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Thursday, January 21, 2021

‘One year passed, no arrests made’: JNU students recall vicious attacks by masked goons

One year after the brutal attack, professors and students are still waiting for the authorities to take action against the perpetrators.

On the night of January 5, 2020, Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was in tatters. All that were visible to the eyes were shards of glasses from broken windows, ransacked rooms and injured people. It was a night of horror. As students ran, masked goons chased them around the JNU campus. 

Across the campus, a sense of fear and uncertainty reigned after a mob of violent, ruthless masked goons on the JNU campus created a warlike situation, storming into hostels and brutally beating up students and teachers. 

One year after the brutal attack, professors and students are still waiting for the authorities to take action against the perpetrators.

Recalling the horror, Sayam, a student at the center for informal sector and labour studies tells Platocast: “I was at the Sabarmati T point at the JNUTA’s (Teacher’s Association)  peace gathering when the word had arrived of some masked goons coming towards Sabarmati. Immediately the lights went off and they approached the students and teachers with rods, lathis, etc.”

“Comrade Aishe kept saying, “don’t get scared, we will not let them scare us” and she stood by her word and did not move an inch back. That’s when she got injured. Our professors tried to form a human chain in order to protect their students and were brutally attacked” he added. “Prof. Sucharita Sen was horribly injured among others. Everyone tried to take refuge immediately to the nearest Sabarmati hostel where the students were attacked next. This is where the infamous images and videos of Komal Sharma and her team threatening students come from. But the students of Sabarmati, particularly the female students and the staff stood strong and resisted the goons with their sheer will. 

Sayam says that in Sabarmati, students were particularly targeted for their religion, where they came from, their political inclinations. Even students from the blind community were not spared, he adds.

“While all this was going on, our admin and VC were not reachable, the police stood outside the main gate while the violence was unleashed inside the campus,” Sayam says. “All these, and the very apparent involvement of the ABVP (rss’s student wing) , the silence from the VC to this day, clearly suggest a very planned violent attack on JNU.”

The January 5 attacks triggered massive outrage across the country Soon after, there were demands that the JNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar be removed from his position. Across the nation, various educational institutions demanded justice for the survivors.

“ I was at the t point at the time of the attack. We were having tea at sabarmati dhaba when there was stone pelting. Some students started running and I didn’t know what was happening,” recalls Anjana, 23, MA Labour Studies. “A set of us were asking students to not run and then we saw a masked mob run towards us and I ran to Tapti. Then I got a call from my classmate who got beaten up and some of us walked back to t-point. We saw Aishe bleeding and I got in the ambulance with her. On the way, the mob tried to attack the ambulance near Periyar. At the gate police refused to let us out, and we had to take a detour.”

Narrating her experience, Preeti Umarao, PhD scholar final year, Councillor JNUSU from School of Life Sciences, says: “There was no time to react and we all ran in various directions to protect ourselves from stones being pelted. I ran towards the Sabarmati hostel and closed the glass door. In a fraction of second, the glass of the door was broken and a stone hit my thigh. I still managed to run towards the girls wing and  make a video of which was circulated widely in the news. Later on that video, ABVP Activist Komal Sharma was identified.”

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“I will never forget the scene when I came out of the hostel and saw Aishe bleeding from head and others in fear. I was in pain for several days because of swelling and bruises where a stone hit my right leg,” she adds.

The role of the Delhi Police came under the scanner as several students accused them of inaction. Further, the police were criticised for naming student union leaders in FIRs related to vandalism on the campus.

“It is not just police inaction but police collusion. The attacks took place through a nexus between the JNU Administration, ABVP and Delhi police. The security at Sabarmati hostel had disappeared well before the attack, the ABVP goons were allowed to enter through gates and the lights at the t-point where the pace gathering took place were switched off five minutes before,” says Vasudev, MA 2nd Year, CISLS, JNU. 

“At the gates, Delhi police didn’t respond to multiple distress messages and calls from JNUSU office bearers and other students. In fact what they did was to seal the main gate after the ABVP goons had already entered and begun their attack, thereby trapping the students of JNU inside. In fact the first person the Delhi Police named after the incident was JNUSU President Aishe, who herself had been the victim of attempted murder. So it was all a pre-planned nexus,” he adds.

Delhi Police has not been able to name any group of masked goons for the brutal JNU attack and based on the preliminary findings in the probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), they released pictures of the nine suspects. 

“The nexus of admin, police and the state is what we see in the lack of arrests in the case, and the lack of justice. Students still don’t feel safe on their own campus because of this and the trauma, both physical and mental, is raw even today,” Anjana says.

According to the police, the violence took place due to the online registration process and that students in the university were agitated since January 1.

“Before JNU, other universities were also attacked. So it was not an isolated event but one of the series of attacks on places of higher education to tame us, force us into silence. It is these universities where student and youth movements take place. JNU has been a space for critical engagement, of debate and dissent. But in the past couple of years there has been a constant effort to malign, which was violently manifested through the attack of January 5,” says Sayam.

A year after the vicious attacks, the police have failed to file a charge sheet or make any arrests in connection with the violence. The masked goons who ransacked JNU still walk free.

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