A Hindu nationalist group is blamed for attacking students of Jawaharlal Nehru University amid protests against PM Modi's new citizenship law.

Police in riot gear stand guard outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after clashes blamed on rightwing student group.
Police in riot gear stand guard outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after clashes blamed on rightwing student group. (Reuters)

Bracing cold and fog, hundreds of people took to streets in major Indian cities in the wee hours of Monday to protest against an attack on university students by Hindu extremists. 

Clashes broke out late on Sunday between students of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who were protesting against a fee hike, and youth wing members of a group closely tied to India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), injuring over a dozen people, witnesses and officials said.

Video clips shared on Twitter showed masked men carrying batons roaming in the university hostel. 

JNU students on social media blamed members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the ideological parent of India's ruling BJP.

It denied they had instigated clashes and said they were first attacked by the left-leaning students.

The ABVP members contacted by Reuters at the site did not belong to JNU.

JNU, one of India's most prestigious universities, has a history of left-wing activism. Many there have also in recent years protested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, accusing them of curbing free speech.

"Horrifying images from JNU — the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence.

"I unequivocally condemn the events of today," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Twitter.

Protests against a fee hike began in November when hundreds of students marched from the campus seeking its cancellation, saying it would make education unaffordable.

This is the latest incident, which involves Hindu nationalists who have cheered Modi's government for introducing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

The law allows Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and Parsi immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship.

The amendment, which according to some reports benefits some 31,313 people, doesn’t cover Muslim refugees from Myanmar or the Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil community, reinforcing fears that the government is undermining India’s status as a secular nation. 

Critics view CAA as part of BJP's larger goal of sidelining India's Muslim minority. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies