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PM delivers speech amid protest at JNU

Our Political Bureau  |  New Delhi 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today faced the ire of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University who were protesting against India's stance on Iran's nuclear programme. Students opposing "neo-liberalism" and government's Iran policy today held black banners and drowned Singh's speech in unprecedented din.
Trouble began the moment organisers, commemorating the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, requested Singh to speak after he unveiled a nine-foot statue of independent India's first Prime Minister. The police rushed to the spectators' gallery as suspected activists of the All India Students' Association (AISA) stood up, shouting slogans.
The Prime Minister, however, read out his 10 minute speech amid shouting, recalling Nehru's vision and setting out an agenda for liberal academic access to all. The shouting continued till he left immediately after his speech.
A JNU student leader's appeal for calm also went unheeded as the Prime Minister stood silently at the dais for minutes awaiting order to be restored before beginning his address.
The police tried to control angry students as fisticuffs broke out between activists of the Congress-backed NSUI and the AISA. The student protest is an ominous portent of a stormy winter session of Parliament ahead for the government which will be taken to task over the anti-Iran vote of the Indian government at the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
In fact, the 60-MP-strong Left party block along with nearly 40 MPs of the Samajwadi Party (SP) have decided to embarrass the government on the issue in Parliament.
Yesterday, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav declared as much at a public meeting.
A vote on the issue at the UN is ahead of the government and the Left is pressurising the government to change its stance. With former external affairs minister Natwar Singh out of commission, the foreign office is being run by two ministers of state E Ahmad and Rao Inderjeet Singh, and foreign secretary Shyam Saran.

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First Published: Tue, November 15 2005. 00:00 IST