Students blame youth wing of ruling nationalist BJP party after more than 30 were hospitalised in brutal assaults.

Police in riot gear stand guard outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after clashes between students in New Delhi, India, January 5, 2020.
Police in riot gear stand guard outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after clashes between students in New Delhi, India, January 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Last Sunday, masked bandits armed with rods and sledgehammers, burst into the campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University and went on a rampage, attacking students opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law introduced by the country’s Hindu nationalist government. 

The attack at JNU comes as university students across India lead a nationwide campaign against a controversial citizenship law brought in by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

After more than 30 people were hospitalised, JNU students union blamed the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) group, which is the youth wing of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Officials from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi where the students were taken, said, the students had bad “lacerations, cuts and bruises”. 

"Social media and CCTV footage will be part of the investigation," said police official Devendra Arya, adding the violence at the university had spurred police into launching a case.

However, although New Delhi police promised to investigate the incident, many accused the force of having an “utterly callous attitude and collusion with the mob”. 

Local Indian magazine, the Caravan reported that during the incident, instead of intervening in the attack, police blocked all entry and exit points into the campus, leaving students alone with the attackers for at least 45 minutes. 

The Caravan reported that on the day of the attack: “there was an increased presence of Delhi Police on the campus. But nothing prepared the students for what followed in the evening and the extremes of fear and outrage left in its awake.” 

Additionally, street lights on roads leading to the university had been cut off by the time around 150 masked attackers reached the campus. 

Female students said that when the mob reached the girl’s dormitory, they called the police for help. But police personnel did not answer their calls, and they said the ones who did say they were coming, never showed up. 

The day after the attack, while the students were expecting the attackers to be named, the police announced they had filed a case against student union leader Aishe Ghosh and several other students for “allegedly vandalising the university server room and attacking security guards,” the local media reported. 

Aishe Ghosh was among the students who were badly beaten on the night of the attack. 

JNU, a prestigious university well-known for its activism, has produced notable politicians including Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and this year's Nobel economics prize-winner Abhijit Banerjee. 

Over the years, JNU has been at the forefront of opposition to Modi’s controversial policies. 

Violent attacks carried out by BJP supporters on the country’s liberals and minority groups, particularly Muslims, have skyrocketed since 2014 when Modi came to power. 

India is a nation of 1.3 billion people – a kaleidoscope of religions and cultures – with Hindus making up about 80 percent of India’s population.

The world's second-largest populated country is also home to roughly 172 million Muslims who form the second-largest Muslim population in the world. 

However, Indian Muslims face violent attacks by the Hindu nationalist groups with cases of lynching and other forms of violence increasingly common.

Muslims, who make up 14 percent of the country's population, also face barriers buying property in many areas, suffer from media stereotypes, and a lack of representation in the legislature and other government posts.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies