2021 January 5th marks the first anniversary of the brutal attack on students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, hardly a month after the attacks that took place in Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. The motive of the attack was to instill fear and vandalise a safe space. Numerous students, including the President of JNUSU Aishe Ghosh and Professor Sucharita Sen, were viciously attacked by the ABVP goons and their allies.
Last winter, the country witnessed massive protests in various parts of the country as well as in many universities. On the one hand where students of JMI and AMU were violently attacked by police and administration in the chilly nights of December, the student wing of RSS, ABVP orchestrated an attack on JNU students who were protesting against the massive fee hike in their university.
I remember things were chaotic from a couple of days prior to the incident, as the numbers of outsiders could be seen gathered at the campus gate and near the bus stand. The members of ABVP had also created tension on the afternoon of 4th January at CIS, aided by the administration and the Cyclops security guards.
In order to restore peace in the campus, there was a call from the JNU Teachers’ Association for a peaceful gathering at Sabarmati T – point. Responding to the call, many of us were gathered there. However, no sooner had the talk ended and the assembly had started dispersing than we saw mob of about 50-60 masked goons, holding rods and sticks running towards us. They were pelting stones at us which created panic among the crowd and everyone ran for their lives, taking cover wherever they could.
I took refuge at one of the rooms in the girl’s wing of Sabarmati hostel, where majority of students were hiding. In a moment of utter desperation, we even hid some of the boys in the girl’s wing. From the room, we could hear the voices of glass shattering, the horrifying shouts of panic and the wailing of students who were stranded outside the hostel and it was their deafening shrieks that propelled us to go out and help our male friends. But, as we were on our way outside, we saw the mob approaching the girl’s wing. No other option in sight, we decided to save the boys inside and formed a human chain to prevent them from entering it. One of the goons aggressively threw a rod to us, which I received at the side of my right eye, and the bleeding started profusely. We waited for more than an hour for ambulance to reach us which stuck at the main gate. The saddest part was that through it all, the JNU administration, security guards and the Delhi Police stood on the sides as mute spectators while the campus was rife with violence. None of them came to help us.
After they had fulfilled their objective of terrorising the students inside, the vandals moved out of the campus, unbothered by the guards or the police. Their brutality and mischiefs continued outside the campus where they obstructed the ambulances from entering the campus and tried to stop any aid from reaching the inflicted people inside. Denying us not just our rights and lives but also treatment.
They even brought a female goon with them, that masked women with a stick in her hand involved in vandalism along with them,which later on recognised as an ABVP activist Komal Sharma, despite having evidence of her involvement in the violence no action has been taken against her till now.
Two days after the attack, we filed police complaints along with our Medicolegal cases (MLC) which never turned into an FIR, neither any police official bothered themselves to come and investigate. The attack was planned and deliberate in nature. It becomes very evident when we see the patterns of attacked rooms, the room of Muslim students and Kashmiri students were particularly the target. Among the goons, some were from our own university while some were later recognised as ABVP members from Delhi University. It is not easy for any outsider to handpicked the rooms of Kashmiri students, without the help of students of university itself. The targets of the attackers become more intelligible when the masked goons entered one of the rooms in Sabarmati and were about to beat the resident, he impetuously showed them a book namely “Hindu Nationalism” by Christophe Jaffrelot. By just seeing the word ‘Hindu’ in the title, they proved their Nationalism and left the room without hitting him.
The administration had a lackadaisical approach to the whole incident, with not even a single proctorial inquiry held against the identified members of ABVP, who were part of the mob. The administration which proved itself incompetent and partial continued doing so still as not uttering a single word on the witch hunt and arbitrary arrests of its own students Sharjeel Imam, Natasha Narwal and Debangana kalita.
I must say I was not surprised by the police and security being indifferent to us. This is what happens in a nation where people are afraid of revolt. JNU and all other universities that have voiced against the power have always been targeted to instill fear among students and force them to be quiet. These incidences are also proof that a student cannot be free or safe even within a campus of education. We came back stronger and more determined to protest and voice against whatever was wronged. We haven’t lost faith in the Constitution upon which the nation stands and will continue to stand.
Mahiya Badr is a student of linguistics at JNU, New Delhi.