JNU Violence: Beyond the Violent Masks


a_1  H x W: 0 x
Masked men with the iron rods and sticks seen inside campus while attacking
the students and damaging the University property 

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is always known to be a Communist bastion, academic fountainhead of social-sciences and ideological battlefield where anybody trying to disturb the status quo has faced strong violent reactions. What we have witnessed in the beginning of 2020 in JNU campus was not completely new, but still different. A group of masked students entering the campus and going on rampage, damaging property, beating students and even professors was something unprecedented. But this was not started on January 5 but began on January 3 itself. Unless we don’t get into the detailed dimensions of the story, the real faces behind violence will not be exposed

It was Sunday (January 5) that I was in Connaught Place with my friends. Around 6.30 pm, I received a call from a friend saying some of the JNU students’ are severely injured and going to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Trauma Centre for treatment. Without wasting much time, I decided to turn towards the AIIMS.


First Impression


By the time I reached the AIIMS Trauma Centre, a video featuring the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) President Aishe Ghosh getting injured emerged. Within a few minutes, all celebrity journalists started talking about the JNU violence and the nationalist student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was obviously blamed. Some were quite open about it while others were subtle. My first impression was also the same. At the entrance itself, some doctor-type of persons were giving media statements, again blaming ABVP.


At Trauma Centre, the scenario was not the same as I had perceived. There were around 14-15 injured students and a teacher at the Centre. Their political affiliations were not written on their faces but two faces were clearly identifiable, one of JNUSU President whose video was already doing round and Manish Jangid, ABVP’s JNU unit secretary and its last year's JNUSU presidential candidate whom I had seen when I had covered the JNU elections, along with his friends receiving treatment as they were badly injured.


After around 15 minutes, CPM leader Brinda Karat reached there and I realised that Trauma Centre is also divided into camps with 4-5 injured students whom Ms Karat was interacting with and around 8-10 students who were still waiting for the treatment. Soon Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also made her appearance but actually could not meet the students as security swung into action realising the sensitivity of the matter. Later, BJP leaders—Vijay Goel, Manoj Tiwari and Meenakshi Lekhi, also visited the students. I could guess that the issue is not as simple as electronic media is trying to project. Next day, when photos and videos showing Aishe Ghosh leading the mob and taking control of the server room of JNU came out, the picture became clearer.

a_1  H x W: 0 x 

I tried to talk to the injured students about which initially they were reluctant. Finally, a student Gaurav Kumar agreed to talk.


How it all Began?


Gaurav had suffered multiple injuries. It was quite clear that he was beaten badly with sticks and iron rods. Speaking to Organiser, Gaurav said, “The attack happened on January 5 when Leftist students stopped students from registering for the winter semester. Students associated with ABVP and others wanted to register while other Leftist organisations were stopping them from doing so”.


Since October 28, the students union elect has been protesting against the fee hike, which they claim is steep and unjustifiable. According to the JNU administration, the tuition fees of Rs 240 is the same while only the hostel fees is revised from Rs 10 per month to Rs 300 per month, which was reduced to Rs 150 for the students from the economically weaker sections. Despite all efforts to find a solution, students are not budging from the demand of complete roll back and now the resignation of the Vice Chancellor, which apparently has been their demand since Prof. M. Jagdesh Kumar took the charge. Defacing administrative block, vandalising Vivekananda statue and finally boycott of the examinations had been their successful course of action. Now the turn came for the registration for the new winter semester, which generally starts on January 5 every year. From January 3 onwards, the registration process starts and despite intimidation and attempts to stop online registration process, more than 3000 students registered themselves for their respective courses. Meanwhile, the teaching fraternity also got divided and the non-Communist teachers started cooperating with the administration. This was really frustrating for not just the protesting students but the real force behind them, the Teachers Association. This became the bone of contention and resulted in violence.

a_1  H x W: 0 x

According to the injured students at the Trauma Centre, AIIMS, the protesting representatives intimidated students who were physically trying to register themselves. Some staff members were manhandled, according to a student. When the administration gave option of going for online registration, they took control of the server room of JNU on January 3, exactly in the same style, with the masked faces. On the early morning of January 4, JNU administration tried to restore the internet service in the campus where again Left students were involved in a scuffle with the security staff. Later on January 5, Left students came out in big numbers and went on a rampage in JNU in and around Periyar and Mahi-Mandavi hostels. They attacked common students especially who had got themselves registered even after the boycott call given by Leftists-led JNUSU.


Students of Left-oriented organisations also targeted ABVP members for helping those students who want to register and also threatened to face dire consequences. In the process, several ABVP student leaders including its Presidential candidate Manish Jangid have been severely injured. ABVP had alleged that its members were "brutally" attacked by students affiliated to Left student organisations SFI, AISA and the DSF.


According to Valentina Brahma, a student of JNU, the Left in JNU had kept the university under forced lock-down and was not allowing students to take end semester exams. Anyone who tried to take the semester exams was assaulted including professors who tried to facilitate the same. The Leftists were occupying the JNU server room along with goons from outside. Students who wanted to take the exam registrations were asked to leave by the Left when they went there. Students who opposed were assaulted by the Leftist students.

a_1  H x W: 0 x
Left students covering their faces sitting outside the server 
room to disrupt the online registration process 
Manish Jangid, who was there at the Trauma Centre told Organiser that the violence was carried out by JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh. He further said that he was attacked by a mob led by (All India Students Association) AISA's leader Satish Chandra Yadav, in which he received multiple injuries.


Manish further accused the Left-led JNUSU has been making attempts to stall the admission process over the fee hike. The attacks didn’t happen overnight but had started on January 3 when students wearing masks had allegedly entered the centre for information system and made the servers dysfunctional.


“More than 1,000 registrations had taken place as many students were participating in the registration process despite of boycott by the Left organisations. The only agenda of Left student unions is to kill the institution,” he said.


According to sources, the Left-wing goons entered hostels mainly Periyar on January 5 to attack ABVP activists without any provocation. It was a planned attack by Left goons with the help of the outsiders. After the masked goons were chased away from Periyar hostel by guards, they attacked the hostel building and started pelting stones and breaking windows. This must have been resisted by other students and ended up in retaliatory violence. Meanwhile, the counter videos emerged on the next day ratified this version I got in the Trauma Centre.

a_1  H x W: 0 x 
Window glass and doors damaged during the violence 
The Hidden Agenda


JNU has been in the news for months regarding the fee-hike protests by the students. Later feeling the heat of students, the administration decided to roll back its decision and asked the students to help and coordinate in running the university smoothly. But Left leading JNUSU started demanding the resignation of JNU Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar.


Recently, in an interview with Organiser, Prof. Jagadesh Kumar has said, “It seems that they are not really agitating about the fee hike but something else; perhaps non-representation of JNUSU in various bodies of the administration. JNU administration cannot do anything about it as the student union is not yet notified and sub-judice in the High Court. Only after the High Court directive we can take a call on the matter


The decision about notifying the official JNUSU is still pending due to the case pertaining to the compliance of the Lingdoh Committee recommendations. Consequently, formally JNUSU does not exist, and therefore the members elect are not eligible to attend meetings of various bodies at School/Centre/ University level. Somehow getting the elected body recognised seems to be the real objective behind this protest which is not possible without clearance from the Delhi High Court which is supposed to hear the case only in March.


Insiders in JNU says that protests in the name of fee hike and registration is only a small part of Left organisation agenda, the real reason is to create an anarchy like situation across the country in the name of students movement and opposing the Government decision on Citizenship Amendment Act and Article 370 even Supreme Court order on Ayodhya. The recent JNU violence cannot be viewed as an isolated incident about a fee hike. The slogans chanted by masked attackers are clear signs of how the attack was not just about tensions between student bodies. The teachers known for their political affiliation and anti-Government stand are opposing each and every decision taken by the Vice Chancellor, whether to start a new centre or initiating online entrance, are playing a critical role in the entire game. As JNU is a reputed organisation and whatever happens here becomes a national news, Congress and Left political parties is using it as a tool against the BJP Government and larger civilisational narrative building around Hindutva. Opposition parties find it convenient to use these protesting students and instigating teachers against the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government. Since February 9, 2016 incident, from which the University became infamous for the anti-national slogans, what is happening now is not very different.

a_1  H x W: 0 x 
Injured ABVP students at AIIMS Trauma Centre who were attacked by the Left goons  


Hatred Against Hindutva


On January 6, I visited the campus to know the reason behind the violence. The shocking part while visiting the campus was the students associated Left organisations were raising slogans that had nothing to do with education and university. “Saadhu santo ki sarkaar nahi chalegi, Gaay gobar ki sarkaar nahi chalegi”. (No to the government of monks, no to the government of cow and dung) these were the slogans raised during protest by Leftist students inside the JNU campus. This all shows their hatred against Hindutva and the present Union Government. Afterwards 2014, one can easily finds the posters and slogans filled with hatred against Narendra Modi and Hindutva on JNU walls.


The hatred becomes visible and hit the national headline in 2016. In February 2016, inside the JNU campus, an event had organised to voice protest over hanging of Yakub Memon and Afzal Guru. While Yakub Abdul Razzaq Memon was a terrorist who was convicted over his involvement in the 1993 Bombay bombings by Special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities court, Afzal Guru, held guilty in Parliament terror attack case in 2001. During the protest in 2016 supported by the Left wing, some derogatory slogans were shouted as “Afzal Hum Sharminda Hain, Tere Kaatil Zinda hain and Bharat Tere Tukde Honge, Insallah, Insallah and Tum Kitne Afzal Maaroge, Har Ghar Se Afzal Niklega” which was used by the nationalist people to dub their opponents as "Tukde Tukde Gang" (a gang that wants to break India into pieces).

a_1  H x W: 0 x

 Aishe Ghosh, President JNUSU leading the masked goons

While it is time for the government to seriously look behind the continuous ruckus in the universities across the country especially where the Communist ideology dominates, how far the students politics can be stretched at the cost of academic activities is also at the forefront. Meanwhile a section of Bollywood celebrities and leaders of political parties continuously visiting the varsity campus to show their support for the protesters, the JNU Vice Chancellor Prof M Jagadesh Kumar requested to not politicise JNU and leave the authorities alone to do their work. Students who want to study should be allowed to do so is the call he has given again.


As the JNU episode is not concluded yet and who blinks first is to be seen, what we are witnessing is the claims and counter-claims and effective utilisation of campus politics for the national discourse by political parties. n