An argument over purported consumption of non-vegetarian food at a JNU mess where some students, including ABVP supporters, were holding a Ram Navami “puja” blew up into a clash in which several students were injured on Sunday evening.
Akhtarista Ansari, a sociology student and member of CPIML Liberation student arm Aisa, has been taken to the campus health centre with a head injury, suffered apparently from a projectile hit.
Aisa alleged that members of the Sangh-backed ABVP had stopped non-vegetarian food being served at the Kaveri Hostel mess and had hurled stones and bottles at students who protested.
The ABVP alleged that the clash began after Left supporters stalled a Ram Navami puja in the hostel. It claimed that several of its supporters were hurt and one member, Ravi Raj, suffered a cut on his hand.
Many other students — including Harendra Sheshma and Sarika Chaudhary, who lead the CPM-backed SFI and the Democratic Students Federation on the campus, respectively, as well as Aisa national president N. Sai Balaji — suffered minor injuries.
The ruckus was confined to Kaveri Hostel and its periphery and had not spread to other parts of the 1,000-acre campus till Sunday night.
Aisa JNU secretary Madhurima Kundu told this newspaper: “Around 3.45pm, ABVP members stopped the meat supplier from delivering to the mess. They were celebrating Ram Navami in the mess. The mess secretary, who doesn’t want to be named, too was assaulted.
“Around 7.45pm, they again tried to stop students from taking non-veg for dinner. When we gathered there, they began throwing stones and bottles and assaulted us. I was kicked several times, and a student named Adarsh was hit on the head. Akhtarista started bleeding after being hit above her eye by something they threw at her.”
South and East Delhi’s mayors have pushed for a ban on the sale of meat during Navaratri, which ends on Monday. The mayors’ drive could not prevent deputy Union minister G. Kishan Reddy of the BJP from throwing a lavish Ugadi feast with non-vegetarian food at his home in Delhi on Wednesday, well into the Navaratri period.
The students’ union called for a march to Vasant Kunj (North) police station on Sunday night to demand an FIR against ABVP members. Aisa has called for a national protest day on Monday.
The ABVP said in a statement: “This puja was supposed to start at 3.30, but due to the ruckus created by Leftists, it could only start at 5pm. The university witnessed a peaceful simultaneous celebration of Iftaar and Ram Navami…. The Leftists, however, do not digest this fact.”
The group added: “As they plan to break the country, here also they planned to create a ruckus among students by throwing the issue of ‘Non Vegetarian Food’…. Left organisations are trying to drag ABVP into this issue, which is only their propaganda to gain media attention.”
JNU registrar Ravikesh did not respond to a call or a message from this newspaper. The JNU students’ union said that police were on the campus but no arrests had been made till Sunday night.
The police, who normally act only if the varsity administration formally requests action, had not responded to queries from this newspaper till late in the night.
In 2020, alleged ABVP supporters had gone on the rampage on the campus while the Left-led students’ union was protesting a fee hike.
The police had named students’ union leaders, including its president Aishe Ghosh -- who was severely injured -- in their investigation, which is yet to be completed.
The JNU Teachers’ Association said in a statement: “The JNUTA will ascertain the full sequence of events and the factual details and report back to the campus community, but in the interim, it expresses its outrage at any effort to impose the food preferences of any group over others.
“The use of violence as a means of punishing difference has no place within a university community.... The JNU vice-chancellor and her team, as well as the security forces, must personally intervene to end this violence immediately and to reaffirm the principles of pluralism and celebration of difference that this university stands for.”