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News18 » India
10-min read

Shocked by JNU Mob Attack, Students Across India Protest; No Arrests Yet But Police Say 'Probing Vital Clues'

Politicians of all parties condemned the violence. The opposition and JNU students blamed the ABVP, the students' wing of the BJP for the violence, and accused the Delhi Police of inaction.


Updated:January 7, 2020, 12:08 AM IST
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Shocked by JNU Mob Attack, Students Across India Protest; No Arrests Yet But Police Say 'Probing Vital Clues'
Students stage a protest at main Gate of JNU over Sunday's violence, in New Delhi, Monday (PTI)

New Delhi: The attack on students and teachers at the Jawarharlal Nehru University by unidentified goons triggered protests across India on Monday as the clamour grew for the resignation of the vice chancellor who is being blamed for inaction during the violence that left 34 people injured.

As horrific first-person accounts emerged of the attack on Sunday evening, including on JNU students union president Aishe Ghosh, Delhi Police said no arrests have been made and that they have transferred the case to the Crime Branch, who claimed to have found "vital clues."

Politicians of all parties condemned the violence. The opposition and JNU students blamed the ABVP, the students' wing of the BJP for the violence, and accused the Delhi Police of inaction. The BJP said campuses should not become political battleground.

On Sunday, a mob of masked young people stormed the JNU campus in south Delhi and systematically targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods, hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings. They also attacked a women's hostel.

I was specifically targeted on Sunday during a peace march on campus. Around 20-25 masked persons disrupted the march and attacked me with iron rods, union president Ghosh, her head swathed in bandages, told PTI after being released from hospital earlier Monday. She received at least 15 stitches on the head, and her arm was in a cast after the attack.

The ABVP has denied being responsible, and in turn, has blamed Ghosh's Left-supported union of stage managing the violence. It also claimed that many of its activists were injured, but has not presented any to the media. "For the last four-five days, some RSS affiliated professors were promoting violence to break our movement," Ghosh alleged at a press conference later.

Also Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah talked to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and the HRD ministry to take stock of the volatile situation. "The horrifying and unprecedented violence unleashed on India's young by goons with active abetment of the ruling Modi government is deplorable and unacceptable," alleged Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Union minister Smriti Irani said campuses should not be made a "political battlefield" and hoped students would not become political pawns. With no face to Sunday night's terror, videos of which did endless rounds of social media and news channels, the tide of anger showed no signs of ebbing.

Protests against the citizenship amendment act and the attack against students of JNU — which has seen a 70-day strike against the hike in fees — segued into one with students joining parties across the political spectrum to call for accountability.

The 34 people, including students and faculty members, who were admitted to the AIIMS trauma centre were discharged on Monday morning, officials said.

Large protests took place Monday in universities in Pondicherry to Chandigarh and Aligarh to Kolkata. Protests were also held at the National Law University in Bangalore and IIT-Bombay as well as at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. "Today it is them, tomorrow it can be us," Raiza, a Pondicherry university student, said.

In Mumbai, the protest by students at the Gateway of India that started at midnight continued. In New Delhi, the youth wing of the Congress Party took out a torchlight march through central New Delhi.

In Nepal, JNU alumni gathered at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu to voice their protest, as did students at Oxford University and University of Sussex in Britain and at Columbia University in the US. Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati also condemned the violence.

While Yadav said masked men attacking teachers and students in JNU shows how "low" the government will stoop to rule through "fear" and accused the BJP of using violence and hate to polarise society, Mayawati termed the mob attack shameful and demanded a judicial probe. NCP chief Sharad Pawar said JNU students were subjected to a "cowardly and planned attack".

Situation Inside JNU Day After Violence

A day after they were attacked in what they believed was their safe refuge, many students in Jawaharlal Nehru University on Monday were both angry and fearful with some demanding that the guilty be booked and others saying they were going home.

There was an uneasy calm in the campus where there was a massive deployment of security personnel and authorities only allowed students with valid ID cards inside. However, these measures did not assuage the concerns of students over their safety.

Shreya Ghosh, a resident of Shipra Hostel, asked how could goons enter the campus with rods and sticks and said, "The attack could not have happened without the connivance of the administration and police." She claimed that she had to hide in Sabaramati Hostel after the masked men chased her and some other people.

Akarsh Ranjan from Periyar hostel said students had received threats that they should not come out of their rooms. According to other residents of Periyar hostel, a group of masked people had entered their hostel around 4.30 pm and banged on doors, forcing many students to flee the hostel from back door exits.

Many of them went without food on Sunday night as the food had to be thrown away. "The food was prepared by 4.30 pm on Sunday. After we heard that students were barging in, we locked the mess and went upstairs. They broke open the mess door. They did not touch the food but we did not feed it to students because we were scared they might have mixed something in it," said OP Tiwari, a mess employee.

He said the food was prepared for 550 students, including for those living in Godavari Hostel, where some renovation is going on. A resident of the hostel, however, alleged that glass pieces had been mixed in the food.

Aman Kumar, a PhD scholar said a mob had vandalised the mess around 4 pm. "They were banging on the door but my roommate and I pushed one of the beds against it so that they could not enter. We left from a back-door. I had food at Koyna Hostel and spent the night at Lohit Hostel. I came to collect some things at my hostel around midnight but all the rooms were locked," he said. Kumar claimed many students had left Godavari Hostel out of fear.

JNUSU President Reacts After Brutal Mob Attack

JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh said she was hit with multiple rods during Sunday's "organised" attack on the campus, but every iron rod used against students will be answered to by debate and discussion and the university's culture will never be eroded.

Ghosh, who was admitted to a hospital after sustaining injuries in the attack, demanded the resignation of Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, saying he had not bothered to meet or check upon the injured students and professors.

She claimed that the university security staff had colluded with the vandals during the attack and added that some RSS-affiliated professors had been promoting violence for the past four-five days.

Ghosh, who was discharged on Monday, attended a press conference convened by the students' union amid cries of 'Lal Salaam' and 'Red Salute'. "It was an organised attack. They were singling out people and attacking," she told reporters. "There is a clear nexus between the JNU security (staff) and vandals. They did not intervene to stop violence."

"I was hit by multiple rods. Every iron rod used against the students will be answered back by debate and discussion. JNU's culture will never be eroded. JNU will uphold its democratic culture," she said.

She said they will fight back and will not be scared after the attack and they will continue the struggle against the hostel fee hike. Ghosh said the JNUSU has called for a strike of universities across the country on January 8.

What Police Said

The Delhi Police rejected charges of reaching the JNU campus late despite several pleas by the students' union, asserting that they responded to PCR calls and law-and-order situation professionally to bring things under control.

Under attack for not acting swiftly to prevent the violence on Sunday, the police also dismissed the charge that they were mute spectators despite a small number of police personnel being present on the campus.

Talking to the media, Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said the force was deployed in the administrative block of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the scuffle took place in an area far from the spot.

Randhawa said the internal security of the JNU lay with the varsity administration. "We have responded to PCR calls, and law-and-order situation professionally," he said. According to the spokesperson, calls received by the police around 5 pm were from hostel areas away from the administrative block and it alerted them about a scuffle.

"We immediately responded to the calls and brought the situation under control. Normally, the police deployment is only at the administrative block of the varsity. The area where the scuffle took place was far from there," the officer said.

The Delhi Police also registered an FIR against unidentified persons for rioting and damaging property, officials said. According to the FIR, students were protesting against a hostel fee hike for the last few days. According to instructions issued by the high court, no protest is allowed within a 100-metre radius of the administrative block of the university.

A case was registered under sections 145 (joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 151 (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, the FIR said.

The high court had earlier directed the Delhi Police for deploying the personnel in plain clothes to ensure that protests do not happen within the 100 metres of the administrative block.

Opposition's Reaction

The Congress demanded a judicial probe into it and accused the Modi government of sponsoring violence across the country.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi alleged that the "horrifying" violence unleashed on India's youth by goons was with the active abetment of the Modi government and demanded an independent judicial inquiry into it.

She accused the Modi government of seeking to stifle and subjugate every voice of dissent and said Sunday's "bone chilling" attack on students and teachers at JNU was a grim reminder of that.

"The voice of India's youth and students is being muzzled everyday. The horrifying and unprecedented violence unleashed on India's young by goons with active abetment of the ruling Modi government is deplorable and unacceptable," she charged.

Gandhi alleged that everyday campuses and colleges are raided across India, either by the police or lumpen elements with support of the BJP government. "Yesterday's bone chilling attack on students and teachers in JNU, Delhi is a grim reminder of the extent the government will go to stifle and subjugate every voice of dissent," she said in a statement.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the government of unleashing "state-sponsored terrorism" on campuses across the country and said the violence in JNU reminded him of the Nazi rule. Demanding a judicial probe into the violence that erupted in JNU, Surjewala said the enquiry should look into the role of the government, the JNU administration and the Delhi Police.

How Eminent Personalities Reacted

Eminent personalities condemned the violence at Delhi's Jawarharlal Nehru University and said the "cowardly act" bears testimony that those in power are afraid of student protests.

Demanding that the perpetrators be brought to book, noted filmmaker Aparna Sen wondered whether the country has turned into a "goonda raj". "JNU students being beaten up by ABVP goons. Live on TV! How much longer are you going to look the other way? Or r u spineless? Yes I AM a liberal! Yes, I AM secular! And proud to be so if THIS is the alternative. Shame! Shame on ABVP & the police who are aiding & abetting them," Sen said in a tweet.

Writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhaya also denounced the incident and said the "brazen attack" on students is unacceptable. "It is expected that the student community will protest. But such kind of retaliation from a students group supported by those who are in power is unacceptable. Students have every right to protest," he said.

Actor Kaushik Sen said the JNU attack is proof that those who are in power are afraid of student protests. "The repeated attack on students shows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are scared of such protests. Students have every right to question and protest. From Jamia Milia University to Aligarh Muslim University to JNU, the Centre is committing one blunder after another," Sen said.

Poet Joy Goswami said he was pained to witness the violence unleashed on students, but said such attacks will not deter them from continuing the fight against "injustice".

(With PTI inputs)

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