The violence in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Sunday evening, which left around 30 students and teachers injured, with many having to be treated in hospital, has become the new flashpoint between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and all opposition parties.
Dozens of masked men armed with sticks, metal rods, and stones barged into JNU on Sunday evening and attacked teachers, students, and vandalized hostels and other property. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Monday demanded the resignation of the university’s vice-chancellor and sought appropriate action against those behind the violence.
The attack took place just a day before the Election Commission of India announced the schedule for assembly elections in Delhi, which is set to witness a three-cornered electoral battle between the BJP, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party under Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, and the Congress.
Opposition parties have squarely blamed the Union government for a rising tide of violence in universities. However, the BJP has maintained that opposition parties have been instigating students and teachers against the National Democratic Alliance government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah on Monday blamed Kejriwal for failing to take action against people who had allegedly shouted anti-India slogans in the past. The BJP has often accused the Delhi government of not giving sanction to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar, the former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU), in a sedition case in February 2016. “Some students shouted anti-India slogans, said ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’. Tell me should not they be sent to jail? But Kejriwal is not granting sanction to prosecute them. Who do you want to save, Kejriwalji?" Shah asked.
Opposition parties launched a scathing attack on the ruling alliance with Congress president Sonia Gandhi saying that the voice of the “youth and students is being muzzled everyday".
“The horrifying and unprecedented violence unleashed on India’s young by goons with active abetment of the ruling Modi government is deplorable and unacceptable. Every day campuses and colleges are raided across India, either by the police or lumpen elements with the support of the BJP government," Gandhi said.
As political tensions rose, Delhi Police on Monday escalated its presence in the university, locking down all its gates and restricting the movement of outsiders and the media. The university administration met human resource development (HRD) ministry officials amid a growing demand for the resignation of JNU vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar. In a statement, the vice chancellor said, “The origin of the present situation in JNU lies in some agitating students turning violent and obstructing academic activities of a large number of non-protesting students."
Kumar has refused to meet students protesting against a proposed fee hike for more than 45 days now.
An HRD ministry official said requesting anonymity that a team of the JNU administration met ministry authorities and gave an “initial one-page report" on Sunday evening’s incident. “The anger and protests need to abate and that will be the priority of the university," the official said. adding there is no talk of removing the vice chancellor as of now.
Meanwhile, protests broke out across the country on Monday in solidarity with JNU students. as the academic world condemned the violence.
“A university stands for tolerance, dialogue, and agreement to disagree. Violence is anathema to the idea of a university and violates the foundation of a civilization. The incident yesterday on the JNU campus is a very low point in our post independence history," Errol D’Souza, director of IIM Ahmedabad said in a tweet.