As goons, or “group of masked men” as NDTV 24×7 called them, entered the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus Sunday evening, Times Now was the first English news channel to report the “shocking”, “unprecedented” violence that ensued soon after 7.15 pm.
Next up was NDTV 24×7, while ABP News led the Hindi channels to report from the campus. Channels such as India Today and CNN News18 carried on with scheduled programming like “The Week That Wasn’t” (CNN News 18) before realising the gravity of the situation and rushing to “#JNU Showdown”.
While even channels like India Ahead reported on JNU, Republic TV chose to repeat a telecast its “Republic summit” from last year. Although it reported on “outsiders” in JNU, it went ahead with the `Sunday Debate with Arnab Goswami’ at 9 pm when all other channels had switched to live coverage of JNU — an extraordinary choice under the circumstances.
Aaj Tak joined ABP in continuous coverage but Zee News which has a major preoccupation with JNU’s “tukde tukde gang”, asked viewers to be prepared for World War III due to the ongoing US-Iran conflict. It remained with its West Asia coverage well into the night. It left it to Zee Hindustan to report from JNU.
Grainy mobile video footage of scenes of violence, a visibly injured JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh describing what happened to her featured across channels. Oddly, Zee identified her as an injured ABVP student.
Channels stuck with “a war of versions” in “Left versus ABVP” (Times Now) and interviewed students who had witnessed the violence (India Today).
An ABVP leader, identified as Vijay blamed the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) and the Left for the violence and wondered why channels were ignoring ABVP students who had been injured (Times Now).
As reporters reached the university, live footage of Delhi police standing outside the premises’ gates were juxtaposed with repeat telecasts of the violence inside the campus (News X).
India Today asked why the police were “not allowed” into the campus; CNN News18 said the administration had “acted a little late” and Times Now wondered, “Where is the police in all of this?”
Swaraj India’s Yogendra Yadav became the focus of coverage on all channels after he reached JNU. “A mob came and started pushing me, then throwing things and then started hitting me. I started singing the national anthem hoping they would stop, but they didn’t… And the police were barely 50 yards away,” he was quoted as saying on NDTV 24×7.
Times Now anchor Padmaja Joshi asked the channel’s reporter at the university, “Earlier you spoke of extremely shameful scenes where people from the outside were gheraoing JNU, standing outside the gate, manhandling anyone who was coming by… Have those people been dispersed now?”
By 11 pm coverage shifted to the injured being treated at AIIMS and the arrival of politicians like Congress’s Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, BJP’s Vijay Goel and Manoj Tiwari.
ABP’s reporter asked Tiwari about reports that Priyanka was only getting treatment for Left students. Tiwari did not rise to the bait. At about 11.15 pm, a frazzled Aaj Tak reporter said there had never been such violence in JNU, with blood everywhere…
Violence at JNU is Monday’s lead in The Indian Express and Hindustan Times, and second lead in The Hindu, while The Times of India has put in on the flap.
US President Donald Trump’s warning to Iran and the shooting of a Sikh youth in Pakistan are the other common items on page 1.
JNU violence: HT’s headline is simple but vague, “JNU students, teachers hurt in mob attack”; Hindu’s headline reads “Masked goons thrash students, staff in JNU”; TOI is slightly more detailed with “30 injured as masked goons go on rampage inside JNU”; Express disagrees with the number of those injured, “Masked men run riot inside JNU for 3 hours, 26 injured”.
“Masked men wielding sticks , rods and sledgehammers terrorised” JNU “for close to three hours on Sunday evening, entering hostels, attacking students and teachers,” reports Express. Hindu quotes an entirely different number, claiming that 35 people were injured during the violence. All papers state that the Left-led JNUSU alleged the attackers were from the ABVP, BJP’s student wing. Express notes that ABVP denied the allegation. In an accompanying report, Express writes that the police watched while an ambulance was smashed and leaders were heckled.
TOI writes that the attacks come a “day before an expected announcement of assembly elections in the city”. According to HT, “Police refused to enter the campus as the mob rampaged inside”.
Sikh man shot in Pakistan: “A young Sikh man was shot dead in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar a day after an angry mob threatened to storm the Nankana Sahib Gurudwara”, writes HT. Hindu notes that India “strongly condemned” the murder and urged the Imran Khan government to “stop attacks on religious minorities”. According to TOI, the gunmen are unknown at the moment.
Trump on Iran: TOI reports that US President Donald Trump “warned that he is ready to bomb sites important to Iranian culture if Tehran retaliates in protest against top Iranian general’s assassination”. HT notes that Iran “warned of military action” and called Trump a “terrorist in a suit”.
Hindu leads with the Iraqi Parliament calling on the “government to work to end all foreign troop presence in the country as the backlash grew” against Iranian general Qassem Soleimani’s killing.
Infant deaths in Gujarat: Hindu oddly pits the infant deaths in Kota against the deaths in Gujarat and writes, “The number of infant deaths at the civil hospitals in Gujarat’s Rajkot and Ahmedabad is markedly higher than over 100 deaths reported from the government hospital at Kota in Rajasthan”. It adds that the two hospitals have reported 219 deaths in December and in Rajkot alone 135 infants died.
The Times of India: The assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani “is an immensely consequential act”, writes TOI in its editorial titled “On the brink”. The assassination will remove all restraints to Iran seeking nuclear war and will still the moderate and pro democratic voices.
TOI predicts that Soleimani “may now be a bigger threat to the US dead than alive” with damage across the world if a war breaks out. There are 8 million Indians living and working in West Asia and any Iranian shutdown will affect oil flows and crude oil pricing. It would be bad news for India which is already facing an economic slowdown, it concludes.
Hindustan Times: In Chhattisgarh the Congress-led government has initiated the process of identification of tribals displaced due to the conflict between Indian state and maoists during 2004-05. In its editorial titled “Helping the Internal Displaced in Chhattisgarh”, HT writes that the move could provide some relief.
It writes that tribals were affected in two ways in the “war between the state and the Maoists”. Firstly, many were moved from their villages by the state to stop them from aiding the Maoists. Secondly, many were forced to migrate because they didn’t want to get caught in the conflict.
The displacement affected their means of earnings as “they were seen as eating funds meant for residents” in other states. The government needs to bring these people back and conduct proper enumeration to help them restart their lives, it suggests.