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Told them I’m blind, they kept hitting me: Tales from JNU hostels

The Indian Express spoke to residents of eight hostels to put together the sequence of events - from Periyar hostel, which saw clashes in the afternoon, to Sabarmati hostel, which the mob targeted in the evening.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
January 7, 2020 1:58:07 am
JNU, JNU violence, JNU violence ABVP, ABVP JNU, JNU students beaten, Delhi Police JNU, Delhi news, Delhi city news, Delhi JNU news Residents of the Narmada men’s hostel said a group of 25-30 police personnel, including persons in plainclothes, arrived at the road outside their hostel at around 7.45 pm. (Express photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

Hostels of JNU, at the heart of a controversy over a proposed fee hike since October, became ground zero for violence on Sunday with the entry of masked men armed with sticks and rods. The Indian Express spoke to residents of eight hostels to put together the sequence of events – from Periyar hostel, which saw clashes in the afternoon, to Sabarmati hostel, which the mob targeted in the evening.

Periyar hostel

According to residents, a clash broke out outside around 3.30 pm. A group of students protesting against fee hike at the School of Social Sciences alleged they had been assaulted by some ABVP members and had taken out a march on campus to demonstrate against that. The students claimed that when they reached Periyar hostel, where “several ABVP students live”, stones were thrown at them from inside. “This led to a clash which died down in about an hour. I saw a group beating up an ABVP student. Some people went into the hostel as well,” claimed a resident, adding that people were not masked at the time. On Monday, the glass wall of the security guards’ cabin at the gate was shattered, as was a glass doorway.

Mahi-Mandavi

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A group of 40-50 students came inside around 4.30 pm, residents claimed, adding that they were masked and carrying sticks. “They came and went around the hostel but did not break anything or hit anyone,” said a resident.

Sabarmati

The men’s wing of this hostel was the primary site of destruction. Several people at the JNUTA demonstration at Sabarmati dhaba fled into the hostel when the mob first attacked. According to residents, the violence peaked between 6.40 pm and 7.20 pm. The mob initially broke glass doors at the reception and stormed inside with sticks, stones, rods and hammers.

The doors of the hostel have a glass panel above, which was smashed. “They knew which rooms to enter since they simply walked by several rooms. A couple of students jumped from the first floor when they saw the mob. The crowd first tried to go after students and then attacked their rooms,” said a resident.

A Kashmiri student’s room on the first floor was thoroughly vandalised. “I switched off the lights and locked the door when I heard what was happening. When they smashed my glass panel, I jumped out of my balcony to that of the neighbouring room. They managed to break the door.”

Another room had rocks on the study table, which, a student said, were pelted through the glass panel when four people in the room held the door to stop the mob from entering. Several students alleged some members of the mob entered the women’s wing and knocked on doors, but no destruction was caused.

Soorya Prakash, a visually impaired student on the ground floor, was also assaulted. “I was studying when the glass pane above my door was broken and a shard fell on my head. I received 10-12 blows with a rod. I kept shouting that I’m blind. I could smell that they were drunk. When they finally believed that I’m blind, one man said, ‘What’s the point of hitting a blind person?’ and they left,” he said.

Koyna, Shipra, Narmada, Tapti, Lohit

On Sunday night, rumours began to fly that masked men had broken into Koyna, a women’s hostel. But a resident said “there was no break-in but rather fear and panic because of what was happening outside. At Shipra women’s hostel next door, students created a barricade at the main door, using benches to block entry to the building.

Residents of the Narmada men’s hostel said a group of 25-30 police personnel, including persons in plainclothes, arrived at the road outside their hostel at around 7.45 pm. “They came to the door of our hostel but our guard bolted the main door and we blocked entry from the inside,” said a resident. Police were stopped from entering at Tapti too. “We don’t trust police anymore and we didn’t know who the people in plainclothes were. We didn’t want harassment under the pretext of ‘taking rounds’,” said a resident of the women’s wing. At Lohit, 150 students gathered at the entry until 11 pm to prevent outsiders from entering.

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