At around 5 pm on Sunday, as a peace march organised by the JNU Teachers Association was winding up on campus, participants got word that a group of masked people was going from hostel to hostel, attacking students. The campus had been tense for a few days as one section of students had been protesting against the sharp increase in hostel fees by the university authorities. As registrations for the new semester started, minor scuffles had been reported.
The peace march by the teachers’ association aimed to restore calm. But as participants began to disperse, “a huge bunch of people with their faces covered suddenly attacked us”, said Shukla Sawant, a professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics. “They came running down the road pelting stones and beating people with sticks. They broke cars, they broke furniture.”
What Happened On Campus
Rooms belonging to Muslims students and students associated with Left groups were broken into and ransacked, while those belonging to ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, students’ wing of the RSS) students were left untouched. Inside Sabarmati hostel, the hostel rooms had been broken into and property inside was destroyed.
26 students and teachers were injured and treated at the AIIMS trauma centre. Aishe Ghosh, JNU students’ union president from the Students’ Federation of India, was specifically targeted and hit on her head multiple times with lathis. Some students alleged that members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad had perpetrated the violence. The ABVP is the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The ABVP, on the other hand, blamed leftist students belonging to the Students Federation of India, the All India Students’ Association and the Democratic Students Federation for the trouble. “Naxals entered the hostels and beat students brutally with lathis,” claimed Nidhi Tripathi, the ABVP national general secretary, in a video posted on Twitter. “Many students are injured.”
The masked attackers also entered women’s wings in the hostels. Vehicles and furniture were vandalised and windows smashed. By 9 pm, the violence had not abated. As word of the violence on campus spread, reporters attempting to enter the campus found their way barred by the Delhi Police. The street lights outside the gate had been turned off. A large crowd of right-wing supporters gathered at the university’s main gate, chanting slogans.
“Jai Shree Ram,” they shouted. “Desh ke gadaron ko goli maron salon ko”, traitors of the nation should be shot. Some of them were carrying cricket bats and sticks. The mob attacked a team of doctors and nurses that went to JNU to give first-aid to students and broke the windows of their ambulance, said Harjit Singh Bhatti, the former president of the Residents’ Doctors Association at AIIMS.
Between 8 and 8:30 pm, men with lathis were seen exiting the JNU campus – most on foot and some in SUVs. The police and campus security did not stop them from leaving. When asked why men with lathis were being allowed out without questioning, “Anyone who wants to leave, can leave" the police were heard saying.
The End Of The Attack
By 10.45 pm, as the violence subsided, JNU students and teachers gathered at the West Gate of the campus and began to chant, “Inquilab Zindabad,” long live the revolution.
By midnight, students heard that the main gate was now crowded with well-wishers – though earlier there had been reports of right-wingers heckling, abusing and assaulting others there, including Yogendra Yadav. A march was called for, through various hostels and to the main gate.
As the show of solidarity continued, the gate was stormed open, and hundreds of protestors came together from either side. They then made their way back to Sabarmati hostel, to continue their sit-in. After the protestors’ march, the police held a “flag march” on campus silently.
Why Does This Incident At JNU Cause A Call For Huge Concern
The most important thing to note down is the lack of response or action on the part of the Delhi Police. Stationed outside the gates of JNU, the police simply watched and played mum as the goons left the campus. Videos of the police escorting these goons out of the campus have been shared by multiple students on campus.
The attack was one that had been organized, and there are WhatsApp groups that verify the same. Screenshots from a group title "Friends of RSS" have messages confirming locations, entry points and violence along with updates as to police whereabouts and student rooms. The screenshots clearly show the numbers of the people involved, and after being traced on Truecaller and then backtracked to facebook and other social media sites, they have a clear affiliation to the ABVP, RSS or BJP in one way or another. For example, Saurabh Dubey, one of the members of the WhatsApp group, when tracked to his Facebook profile shows he is an assistant professor at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College of the University of Delhi. He manages a group called “JNUites for MODI”.
Videos from inside the hostel and campus show men and women with handkerchiefs around their face holding lathis, hammers and iron rods chanting "Desh ke gadaron ko goli maron salon ko." This particular chant has been the slogan for the Pro - CAA protests all around the country.
Men moving around outside the Sabarmati lab, where several women students locked themselves in hiding, were carrying acid and scanning the area in search of women.
The media has been covering the attack under the pretext of a "clash" between the left and right party within the college, which is plain misinformation. An organized attack towards the Muslims, Dalits and Kashmiris along with the "Naxalites" (left-oriented) students is barely a clash.
The biggest cause of concern here is that this is not the first time a university has come under attack in the last month. Jamia Millia University and Aligarh Muslim University were both parts of a brutal police violence case just in December 2019. The violence in all these cases has been "condemned" by the ruling party but there has been absolutely no visible action.
The lack of care or concern with respect to the lives of students - the bright youth that the Prime Minister praised - is alarming, The attempts at justifying the injuries, deaths and violence in general just show a lack of apathy on their behalf. The supporters of the ruling party's particular ideology are hell-bent on protecting the party more than their own people. The cause of concern should be this lack of apathy and the priorities or loyalties of those trying to justify the violence.