For more than a month now, India has been embroiled in a state of uncertainty and chaos. What started off as peaceful protests in December opposing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, has quickly turned dangerously violent. With deaths reported in cities such as Mangalore and others in Uttar Pradesh, there have also been reports of injured bystanders and loss of public property. However, the last few days have escalated the crisis, especially when it comes to university students.
Following the attacks on students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and others across the country, the latest report of violence has emerged out of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. On the evening of January 5, a mob of masked goons entered the university premises and openly attacked students with rods, sticks, bats and other weapons. So far, 19 students and five professors have been injured in the incident.
Videos of men wielding lathis and stones, while moving around buildings inside the campus, have been doing the rounds. One viral video shows the president of left student party Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU), Aishe Ghosh, severely bleeding from her head.
According to eyewitnesses, these masked goons entered just as students and teacher were wrapping up a meeting held by JNU Teachers Association to discuss the recent hostel fee hike and boycotting the semester registration. The masked men and women beat up both students and teachers with lathis, iron rods, hockey sticks and stones, and went on to vandalise property. Some allege that acid was thrown at the targeted students. A few social media vigilantes also shared videos of masked men entering the university hostel and banging on doors, even as students locked themselves in and cried for help for hours.
While many accounts say this was the doing of the RSS-backed student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the ABVP alleges that their own members were attacked by the left first. However, over the last 12 hours, a photo has surfaced on social media that links one of the phone numbers in a WhatsApp group created to discuss this attack with the contact number of an ABVP member.
Soon after the violence, Bollywood celebrities such as Swara Bhaskar and Taapsee Pannu took to social media to send out SOS messages, urging people to gather in large numbers at the campus and get the police to take immediate action.
However, many media persons present on the scene allege that while the police were standing outside one of the gates of the JNU campus, they took no action against the goons, who were spotted roaming either in autos or on foot within and outside the campus.
Some accounts say that security personnel was deployed within the university and some of these goons have been identified. Additionally, FIRs against them for damaging public property and rioting have been filed.
Government figures like Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank condemned the violence and called it "extremely worrying and unfortunate", while Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman put out a tweet saying last night’s incident was “horrifying”.
In the meantime, people across India have called for protests and sit-ins to stand in solidarity with the affected students. In Mumbai, protestors spent the night at Gateway of India, while in Hyderabad, students gathered around 2 AM near the Ambedkar statue.
Similarly, Bengaluru folks have announced that they will gather at the Town Hall at 10 AM and 4 PM to stand up against the unjust violence on January 6.
Similar displays of solidarity were seen across Delhi, too, with students protesting at AMU and even outside the Police Headquarters, calling for urgent action against the violence and heavy punishment for the alleged perpetrators.
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