JNU students, teachers attacked by mob, at least 23 injured
At least 23 students and teachers were admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences with injuries from the violence that began around 6pm after a demonstration against hikes in hostel and academic fees.Updated: Jan 06, 2020 00:56 IST
Groups of masked men armed with sticks, rods and hammers stormed Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday evening and attacked students and teachers, triggering waves of condemnation and forcing the city police to set up a high-level inquiry later in the night.
Videos and television visuals showed men in jeans and shirts, with strips of cloth covering their faces, vandalise hostel rooms and common areas, hurl stones and hit students with sticks on the south Delhi campus.
At least 23 students and teachers were admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences with injuries from the violence that began around 6pm after a demonstration against hikes in hostel and academic fees.
“I was brutally beaten up,” said JNU student union president Aishe Ghosh, who suffered a head injury and was seen bleeding.
“It was a riot-like situation,” said Bikramaditya K Chowdhary, an assistant professor who lives on the campus and whose wife was chased by the mob. She escaped unhurt.
The Left-backed union and many students alleged that members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, attacked them.
“Masked men were roaming around and entering hostels with sticks in hand. They were breaking property and attacking students,” said Saket Moon, JNUSU vice-president. Police, who initially refused to enter the campus as the mob rampaged inside, didn’t comment on the identity of the attackers, but university vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar told television channels he will file a formal complaint.
“The violence in JNU is very worrisome and unfortunate. I condemn the violence inside the campus. I appeal to all students to maintain peace in the campus,” said human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’.
The Union home ministry said minister Amit Shah spoke to Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and instructed him to take necessary action.
“Hon’ble minister has also ordered an enquiry to be carried out by a joint CP level officer and asked for a report to be submitted as soon as possible,” the ministry tweeted.
Lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, who controls the city police, said he asked the force to coordinate with JNU administration to maintain law and order & take action against the alleged perpetrators. “The situation is being closely monitored,” he added.
The ABVP dismissed the charges and said members of the Left parties had led the violence. “The attack on ABVP today shows the violent side of these organizations. Left cannot intimidate students through violence,” said Durgesh Kumar, president, ABVP JNU unit.
Police -- who entered the campus a little after 9pm, almost three hours after violence first erupted -- said a fight broke out between two student groups who “vandalised hostels and indulged in violence”.
“At least seven students from both sides moved to hospital. Those seen in sticks are also students. There is no such mob outside JNU at present. We will register a case accordingly,” said deputy commissioner of police (southwest) Devender Arya. Police said it entered campus after getting a request and permission from the JNU administration.
Arya claimed that a flag march was conducted and the campus was normal but late into the night, students and teachers from the university claimed the situation was tense, with large groups of people gathered at the main gate of the campus.
Political tensions have been rising on the campus for almost two months because of a stand-off over a proposed fee hike, which, in some cases, meant that a pupil would be paying 30 times the current amount. The agitating students, led by the JNUSU, had also called for a boycott of the ongoing registration process of new students.
Some professors said scuffles broke out after a meeting on Sunday afternoon.
“We saw a mob of 25-30 students with rods and lathis. The goons came from outside, went from hostel to hostel beating up students and teachers,” said Sharad Baviskar, an assistant professor. There was a similar mob on campus on Saturday afternoon, he added.
But the university administration blamed students protesting against the fee hike for the violence.
“The students who are for the registration were beaten up by a group of agitating students opposing the registration. Some masked miscreants also entered the Periyar hostel rooms and attacked the students with sticks and rods,” said a statement issued by university registrar Pramod Kumar.
As news spread of the violence, political parties and leaders condemned the violence and traded charges. “I am so shocked to know about the violence at JNU. Students attacked brutally. Police should immediately stop violence and restore peace,” tweeted Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, both alumni of the university, condemned the violence. “Condemn the violence unequivocally. This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university,” said Jaishankar.
Sitharaman said the university she remembered was a place for fierce debates and opinions but never violence. “I unequivocally condemn the events of today,” she added.
Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reached AIIMS late on Sunday night, and said students with broken limbs and head injuries told her that they had been hit by goons and police. “There is something deeply sickening about a government that allows and encourages such violence to be inflicted on their own children,” she tweeted.
The Congress blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the violence.
“Brutality & beatings unleashed. No police anywhere, no JNU administration! Is this how Modi government seeks revenge against students & youth?” asked Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
But the BJP dismissed the allegation. “This is a desperate attempt by forces of anarchy, who are determined to use students as cannon fodder, create unrest to shore up their shrinking political footprint,” the party tweeted