Millennium Post

Ground Zero

The unprecedented escalation at JNU must be matched with an equivalent remedy

Ground Zero

Sunday night turned out to be complete mayhem in the National Capital as word of violence spiralled out of Jawahar Lal Nehru University. Social media went frenzy with reports of violence perpetrated by a masked mob of 30-50 members that entered the JNU campus late evening. Armed with sticks and iron rods and hurling stones, these masked perpetrators vandalised the campus hostels, brutally assaulting students as well as teachers. Visuals from inside the campus send shivers down the spine as bleeding students gave an account of the grim situation. 22 students and teachers were reportedly admitted in AIIMS with some having sustained serious head injuries including JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh — whose video is one of the most accurate accounts of the divisive environment created by masked attackers. Multiple eye-witnesses corroborated the invasion by a masked mob that somehow managed to enter the JNU campus which is supposedly secure; no person without an ID or valid reason is permitted beyond the gate.

First, in a string of strange events, is perhaps the very entry of a masked mob inside the campus following which the gates were locked. Secondly, the presence of Delhi Police equipped in riot-gear standing right outside the premises — as close as 50 yards from the gate — spectating the horrific attack in complete glory. Their barricades served to prevent bystanders and outsiders from rushing in to counter the mob rather than impeding the masked goons from evading. While the mob wreaked havoc inside the campus, a large crowd of right-wing supporters gathered at the main gate chanting incriminating slogans. The crowd even attacked journalists and medical units who rushed to report and provide medical assistance respectively. Thirdly, the street lights went dark, grossly aiding perpetrators of such violence in their absolutely condemnable crusade. Despite widespread social media reports and videos as well as images corroborating the incident to be engineered by RSS' student wing, ABVP, the latter firmly denied any such claim and instead put the blame on leftist students and organisation for spreading chaos and disorder.

Law and order took a backseat on Sunday evening with Delhi Police standing guard in close proximity as the masked group terrorised the campus. Not only did they infiltrated the campus but they also entered girls' hostel, creating chaos and rampaging across the area. The entire episode sparked a furore on Twitter wherein #JNUViolence began trending. People from different walk of lives poured in their criticism of Delhi Police as well as condemnation for the perpetrators, demanding an outright investigation and expedited justice. Twitter saw a polarising effect with #LeftAttacksJNU also trending as ABVP and its associates took to the social media platform to present their version of the horrifying incident. Strangely, those covered in blood accused the right-wing ABVP for the violence while others harped on their agenda to shift the blame on left organisations. While CCTV footages will bring clarity to this, the entire episode has one major conclusion echoing around student blocs as well as critics — resignation of JNU Vice-Chancellor, Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar. Without picking sides, a neutral eye to the entire incident only brings up one argument — VC's responsibility to the University. JNU Students' Union has demanded resignation from their VC for his administrative failure. "This Vice-Chancellor is a cowardly Vice-Chancellor who introduces illegal policies through the backdoor, runs away from the questions of students or teachers and then manufactures a situation to demonize JNU", read the statement from the student body. In a complete reversal of the entire reported story, VC Kumar himself blamed some agitating students for Sunday's horrific attack on JNU students and teachers. While who perpetrated the violence will be resolved through investigation, it remains clear that VC has failed to deliver on his duty as the administrative head of India's most reputed university. Not only did a masked group entered the campus but they also defaced JNU property. And, all of this happened without any word from VC or any step to curb it. The Students' Union has outrightly accused VC Jagadesh Kumar of "using henchmen to perpetrate violence on students and vandalise the university", and accordingly demanded either his resignation or MHRD's removal of him.

Instead of serving as a parent-figure to the students in a temple of education, as we like to embrace universities, VC Jagadesh Kumar served, not only by his absence during the attack but also through his equally irresponsible statement which is completely bereft of facts and carries an utterly callous undertone. Irrespective of the ideological clashes that have been the flavour of JNU debates and notwithstanding the fact how JNU has been a hub of youth politics for decades, never has violence of such scale manifested within the campus. What happened on Sunday evening in JNU cannot be ignored and the situation calls for an expedited investigation to be pioneered preferably by the Supreme Court; Delhi Police's stance during JNU violence does not garner them enough credibility to apprehend the true perpetrators. What kind of police stands and watches while the country's eminent university is marauded by masked goons in the national capital and that too 20 minutes from the Prime Minister's residence? There is not an iota of doubt that such an escalation is the height of lawlessness prevailing under the nose of the Delhi Police. The JNU Teachers' Association has written to the President of India — who is a visitor of the varsity — demanding VC Jagadesh Kumar's removal citing how the mob's entry into the campus was not possible without connivance from the administration. And, this really is the outstanding argument. If we can't secure our educational institutes, keeping them free of nefarious machinations and political agenda, then we are failing as a welfare society.

What must be understood from Sunday's horrific proceeding is that if such a masked mob can enter a varsity like JNU to spread violence without any hindrance, there is no real safe-place for students. Crushing young voices through brute force as seen in the JNU episode is a very terrible development. Delhi Police's silence is appalling and no word from VC for hours around the attack makes both of them complicit in the dreadful act. Such an escalation — campus rampage — deserves an equivalent remedy — VC's resignation. It is indeed sad to note that dissent — one of the features of democracy — has been the victim in recent times and the trend does not augur well for the country. If conforming with the majoritarian agenda without any dissenting voice is what new India is all about, it must be painfully admitted that the country has taken a wrong turn in its progress as an egalitarian society.

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