New Delhi: A huge crowd gathered outside JNU Sunday night as an unprecedented attack on campus by masked assailants left at least 18 students and teachers injured and university property damaged.
The attack, according to eyewitness accounts, lasted around an hour or two. The identity of the assailants or their motivation could not be immediately verified even as the Right-wing student body ABVP and their Left-wing rivals traded allegations.
The attack, which was first reported between 8 and 9 pm, threw the campus of one of India’s most prestigious universities into utter chaos as the assailants attacked students and teachers.
Delhi Police, called in by the JNU administration, said in a statement late at night that the situation had been brought under control and students sent to their hostel rooms.
“Two groups of students clashed inside the JNU campus. Police was informed. We conducted a flag march inside the campus. The situation is under control. The injured are moved to AIIMS,” joint commissioner of police Anand Mohan said in a statement.
Outsiders or not?
All six gates of the JNU campus were shut after 9 pm, as reports of the attack flooded social media alongside visuals of a lathi- and baton-wielding mob and bleeding students and teachers, including professor Sucharita Sen and JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI).
However, crowds started gathering outside the gate soon afterwards, shouting slogans.
Students claimed the attackers were outsiders, but Delhi Police officers said the “masked men who vandalised hostels, beat students did not come from outside”.
“They are all students. They are all from JNU. We have not yet identified them,” a senior police officer said. In a statement issued late Sunday night, the university blamed the attack on students as well.
According to the administration, the ruckus happened because some students tried to stop others from registering for the winter semester.
“Students who wanted to register for the winter semester on January 5, were physically prevented by the agitating students,” the statement, signed by registrar Pramod Kumar, read.
“Since January 5 afternoon, the campus has witnessed scuffles at the schools as well as inside the hostel premises between the groups of students who wanted to stop the registration and those who wanted to register and continue their studies,” the statement added.
“Around 4.30 pm, a group of students, who are against the registration process moved aggressively from the front of the admin block and reached the hostels.”
“The administration immediately contacted police… However, by the time police came, the students who are for the registration were beaten up by a group of agitating students opposing the registration,” the statement said. “Some masked miscreants also entered the Periyar hostel rooms and attacked the students with sticks and rods. Some of the security guards doing duties at these places were also badly injured.”
The university administration also said that they “feel great pain and anguish for the students who have sustained injuries in this violence”.
“The violators of university rules who are trying to disrupt the peaceful academic atmosphere of the campus will not be spared,” said the statement.
The violence was widely condemned online, including by high-profile alumni of JNU such as Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and S. Jaishankar.
Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank asked students to maintain peace even as the ministry sought a report on the violence from the JNU registrar.
The outrage also spilled over to the streets as hundreds of students from different universities based in the national capital staged a protest outside the old Delhi Police headquarters at ITO.
Students have raised questions about the security on campus, saying the mob entered the campus unchecked, and freely went from one hostel to another, vandalising property and cars, and attacking them.
Several students sent SOS messages on social media, including Twitter and WhatsApp as the violence first erupted, claiming the attack had been going on for a long time.
Allegations were soon being traded between the Left and the Right on who started the violence.
“A peaceful gathering of JNUTA (JNU Teachers’ Association) was going on near Sabaramati Dhaba against (the recent) fee hike, when people from ABVP came and started attacking students and teachers,” JNUSU member Saket said.
“Later in the evening, ABVP, in police presence, was moving around with lathis, rods, hammers with their faces in masks,” he added. “They were throwing bricks, climbing over walls and getting into hostels and beating up students. Several teachers and students have also been beaten up.”
The ABVP, the student wing of BJP’s ideological fount RSS, denied the allegation vehemently.
“The JNUSU and Left student organisations have been resorting to violence on a regular basis and have harmed the common students of the university,” said Durgesh Kumar, president of the ABVP’s JNU unit.
“The attack on ABVP today shows the violent side of these organisations. The Left cannot intimidate students through violence. We request the administration to take action to stop such violent acts.”
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