Some 200 stick-wielding men led by ABVP members unleashed mayhem at JNU on Sunday evening, thrashing students who are opposing registrations for the next semester over a steep hostel fee hike and leaving two dozen injured, faculty members said.
Several teachers too got hurt trying to stop the violence, which began at 4.30pm. Professors Sucharita Sen and Ameet Parameswaran were admitted to AIIMS along with 18 students, including students’ union president Aishe Ghosh.
Teachers described the violence — which followed police brutality at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university and Aligarh Muslim University on December 15 over the anti-citizenship-act protests — as “unprecedented” in JNU history.
They said the police deployed on the campus did nothing. At Jamia and AMU, the police had stormed the campuses unprovoked and baton-charged and tear-gassed students who were holding peaceful protests.
A JNU Teachers Association meeting for peace and democracy on campus was violently disrupted by ABVP supporters. Professor Sonajharia Minz was injured after attackers hit her with a brick. Unidentified miscreants forced professor Amit Thorat to delete pictures of the attackers that he clicked near Periyar Hostel, and was chased by a mob of men armed with lathis. Pictures shared by JNUSU
A JNU student called a Telegraph correspondent around 5.30pm to plead: “The police and ABVP members are chasing and beating us. It’s a civil-war-like situation, please do something.”
Economics professor Vikas Rawal told this newspaper through the gate grills at 10.20pm: “Groups of men are still going around the hostels beating people and breaking stuff. We teachers have gathered at the gate and will stay here till some action is taken.”
The ABVP claimed to be the victim, saying members of Left-leaning students’ bodies had attacked and injured 25 of its members.
JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh, of the SFI, was treated at AIIMS for severe lacerations on her head after being beaten with iron rods by masked men near Sabarmati Hostel at 7pm on Sunday. Scores of other students were also treated for injuries at AIIMS—whose ambulances were also attacked by the mob. Pictures shared by JNUSU
Outside the campus gates, a large mob had gathered, heckling, roughing up and chasing away passers-by, and refusing to allow any student to step out of the campus or anyone to get in. The mob chanted: “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro salon ko (Shoot the anti-national traitors).”
The streetlights had been switched off and the police stood idle, intervening only when the mob threatened to attack political activist Yogendra Yadav.
A bearded onlooker was asked: “Are you a Hindu?” Another man was ordered to chant “Bharat Mata ki jai”, slapped and chased away.
In the mob was Hari Ram Mishra, a pro-RSS Sanskrit professor, who walked up to local BJP leader Anil Sharma and said: “Students are scaling the wall and stepping out of the campus. Tell your boys to push them back.”
Yogendra Yadav said: “I came to meet teachers who told me they were being assaulted. I was pushed to the ground by goondas and the police are not doing anything.”
Many students who live outside gathered on the street in front of the campus, as did activists and ordinary citizens. Several women chanted anti-Sangh slogans and, heckled by the mob, began singing the national anthem.
CPI leaders D. Raja and Annie Raja stood surrounded by ABVP activists who chanted “Urban Naxal, go back” while the police watched from 20 metres away.
D. Raja said he was “concerned with the safety of the children here, including my daughter (Aparajitha Raja)”.
Around 10.30pm, joint commissioner of police R.S. Krishnaia entered the campus.
Trouble had begun on Saturday when most of the students decided not to register themselves for the next semester since the JNU authorities had failed to roll back the hostel fee hike. A group of ABVP members attacked some of the agitating students, leading to a scuffle.
Most students had refused to take the recent semester exam, and Sunday was the last day for registration for the next semester.
Around 4.30pm on Sunday, some 40-50 ABVP members entered the Periyar Hostel and attacked the boarders, students said. They were allegedly beaten back in a hail of stones.
Shortly afterwards, teachers said, a mob of about 200 stick-wielding youths, chanting “Bharat Mata ki jai”, ran wild. Many students hid themselves in the teachers’ quarters to save themselves.
Professor Sucharita Sen was also treated for a head injury at AIIMS after allegedly being assaulted by ABVP supporters on campus on Sunday evening. Another professor Ameet Parameswaran was also treated for multiple injuries. Pictures shared by JNUSU
An ABVP statement said that Leftist student bodies SFI, AISA and DSF had attacked its members.
“Around 25 students have been seriously injured and there is no information on the whereabouts of 11 students. Many ABVP members are being attacked in hostels and the hostels are being vandalised by the Leftist goons,” it said.
ABVP member Radha Krishna Yadav, who studies Sanskrit, told this newspaper: “The ABVP opposes the fee hike but the Leftists assaulted ordinary students trying to pay their fees on the last day. We oppose this too.”
Nayana, one of the women gathered outside the gates in support of the attacked students, said: “I’m an artist. I came here when I got SOS calls from students I know. I’m not afraid but I’m angry that such violence can happen on a campus.”
Tanushree Bhasin, a photographer who was sloganeering with a few women despite being surrounded by the mob, said: “I didn’t think about the numbers. I had to give a reply to the kind of Islamophobic, JNU-phobic, Jamia-phobic and sexist things they were saying.”
She added: “While coming here, I saw three men hitting passers-by with sticks and asking if they were from JNU and had come to play politics.”
Bidisha Mahanta, a JNU alumna who works with Zubaan Publishers, said: “I came here around 8pm when I heard of the violence. Some men surrounded us just outside the gate and said, ‘Baraat aa rahi hai kya, teri shaadi karwa dein (Is your groom coming, should we get you married)?’ These men had come in cars bearing BJP flags.”
Former JNU students’ union president N. Sai Balaji said the attackers had smashed glass panes in the hostels and the windshields of parked cars.
“Since yesterday (Saturday), JNU admin(istration) has let their stooges ABVP and RSS-affiliated teachers to attack and spread fear and violence in JNU,” a students’ union media release said.
“It is clear that JNU VC is not only shielding but even instigating violence through ABVP to disrupt peaceful protest of JNU students.”
Vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar and the students have been at loggerheads over the hostel fee protests.
A senior human resource development ministry official said the ministry had nudged Kumar to roll back the fee hike but the VC was reluctant despite the University Grants Commission offering extra funds.
Kumar did not take calls to his mobile. His spokesperson Poonam Kudaisya declined comment on the campus violence.
The students said the ministry had invited students’ union representatives to discuss the fee hike on Monday, but a ministry source and a JNU official denied this.