BJP goons’ attack on JNU students widely condemned

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University was witness to brutal violence on Sunday, January 5, with students, including the students’ union president, alleging that they were attacked by members and supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad while the police looked on. Reports of stone-pelting had been reported from within campus on Saturday as well. Students The Wire spoke to said ABVP members were walking through the campus carrying sticks with masks or scarves on their faces, looking for students associated with the fee hike protest. In a video, JNU students’ union president and Students’ Federation of India leader Aishe Ghosh can be seen bleeding from the head, saying that she was “brutally attacked by goons wearing masks”. Faculty members have also been injured. The ABVP, meanwhile, has claimed “Left activists” were responsible for the violence and vandalism. Earlier, clashes broke out late on Sunday between students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who were protesting against a fee hike, and youth wing members of a group closely tied to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), injuring over a dozen people, witnesses and officials said. Sahiba Mazid, who spoke by telephone from inside one of the university hostels, said many men wearing masks and carrying batons had entered the hostel. JNU students on social media blamed members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the ideological parent of India’s ruling BJP. It denied they had instigated clashes and said they were first attacked by the left-leaning students. The ABVP members contacted by Reuters at the site did not belong to JNU. JNU, one of India’s most prestigious universities, has a history of left-wing activism. Many there have also in recent years protested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, accusing them of curbing free speech. “Horrifying images from JNU — the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Twitter. Protests against a fee hike began in November when hundreds of students marched from the campus seeking its cancellation, saying it would make education unaffordable. “This is a desperate attempt by forces of anarchy … to shore up their shrinking political footprint,” said the BJP in a tweet about Sunday’s violence. Delhi police are investigating how masked men burst into a leading university and attacked a student protest with sticks and rods, an officer said on Monday, the latest incident to ignite criticism of India’s ruling Hindu nationalists. Sunday’s attack at a university long seen as a bastion of left-wing politics comes as students nationwide lead a campaign against a citizenship law introduced last month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that is seen as discriminating against Muslims. “Social media and CCTV footage will be part of the investigation,” said police official Devendra Arya, adding the violence at the university had prompted police to start a case. Students and some faculty of the Jawaharlal Nehru University have blamed the incident that injured at least 30 people on a students’ union tied to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party that has increasingly picked on the renowned institution. Students put out pictures of mobs entering university residential halls, their faces covered with cloth, carrying sticks and even sledgehammers. Some shouted slogans, threatening death for traitors. Students said police had failed to act, leaving them at the mercy of the mob. Delhi police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegation. More than 30 people injured were admitted to the All-India Institute of Medical Science in the capital, a hospital official said, most of them with lacerations, cuts and bruises. The protests have persisted despite government efforts to quell them, with more demonstrations planned across India on Monday, prompted by the university attack.