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Afghan students at PU protest, stage hunger strike for special chance

CHANDIGARH: Students from Afghanistan at Panjab University (PU) on Tuesday staged a protest and started a hunger strike outside vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Raj Kumar’s office, demanding a special chance to complete their degrees in order to go back to their home country. The Afghan students, who constitute the highest foreign nationals at PU, are demanding that some of them, who could not clear one or two subjects in their coursework and have to reappear in the subject exam, should be given a special chance immediately rather than having to wait for one year. They said if they wait for one year to reappear in their exams, they will have to bear extra costs of staying in India, which they said they could not afford due to financial constraints. Afghan student Naveed Altaf said: “I took admission in the department of economics for an MA two years ago. I could not pass in one subject in the final year, due to which I have been asked to wait another year to clear the exam and then get the degree. Waiting for one year would create a problem in my visa. I will also face problems financially.” The students said some of them had genuine reasons, such as illnesses, for not being able to appear in the exam and thus could not clear it. “That is why a special chance should be given to us so we can go back to our country to support our families,” the students said. They pasted banners with slogans “Justice for Afghan students” on barricades outside the VC office. The students said they had been raising their issue since June and had met the VC, who had assured to help them. After their meeting last month, the university had also issued a statement assuring the Afghan students of help. However, the students said their demands have been ignored by the university, which is why they have been forced to sit on a hunger strike and protest.

The VC did not respond to TOI’s calls for his version. Meanwhile, Dean international Prof Nandita Singh said the university was offering all possible help to Afghan students. She said: "We have requested the embassy to extend their visa. Further, we have agreed to conduct exams for them in December, even for the students who failed in even semesters and would have to normally reappear in May-June cycle."