There is another, untold, side to the JNU saga
The Left has unleashed terror in the campus for over two months. The ABVP is the victim, not the perpetrator
On January 5, the atmosphere of anarchy prevailing in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for over two months culminated in mob violence. But to understand what happened that day, it is important to dive into recent history and tell a story that has been buried under dominant media narrative.
For over two months, JNU has been under lockdown thanks to the Left parties. The trigger was the university’s decision to increase hostel utility charges to account for a deficit that the University Grants Commission (UGC) refused to fund. The process began in 2016, but the Left-led Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) was not interested in this.
On October 28, 2019, JNUSU members barged into a meeting of the Inter-Hall Administration, and disrupted the proceedings. The JNUSU wasn’t invited as it’s not a notified body this year due to a legal case. Attempts to consult the elected representatives of hostels was blocked by the JNUSU.
When the health of the dean of students deteriorated due to high blood pressure, he was mocked, and an ambulance was not allowed to come in. Later, he and his family were held hostage for hours at the basic health centre. The houses of wardens and provosts were systematically attacked at night, their families were threatened in order to force them to resign from the committee, and sign fake minutes of meeting. Muslim wardens were specifically singled out for communal shaming for working with the “sanghi administration”. Even a pregnant warden and those with small children were not spared. Professors were held hostage in classrooms, and a woman professor was detained for 29 hours. She was abused and her clothes torn. CCTV cameras were broken and masked Left-wing protestors shut down libraries, schools, laboratories and offices. Students and faculty who tried to enter or reason with them were physically stopped and threatened. Even after the ministry of human resource development intervened, and the fee increase was substantially rolled back, nothing changed as protestors moved onto the next demand — the removal of the vice-chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar.
The administrative block was vandalised, and hate graffiti were written on the statue of Vivekananda. The end-semester exams were not allowed to be held. Professors who tried to go ahead with the exams were manhandled, and students were warned of dire consequences. Masked protesters tried to burn answer sheets. On November 16, female security guards at the administration block were beaten. On December 14, a mob attacked Kumar.
There was, then, a united Left call for boycott of registration for the new semester in January.On seeing some students defy them as the online registration route was opened by the university, masked cadre destroyed the server room on January 4. This lead to the first round of skirmishes between the Left and main opposition, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarathi Parishad (ABVP) as its members protested against the vandalism. The same evening, masked Left cadre assaulted non-Left faculty members at the School of Languages. The situation reached a boiling point on January 5, the last day of the registration. With hundreds of students trying to register, the Left resorted to physical threats and intimidation. This set off the second bout of violence with ABVP activists.
Later around 3 pm, more than 150-strong masked Left mob, led by the JNUSU president, allegedly unleashed indiscriminate violence against ABVP members on the campus. Dozens were understoood to be beaten up and hostel rooms were attacked. Bleeding students hid on the rooftops, mess and wherever they could for more than an hour to escape the repeated assault attempts. The campus descended into anarchy. As darkness fell, there was alleged retaliation from the ABVP against the Left cadre. It was only then there was a media outcry. By then, the prime victims of violence were termed goons and those who held the campus hostage for three months became innocent victims.
The media forgot that Left is a hegemonic force in JNU. Its cadre hugely outnumber the ABVP and other non-Left parties. By focusing only on the Left’s version of events, the media is reinforcing this power structure. It’s an act of deliberate oppression. It is the students who support the ABVP, not the Left cadre, who had to flee the campus for safety. Those who escaped are being threatened that their turn is coming soon. Female ABVP members are being abused. Dalit and other marginalised members of ABVP are being socially boycotted and thrown out of the hostel and department WhatsApp groups. There is an atmosphere of fear among common students. Students are removing Diwali decorations with swastikas from doors and walls, fearing that the Left cadre may target their rooms next time. It’s time the media puts aside their prejudices and take a stand that all violence must be condemned.
Abhinav Prakash Singh is an assistant professor at SRCC, Delhi University
The views expressed are personal