On the evening of 9 December 2015, over 300 hundred students participated in a protest against the University Grants Commission (UGC). The students, intended to march to the Parliament, but were stopped by the police near the Feroz Shah Road area in central Delhi. The police then launched an attack on the protestors, using tear gas and water cannons to hold the crowds back. The students were then detained at the nearby Parliament Street metro station, and were not allowed to leave for several hours.
These protestors were answering a national call to mobilise that had been issued by student unions across the country. The unions had urged students from various national universities to join the Occupy UGC protests that have been ongoing in the city for over 45 days. The protests began in early October, when the UGC announced its decision to scrap non-NET research fellowships—nominal fellowships awarded to students who did not qualify through the National Eligibility Test but would like to pursue research. Without these fellowships, the students argued, there would be little incentive for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue research.
On 25 October 2015, human resource development minister Smriti Irani announced that the ministry would reverse the UGC’s decision. However, the students continued their protests, arguingthat the HRD ministry’s decision also introduced restrictions on the eligibility of the non-NET fellows. The protestors demanded that the fellowship, which stands at a meagre Rs 8000 per month for PhD students and Rs 5000 for masters of philosophy students, be increased and adjusted for inflation.