Outsiders may have been involved in the Ram Navami violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and the assault may have been planned, vice chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit has told CNN-News18. In an exclusive interview, the first woman VC of JNU said that it is being probed if the violence allegedly over non-vegetarian food was premeditated.
JNU 'Meat Ban' Showdown.
— News18 (@CNNnews18) April 13, 2022
Giving the sequence of events, she said, “From the warden’s report, we learnt that some students had objected to the hawan, another group objected to non-veg being served. Students were convinced by 7 o’clock that non-veg will be served after the hawan. The hawan got over before 7pm. The meat vendor’s van arrived to deliver chicken. In the meantime, we learnt that a group of students…we don’t know their identity yet…had stopped this meat vendor’s van from coming in. The vendor also waited for one and a half hours because the warden made them wait as they wanted to serve non-veg. Around 8.30pm, some outsiders came in and violence took place over an oral disagreement or an argument.”
Pandit said there was no question of putting a bar on non-veg food. “JNU as a policy does not put any food choice on anybody. It is your fundamental right and personal choice,” she said.
This is the second time that an outsider role is being blamed for violence on the JNU campus. In 2020, during a similar clash between two student groups, it was alleged that outsiders led the assault.
Santishree Pandit said that the administration is contemplating steps to restrict open access to outsiders. “This has been a problem because JNU is an open university…A lot of ex-students live on campus…Students have guests coming…We will have to see how to tackle this issue because outsider presence is repeatedly leading to problems on campus,” she said.
The vice chancellor said that it is being looked into if the entire incident leading up to the violence was planned.
When asked if permission was given to conduct a religious event, the VC said such decisions are taken at the hostel level and the administration has no role. “In our times, no religious festivities were allowed on campus. I am told this has started only in the last 20 years…Now it will be difficult to stop it…But I want all festivals to be celebrated then, not just one…Easter is round the corner, that should also be celebrated,” she said.
When asked if she thought the motive of the assault was to create polarisation ahead of elections and if police will be needed to hold violence-free polls, she said that most of the JNU students and faculty want academics to be the focus. “I don’t think we will need police presence to hold elections. A fringe has always existed in JNU but most students and academics want the focus to be on academics,” she said.
The former alumnus also rejected the “tukde tukde” label put on the university by critics. Pandit said JNU stands for excellence and that is what the focus of the students, faculty, and administration is.