New Delhi: A group of about 30-40 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers allegedly created a ruckus and physically assaulted students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over the preparation of chicken in a hostel on campus Sunday evening, on the occasion of Ram Navmi. Five students have been taken to hospital for their injuries.
According to students on campus, about 30 students affiliated with the ABVP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) student wing, had been raising objections over the preparation of non-vegetarian food in the hostel canteen.
However, the ABVP in a press release has claimed that its members had organised a pooja on campus, which was disrupted by Left-wing students.
Among those injured were several members of the All India Students Association (AISA), the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. One of them, Akhtarista, a master’s student, sustained a head injury from being hit with a brick. Female students also alleged that they were sexually assaulted.
N. Sai Balaji, a student and national president of AISA, who was at the spot — Kaveri hostel — told ThePrint, “One of our student members was attacked with a brick, and others with tube lights, flowerpots and sticks.” He also claimed that police officers, including the station house officer (SHO), Vasant Kunj North, had taken no action despite being present.
According to students present, the ABVP workers raised objections over the mess providing chicken as part of Sunday’s dinner, on the occasion of Ram Navmi. It has been alleged that these students first asked the mess authorities to cancel the food, and then also beat up the food contractor who turned up with the chicken and sent him back.
ThePrint attempted to contact JNU spokesperson Poonam Kumari via calls and messages, but had not yet received a response. This report will be updated once the university issues a statement. The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has condemned the violence “in the strongest possible terms”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Manoj C., deputy commissioner of police (DCP), south west, denied allegations that immediate action wasn’t taken, saying that the situation was brought under control within 20-25 minutes.
“A PCR (police control room) call was made after the protest turned violent at around 8.15pm. The police team reached the spot within the next 15 minutes and tried to pacify them. We will lodge a case once a complaint is filed by the university and by both the groups,” he said, adding that “proper legal action will be taken in the matter”.
“The situation is now under control. There are minor injuries. Five of them have been taken to the hospital and they are recuperating well. We have stepped up deployment at the campus. Students are now protesting peacefully,” DCP said. The officer added that students from both sides were injured in the clash, including the ones who had tried to stop the violence.
ABVP & mess committee statements
Both the ABVP and the mess committee have issued statements, viewed by ThePrint.
The mess committee has alleged that “students from outside of Kaveri hostel (non-residents) verbally abused and physically assaulted hostel committee members.”
Adding that the situation continues to be tense, the statement continues, “We request immediate restoration of normalcy, which includes the pre-decided dinner menu of Kaveri hostel.”
It also requests the JNU administration to take action against the “hooligans and rioters”.
On the other hand, the ABVP’s statement claims that Kaveri hostel residents had organised a pooja to celebrate Ram Navami, which was supposed to be joined by “a large number of common students of JNU”.
“This pooja was supposed to start at 3.30, but due to the ruckus created by Leftists, it could only start at 5 pm,” it adds.
Referring to how Iftaar was being celebrated at the hostel “very peacefully and simultaneously”, the ABVP says that this “once again established the fact that JNU represents a microcosm of Bharat where different identities coexist peacefully. “
“The Leftists however, do not digest this fact. Neither in the country, nor in the campus. As they plan to break the country, here also, they planned to create a ruckus among students by throwing the issue of ‘non-vegetarian food’.”
(This report has been updated to reflect the fact that several of the students are members of the All India Students Association, not the Students’ Federation of India. The error is regretted.)