New Delhi: Violence broke out on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus Sunday, with masked goons, armed with sticks and rods, attacking students and teachers, leaving 34 of them seriously injured.
The identity of the goons hasn’t yet been verified even as the right-wing student body ABVP and its Left-wing rivals accuse each other of starting the violence.
JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh was among those injured in the violence. She said she was specifically targeted during a peace march on the campus.
This isn’t the first time that a JNUSU president has made headlines. Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and vice-president Shehla Rashid have remained in the news for various reasons for the last few years.
While former JNUSU presidents are usually known to join mainstream politics, many have also chosen the academic line. Here is a list of some JNU alumni, and what they have to say about Sunday’s violence on the campus.
Ex-JNUSU presidents who joined politics
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury was the JNUSU president in 1977-78. He joined the CPI(M) in 1975.
On the JNU violence, he claimed the assault was a “larger conspiracy” by the BJP government.
The attacks on JNU students and teachers is part of a larger conspiracy of an assault on reason by this BJP central government. All institutions of higher education are targeted. Accountability must be fixed for this assault on JNU and culprits punished. https://t.co/LBdk7hUtR9 pic.twitter.com/o1TGGTOX6D
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) January 6, 2020
Kanhaiya Kumar, JNUSU president in 2015-16 who shot to fame four years ago for allegedly raising anti-India slogans on the campus, joined the CPI and unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections in May last year from Begusarai in Bihar.
He wrote a book, titled ‘From Bihar to Tihar’, highlighting his journey from his home state to the sudden stardom he achieved.
On the JNU attack, he maintained that this government is “shameless” and that the students will thwart its “unconstitutional” and “anti-poor conspiracies”.
कितनी बेशर्म सरकार है, पहले फ़ीस बढ़ाती है, विद्यार्थी विरोध करें तो पुलिस से पिटवाती है और छात्र तब भी ना झुके, तो अपने गुंडे भेजकर हमला करवाती है। जब से सत्ता में आए हैं, तब से देश के हर कोने में देश के विद्यार्थियों के ख़िलाफ़ इन्होने जंग छेड़ रखी है।
— Kanhaiya Kumar (@kanhaiyakumar) January 5, 2020
Shehla Rashid, JNUSU vice-president in 2015-16, also entered politics by joining former IAS officer Shah Faesal’s J&K People’s Movement in March last year, only to quit seven months later.
Rashid blamed the announcement of Block Development Council elections in J&K for “compelling” her to quit politics. An active Twitter user, Rashid strongly condemned the attack on JNU students.
My state Jammu & Kashmir has been under attack for 6 months now.
My community is under attack currently, and has been under attack, ever since Modi's terror regime in India began.
My University is under attack.
Hoping against hope for fascists to be defeated.#StayStrongJNU
— Shehla Rashid (@Shehla_Rashid) January 5, 2020
Mohit K. Pandey, JNUSU president in 2016-17, is currently working with Congress general secretary (East Uttar Pradesh) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s team in UP.
He has been appointed as the social media head for the UP Congress. According to some JNU alumni, he was actively sharing screenshots on WhatsApp groups Sunday, keeping the student community updated on what was going on in the campus.
Pandey blamed the ABVP for the violence.
I was locked by twitter for telling the truth that JNU attack was well planned by ABVP- RSS- BJP members.
I am back and Truth will win.#SOSJNU
— Mohit Pandey (@MohitKPandey) January 6, 2020
Ashutosh Kumar, JNUSU president in 2014-15, passed out of JNU last year. He is now a member of the CPI-ML(Liberation).
Sucheta De, JNUSU president in 2011-12, is the national president of All India Students Association, the student wing of CPI-ML. She has also been closely working with the CPI(M).
On the JNU violence, De pinned the blame on the ABVP.
Sandeep Singh, JNUSU president in 2007-2008, joined the Congress. He even wrote former party president Rahul Gandhi’s political speeches during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and also advised him on the issues of alliances.
He had once shown black flags to then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2005.
Apart from retweeting Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s post on the JNU violence, he hasn’t made any statement so far.
Those who chose academics
N. Sai Balaji, JNUSU president in 2018-19, chose academics over politics.
He is a research scholar at the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament at JNU. He strongly condemned Sunday’s violence and urged people to protest against it.
— N Sai Balaji | ఎన్ సాయి బాలాజీ (@nsaibalaji) January 6, 2020
Geeta Kumari, JNUSU president in 2017-18, is pursuing her PhD in history from JNU and is in her second year. She is also an activist and associated with the AISA. On the night of the incident, she alleged in a tweet that Delhi Police is “helping ABVP goons”.
Akbar Choudhary, JNUSU president in 2013-14, recently finished his PhD from JNU.
When ThePrint contacted Choudhary for a comment, he said: “Despite being away from campus, all of us stand in solidarity.”
V. Lenin Kumar was the JNUSU president in 2012-13. His close aides said he is into academics and hasn’t joined any political party.
Kumar blamed JNU Vice-Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar for this “heinous act”.
Dhananjay Tripathi, JNUSU president in 2006-07, is a senior assistant professor at the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. Tripathi called out the Delhi Police for being a “mute spectator” when violence broke out on the campus.
Two-term JNUSU president Mona Das (2004 and 2005) teaches at Satyawati College, Delhi University. Speaking to ThePrint, Das said: “This attack is totally unprecedented and is unheard of in the history of JNU”.
Another two-term president, Rohit Azad (2002 and 2003), teaches economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at JNU.
Albeena Shakil, JNUSU president in 2001-02, is an associate professor of English Studies at Jindal Law School.
Sandeep Mahapatra, JNUSU president in 2000-01, is an advocate. He was one of the few ABVP members to become the president. On Sunday’s incident, he said the “orchestrated violence in JNU has the clear imprint of left”.
Prominent alumni in politics
Some prominent JNU alumni who have joined mainstream politics include Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.