NEW DELHI: Masked men armed with iron rods and hammers raided hostels of the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday and beat up students and teachers aligned with the left, reports said.
News portals carried pictures of profusely bleeding Aishe Ghosh, the leftist president of the JNU students union (JNUSU). TV grabs showed masked men roaming freely on the campus, and students said the police and security guards refused to respond to calls for help.
Reports said the masked men belonged to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students wing of the Hindu fascist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
Several teachers independently confirmed ABVP members had entered the campus and were attacking students.
“Female students have locked themselves up inside the girls’ wing in Sabarmati Hostel. These attackers are roaming the corridors armed with rods and sticks…we are under attack,” the JNUSU Twitter handle said.
A video of a bleeding Ms. Ghosh was posted on Twitter while the JNUSU claimed in a statement that a large number of ABVP activists had entered the campus with iron rods and told to “single out” students’ representatives.
Characteristically, the ABVP offered a rival version. It said its members, including its JNU unit secretary, were attacked by members of the left-backed students’ outfits and 11 of the RSS-affiliated outfit’s members were missing.
The ABVP alleged that its members were “brutally” attacked by students affiliated to left student organizations — Students Federation of India, All India Students Association and Democratic Students Front. Elections are due for the Delhi Assembly in February, and students across the country have been leading protests against a controversial citizenship law that excludes Muslims from rights offered to others from three countries in South Asia.
Mr Modi needs to win the election to shore up his waning popularity and also to suggest that the communal citizenship law has popular support. The BJP has suffered significant losses in recent state polls to regional parties and to the Congress.
The assault on the left seemed to help bring the communists in West Bengal closer to their bets noir, the ruling Trinamool Party. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke up vociferously. “We strongly condemn the brutality unleashed against students/teachers in JNU. No words are enough to describe such heinous acts.
Shame on our democracy. A Trinamool delegation led by Dinesh Trivedi (Sajda Ahmed, Manas Bhunia, Vivek Gupta) headed to Delhi to show solidarity with #ShaheenBagh #JNU.” Shaheen Bagh is where women-led anti-citizenship law protests have been raging for a month.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said: “Masked men attacking teachers and students in JNU shows the low to which the government will stoop in order to rule through fear. The BJP is using violence and hate to polarise society and stifle dissent. The ABVP is acting like the stormtroopers of the BJP.”
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, a former student of JNU, said: “Have seen pictures of what is happening in #JNU. Condemn the violence unequivocally. This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university.”