After a tense night of violence, hospitalisations and multiple police reports, Jawaharlal Nehru University’s hostel wardens have released a statement announcing new security measures for the campus.
Effective immediately and for an indefinite period, “public gatherings in and around hostel is strictly prohibited.” The notice also says, “Only JNU students with valid ID card will be allowed to enter till 10:00 pm. No other hostel students will be allowed after 10:00 pm.” Students will have to produce valid identity cards to get food coupons, and “no food coupons will be given to outsiders.” The notice also adds that Chandrabhaga canteen (Shiv’s dhaba) will be closed for a few days.
These actions come hours after newly elected JNU student union president N. Sai Balaji, accompanied by students and teachers, filed a police report against ABVP members for attacking JNU students with lathis, rods and glass bottles late on Sunday night.
There’s been mayhem on JNU’s campus since the counting of votes for its student union election started on September 14. First the counting process was disrupted by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the RSS, breaking through a glass door to be let into the vote counting room and roughing up other students.
Then, hours after the Left Unity alliance won the four top spots in the student union, students started reporting brutal attacks by members of the ABVP, which lost the election.
Late on Sunday night, September 16, students at JNU’s Ganga Dhabha posted on Facebook, saying ABVP “goons abused and attacked former JNUSU President Geeta Kumari.” Reports of students being beaten with sticks and stones elsewhere on campus, like the Mahi Mandavi and Jhelum hostels also started emerging around the same time.
At 7am today, September 17, Balaji released a statement describing an ABVP mob’s actions at Sutlej hostel. According to Balaji, ABVP members were looking for a student named Pawan Meena. He said, “The mob led by Saurabh Sharma was baiting for blood of any student” they thought was Meena’s friend and attacking people with sticks.
Balaji added that the group “openly threatened me, Geeta and other students present there with dire consequences if we intervened to stop the violence.” So far, four people have been hospitalised for injuries from being beaten up. Including Pawan Koushik and Ashutosh Abhinay, who was knocked unconscious from the beating he received and taken to get medical aid.
This morning, JNU student Shreya Ghosh posted regular updates from Sutlej, describing the panic as students inside the hostel wondered what to do. She wrote, “People inside satluej are scared to come out. After reassurances that there are about 100 students (non-abvp) around and things are not very bad, they begin coming out and assembling to move towards north gate.” Several hours later, she posted saying more and more students seemed to be leaving their hostels and assembling at the Mahi Mandavi hostel’s lawns.
Meanwhile, Balaji’s first attempt to lodge a police complaint went poorly. In his statement, he said: “I was again threatened by the mob and fearing my safety some students asked me to sit inside the PCR vehicle. However the mob led by Ashutosh Mishra and Saurab Sharma stopped the PCR vehicle and got a ABVP student to sit beside me. These two students were repeatedly stopping the PCR and threatening me. To my surprise Saurabh Sharma stopped the PCR between Jhelum and Sutlej and the ABVP student sitting inside the PCR van opened the door. Upon opening more threats were given to me and I was physically assualted inside the PCR van by ABVP students outside.”
“I was shocked and fearing my safety I asked the PCR to take me to Vasant kunj PS. My health deteriorated and I came back to my hostel to take medication. Now I will be going to PS to lodge the complaint.”
Eventually, he managed to lodge a complaint while ABVP members with lathis and rods crowded outside the station, threatening to “finish” him when he stepped out.
ABVP members are contesting this narrative, saying that they were the ones being attacked. “Just a while ago, three JNU students affiliated to ABVP were attacked by the criminals hiding as champions of Communist ideology. Around 15-20 Left workers, including non-students individuals, attacked in a targeted way. They were led by the outgoing JNUSU president Geeta Kumari and her close friend Ankit Singh. They entered Sujal Yadav’s room, punched him and hit him with sticks. The left party workers had already fractured his hand yesterday. He has been attacked for the second time in 30 hours,” Indian Express quoted Monika Chaudhary, ABVP national media convenor, as saying.
As the situation continues to remain tense, students are planning a peace march from chandrabhaga to Ganga at 5 pm today.