Under fire, JNU vice-chancellor says time to make a ‘fresh beginning’
Breaking his silence on the attack by masked assailants that injured 34 people on Sunday and triggered protests across 30 cities, Kumar said his heart went out to all injured students.Updated: Jan 08, 2020 04:02 IST
Under fire for failing to prevent an attack on students and teachers of the institution he heads, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar called for a fresh beginning on Tuesday and urged students to return to the campus.
Breaking his silence on the attack by masked assailants that injured 34 people on Sunday and triggered protests across 30 cities, Kumar said his heart went out to all injured students.
“The incident (violence) is unfortunate. I would like to tell students that JNU campus is a secure place,” he said in a statement that came after two days of nationwide protests.
“I urge students to come back to the campus. Let us put the past behind...we cannot discontinue the academic activities because of one isolated incident,” he said.
Kumar, who is battling nationwide criticism and calls for his removal from students and teachers for allegedly doing little to stop goons from barging into the campus and beating up people with sticks, rods and hammers on Sunday, has not met the injured students or faculty yet.
But the vice-chancellor defended himself. “Appropriate help is always provided. Our office is always open. Those who need help can approach us,” he added. When asked about calls for his removal, he said,”They have the freedom to criticise.”
A large section of students, including the Left-controlled students union, and many professors blame the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for the violence, and allege that the JNU administration was complicit in the attack.
The student wing of the RSS has denied all charges and blamed Left-leaning students instead. Over the past two days, the administration under Kumar has also sought to blame left-leaning students and the JNUSU.
Kumar has come under criticism for not controlling the violence or calling the police, which waited at the gates of the university as a rampaging mob beat up people and vandalised property.
But on Tuesday, he offered an explanation, telling reporters that the campus has its own security. “If there is a law-and-order situation we do not rush to the police immediately. We see if our security can handle it. The campus has its own security. On Sunday, when we saw that there is a possibility of aggressive behaviour among students, we informed the police,” he said.
Kumar said that the administration has also formed a security committee and promised action against those found guilty.
”The students opposing the registration process had attacked me also on December 14 and damaged the V-C office. It is some of those students who had come with masked faces and damaged the data centre last week. Let the police investigate and let the facts come forward,” he said.
Kumar’s statement didn’t impress the JNUSU, which reiterated its demand for his removal. It said the filing of FIRs against injured students, including union president Aishe Ghosh who suffered head injuries, showed the administration was hand-in-glove with attackers.
“We have been peacefully protesting against the fee hike. None of the protesters wore mask or attacked the centre for communication and information services,” said JNUSU vice-president Saket Moon.
Kumar said the administration was yet to ascertain if “outsiders” were involved. “We should not make any conclusive statement on this. Let police find out if they were from outside or inside,” he said.
When asked if the university would help bear financial costs of those injured, the V-C said, “The students were taken to AIIMS. We provide free medicines at the health centre. Any students requiring any medical help will be provided there.”
But many students said the facility was inadequate. Surya Prakash, 25, a visually challenged student who was beaten up in his room in Sabarmati Hostel, said, “When I went to the health centre and asked for Moov, they didn’t even have that. The facilities were not adequate.”
Kumar said that the administration had submitted a detailed report with the ministry of human resource development. “The report has factual accounts of whatever came in our knowledge through our security officials,” he said.