Twenty-four hours after masked men went on a rampage inside Jawaharlal Nehru University, leaving 31 students, two teachers and two guards injured, Delhi police are yet to make a single arrest in the case. The police, which came under fire for storming the Jamia Millia Islamia campus and targeting students inside the library last month, remained silent on how roughly 100 people were able to run riot inside the JNU campus for close to three hours — between 6 pm and 9 pm — despite the first phone call to the police control room being made at 4.57 pm Sunday.
JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh, who was among the injured and received 16 stitches for her wounds at AIIMS, alleged it was an organised attack, and some “RSS-affiliated professors” were promoting the violence. Vice-president of the union, Saket Moon, alleged the students’ body called up police for two hours but did not get any help.
“It was an organised attack. They were singling out people and attacking. There is a clear nexus of JNU administration, security police and the ABVP vandals. They did not intervene to stop violence,” Ghosh told reporters. “For last four-five days, some RSS-affiliated professors were promoting violence to break our movement. Are we wrong to ask for safety from JNU and Delhi Police?”
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On Monday too, members of the ABVP, some right-wing groups and local supporters started a march around 4 pm on a section of the road near the JNU north gate, but were stopped by police barricades a few metres ahead. By 5 pm, hundreds of people managed to go around the police barricade and made their way to the north gate by going through narrow lanes of nearby colonies. After gathering at the gate, the crowd began chanting slogans such as ‘Vaam panth ki ek dawai, joota chappal aur pitai’, ‘Gaddaron ki kabar khudegi, Savarkar ki dharti pe’, ‘Dilli police lath bajao, hum tumhaare saath hain’ and ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’ as police personnel looked on.
Eyewitnesses to the Sunday attack and many of those injured claimed that the men belonged to the ABVP, a charge the RSS-affiliated student outfit denied.
While Ghosh said she sent a text message to a senior police officer about “students being beaten up in the University” at 3 pm Sunday, DCP (Southwest) Devender Arya said, “The first PCR call was made at 4.57 pm from Periyar hostel.”
Arya said the complaint was about “stone-pelting by the Left party”, and that a second PCR call was made at 7.12 pm Sunday wherein “the aggressor was the ‘other’ party”. He said a call was also made by JNU administration, and that at 7.40 pm, a written letter was received, requesting entry of police into the campus. Police also said there had been smaller clashes through the day, leading up to the violence in the evening. The Delhi Police registered an FIR Monday against unidentified persons on charges of rioting and damaging property.
Both teachers and students injured in the violence said no one from the JNU administration had reached out to check on them. “There has been no call or any kind of reaching out from the Vice-Chancellor or anyone from the administration. There hasn’t even been a single message sent,” said Professor Shukla Sawant, who was injured during the stone-pelting by masked men.
The JNU vice-chancellor, meanwhile, issued a statement, seeking to link the violence to protests against the hostel fee hike. “The origin of the present situation in JNU lies in some agitating students turning violent and obstructing the academic activities of a large number of non-protesting students. The protesting students damaged the communication servers to disrupt the winter semester registration,” said V-C M Jagadesh Kumar, suggesting that the Left outfits and JNUSU, which have been leading the protests, were to blame. Repeated calls to him remained unanswered Monday.
Sabarmati Hostel, which saw maximum property damage in the attack, saw the resignation of its Senior Warden and Warden (Recreation), who said they had put in their papers as they were not able to ensure the safety of students. The administration did not confirm if their resignation had been accepted.
The campus Monday also saw a press conference called by the JNU Teachers’ Association, which reiterated its demand for the removal of the V-C and said a judicial or judiciary-monitored probe in the incident should take place.
“No more evidence is required that the VC is incapable of running an educational institution… This is terror tactic raised to a different level,” said JNUTA secretary Surajit Mazumdar.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Swaraj India founder Yogendra Yadav, who was manhandled outside the campus on Sunday night amid police presence, said: “We should not see what happened in JNU as an isolated accident. This is a culmination of a very long trend which started with intellectual attacks on JNU. Then came the political attack on the institute. This is what happened during the Kanhaiya Kumar episode where throughout the country, in collaboration with the media, JNU was attacked as ‘anti-national’. Third was the institutional dismantling done by the current Vice-Chancellor. He was sent basically to change the university’s character and to solve this problem for them (the Centre). And what happened yesterday was the final episode, which is to say physical onslaught.”
A professor of Sanskrit at JNU, Hari Ram Mishra, was present outside the campus gates on Sunday evening and had been named by Yadav as being part of the mob. Mishra confirmed he was present there and said he had been upset by Yadav’s presence outside the campus.
“I was outside the gate because I was returning to the university. I couldn’t enter because the gate was locked. When Yadav came, I asked him why he had come to instigate students at a time when we should try to make them calm. I asked him what was the logic of being there when goons were beating innocent students. These political leaders are nurturing their goons inside campus and funding their goons to terrorise innocent students. Two days ago, we saw Left goons and JNUSU goons attacking innocent students who were trying to get their registration done,” he said.
He denied he had assaulted Yadav. “I tried my best to save him but students there were very agitated,” he said.
The lack of police action in JNU so far has been in stark contrast to its crackdown on the Jamia campus on December 15, when police had stormed the library and lobbed teargas shells on the premises.
One, while the Jamia administration had said police entered without permission from university authorities, in JNU’s case, authorities had themselves made a call to police to come and deal with the violence.
Second, while over 50 people, including several students, were detained the same day from Jamia and the vicinity, no arrest or detention had been made in JNU’s case till 24 hours later. Asked why no arrest had been made, DCP Arya said: “An investigation is on and we have footage. We are trying to identify the accused.”
Third, while several students from Jamia were paraded out of campus in a single file with their hands in the air, the scene outside JNU on Sunday night was starkly different — as reported by The Indian Express, dozens of men, their faces covered with mufflers, chanted slogans — “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalo ko”, “Naxalwad murdabad’ and “Na Maowad, Na Naxalwad, Sabse Upar Rashtrawad” — not allowing ambulances to reach the campus by puncturing tyres and smashing windows.
Through much of Monday, Left outfits and the JNUSU circulated photographs suggesting that the masked people and those who created a ruckus outside the campus later were from the ABVP. One of the photos identified a masked woman as a member of the ABVP from Delhi University. While she could not be contacted and police did not comment on whether she was involved, her Facebook and Instagram profiles were deactivated on Monday.
ABVP Delhi state secretary Siddharth Yadav denied the woman’s involvement. “It is not possible for us to put you in touch with her because she is currently very scared. She is an activist with us but it is not her in the photos. Since her photos are being shared on social media, her parents are very worried and have called her back home,” he said.
The woman in question had earlier campaigned for current DUSU joint-secretary Shivangi Kharwal. “That is not her in those videos. She was not even on the JNU campus at the time. She was at her PG at Delhi University’s North Campus,” Kharwal said.
Left outfits also shared photos of a JNU executive committee member from ABVP, allegedly carrying a stick. However, an ABVP activist said: “To protect themselves, some ABVP activists were carrying sticks in their hands. There is no photo or video of them hitting anyone.” Durgesh Kumar, ABVP JNU unit president, insisted that all the photos were “fake”.