Violence at JNU on Sunday night that left a student from Tamil Nadu injured and saw a portrait of social reformer Periyar vandalised prompted the southern state’s chief minister M.K. Stalin to hit out at RSS student arm ABVP on Monday.
Senthilkumar S, an MP from Tamil Nadu’s ruling party DMK, arrived at the university and reinstalled Periyar’s portrait at the students’ union office on Monday evening.
Stalin tweeted: “Universities are not just spaces for learning but also for discussion, debate & dissent. The cowardly attack on Tamil students by ABVP & vandalising the portraits of leaders like Periyar, Karl Marx at #JNU, is highly condemnable and calls for a strict action from the Univ Admin.”
He added: “The securities of JNU & Delhi Police have time and again turned mute spectators to the violence unleashed on students who fightfor their rights & are critical of the Union BJP regime. I express my solidarity with the students & request VC to initiate action against the culprits and protect students from Tamil Nadu.”
Around 8.45 pm on Sunday, the ABVP allegedly disrupted the screening of the satirical 1983 film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron by the Marxist study circle, Hundred Flowers Group (HFG), at the students’ union office.
The disrupters accused the HFG of having removed a portrait of Shivaji that the ABVP’s JNU unit had installed at the union office earlier in the evening to mark the 393rd birth anniversary of the 17th-century Maratha ruler.
MP Senthilkumar told The Telegraph: “I came here to find that portraits of Marx and Ambedkar were vandalised as well, their glass frames were broken. The portraits of Chhatrapati Shivaji and MaharanaPratap are intact and on the wall.
“I met Nazar (the injured student from Tamil Nadu) who had been taken to hospital. He said the ABVP had tried to pull him out of the ambulance. I was told that girls were molested.”
Nazar, a research scholar of molecular medicine, was treated for a gash on his head at Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday night.
Nazar confirmed to this newspaper that he was assaulted twice. First, near the students’ union office when he went there along with other students to make sure the film was screened following the disruption, and then in the ambulance when ABVP supporters allegedly broke into it.
Senthilkumar added: “I got a portrait of Periyar made which was installed in the union office. I told the students, ‘You have done a good thing, you didn’t cow down. You have kept up the spirit of what Periyar taught, which is to ask questions.' I understand that this is not the first instance of violence by the ABVP.”
Last month, the ABVP allegedly stoned a screening of the BBC documentary on Modi at the JNU students’ union office. In 2021, the AVP disrupted an HFG discussion on Friedrich Engels's essay, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
After meeting the vice-chancellor along with Nazar, Senthilkumar said: “I demanded an inquiry into the violence, and said that I would escalate it formally with the police, (and the Union) home and education ministers.”
On Sunday, the ABVP’s JNU unit had said in a statement on its WhatsApp group for reporters: “Today, ABVP installed a portrait of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Maharaj in JNUSU Office. A room where Naxalites had even installed portraits of mass murderers like Lenin and Hinduphobicleeches like EVR Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar). Naxalite goon named Lata… They threw the portraits of Chhattrapati Shivaji, Jyotiba Phule and Maharana Pratap in the dustbin.” (sic)
The ABVP also shared photos of its activists with scratches on their hands and faces, which it blamed on “Leftists”.
HFG member Lata Sarang, who is awaiting her PhD degree in Spanish, claimed she and at least three others had been assaulted by around 70ABVP supporters.
“We remove pictures from the wall to set up the screen for films. We place them on chairs. The ABVP was waiting for us when we arrived at 8.30 pm. They had already defaced the walls with freshly painted anti-communist slogans,” she told this newspaper.
“The moment we began removing the pictures, they barged into the room and began to abuse us and hit us, and break the pictures on the wall... Later the police came, and instead of stopping the violence they asked us for our IDs.”
Sarang and others were at the Vasant Kunj (North) police station to lodge a complaint on Monday night.
Replying to Stalin, ABVP national organising secretary Ashish Chauhantweeted: “Mr @mkstalin, you should have joined hands with @abvpjnudemanding left-ultras to be booked for vandalising Chhatrapati ShivajiMaharaj’s portrait in JNUSU premises that too on his Jayanti day.”
On Sunday, the students’ union accused the ABVP of orchestrating the violence soon after a vigil on campus for a Dalit student in IT-Bombay who allegedly committed suicide after facing caste taunts. The union said, "ABVP does this once again to derail movement against caste discrimination." On Monday, JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh of the SFI tweeted, " The ABVP has vandalised the portraits of Periyar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Karl Marx, Jyotiba andSavitribai Phule and several other icons. The walls inside the SU office have also been vandalised by the ABVP."
JNU and Delhi police officials could not be reached for comment.