyderabad looking for hostel facilities to continue their studies.
A representative from the student action committee said that the university administration had called them for deliberations but not yet given any assurance that they’ll meet the students’ demands. He said, “The discussions with the university were inconclusive and we have not reached an agreement."
This protest and hunger strike follow closely on the student sit-in protest that took place at EFLU in February, where similar demands were made.