A day after a masked mob, armed with iron rods, sledgehammers and stones went around Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) attacking students and teachers, leaving at least 34 injured after three terrifying hours, the Delhi Police has identified some of the masked assailants and a complaint has been filed on them. The university is tense after last night’s violence even as students in various cities showed solidarity with the JNU students and teachers through night-long protests and vigils. Union Minister Amit Shah spoke to the Delhi police chief and sought a report but the police are yet to make a single arrest. Mr Shah also spoke to Anil Baijal, the Lieutenant Governor and asked him to get in touch with the university representatives. Students and faculty members of JNU allege that police personnel and private security guards on the campus remained “mute spectators” as the masked attackers went on a rampage. They have also been accused of letting the attackers slip out.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted, “I want to assure the youth of Maharashtra that I won’t let anything happen to them & they are completely safe. There will be serious repercussions if anyone tries to repeat and what happened last night in the JNU campus.”
On Sunday evening, members of the JNU Teachers Association had gathered for a peaceful protest and minutes later the violence broke out as some masked men went on a rampage. JNU students’ union Chief Aishe Ghosh who was badly injured in mob attack at the campus told AV that she had informed the police about “unknown people gathering at the campus” hours before the violence broke out but police did not act on her complaint. Ms Ghosh also accused Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar for the attack on her and several other students and teachers.
As thousands of students in various cities showed solidarity with the JNU students and teachers through nightlong protests and vigils. Aishe Ghosh said, “We were attending a peaceful protest at the university on student fee hike trying to resolve the issue. Minutes later, masked goons targeted us near the Sabarmati Hostel. I was attacked with iron rods, some girls were fondled, it was a brutal attack, the campus was bleeding but we received no timely help.”
Union Minister Smriti Irani, who was always criticised by students after Rohit Vemula’s suicide case, told the media that the campuses should not be made ”rajneeti ka akhada” or “battlefield for politics.”
The police said they are identifying the masked attackers using “viral screen shots on social media and the CCTV footage”. However, no arrests have been made yet. Some of the assailants have been identified, the police said.
Opposition parties have hit out at the BJP-led government at the centre and blamed it for the unprecedented attack. The Congress termed it “state-sponsored terrorism”, with Rahul Gandhi saying that it was a “reflection of fear” that “fascists in control of our nation” have of the students.
Senior Union Ministers S Jaishankar and Nirmala Sitharaman, both alumni of JNU, too had condemned the violence. Ms Sitharaman said the pictures of violence were horrifying and asserted that the government wants universities to be safe spaces for all students.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi told Afternoon Voice, “Modi Sarkar must answer why cops are siding with goons? This cruel attack is meant to ‘punish’ JNU students because they dared to stand up.” The AIMIM has also tweeted expressing solidarity with the “students of JNU”. “AIMIM stands in solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Who feels threatened by the voice of students?,” the party said in a tweet. The violence at the university, whose students have been actively supporting the agitations against the amended Citizenship Act, triggered a political furore with opposition parties hitting out at the government.
“The fascists in control of our nation, are afraid of the voices of our brave students. Today’s violence in JNU is a reflection of that fear,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted. Party leader Randeep Surjewala termed it “state-sponsored terrorism”.
“We condemn the violence at JNU. This needs to be investigated. The Congress, communists, the Aam Aadmi Party and some elements want to create an environment of violence in universities across the country,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Condemning the violence, the university administration said Sunday’s incident was linked to the agitation over a fee hike. Students opposing the hike wanted to disrupt the admissions process and there have been clashes and vandalism on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, students against registration process beat up those in favour of it before the police could reach, the registrar said in a statement.
Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar appealed to the students to maintain peace in the campus and stated that the top priority is to protect the academic interest of the students. “They need not fear about their process (of winter semester registration). The top priority of the University is to protect the academic interests of our students”, he said in a statement. The senior warden of JNU’s Sabarmati hostel complex resigned on Monday, submited a letter, saying, “…we tried but can’t provide for security to hostel (sic).”
For more than two months, a standoff between the students and the administration is on over the hike in hostel fees. Students say the hike has increased their monthly expenses three-fold and the Left-affiliated students have been demanding a rollback. The JNU administration has justified the hike saying room rent has not been revised in 30 years and they are spending Rs 10 crore per year for payment towards electricity, water and service charges.