On Sunday, January 5, 2019, dozens of masked men wielding sticks and iron rods attacked students and professors at one of India’s most prestigious universities. At least 40 students and staff of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were admitted to hospital with injuries.
According to the Washington Post, ten eyewitnesses said the group entered Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi shouting ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist slogans while beating students, smashing windows, and destroying property.
Students said the masked attackers included members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, or ABVP, the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The JNU has long been associated with left-wing activism, and some students have blamed Sunday’s violence on a right-wing student body linked to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). That group denies involvement and says left-wing activists were responsible.
Police say they have identified some of the assailants. However, many protesters accused police of being slow to respond to the attack.
Hindu Raksha Dal, a far-right group, has claimed responsibility for the brutal assault on teachers and students. This admission comes at a time when a video, which has now gone viral, shows ABVP’s Delhi Joint Secretary, Anima Sonkar, admitting on television that the two armed men seen in videos carrying rods on the JNU campus are from the RSS linked student union. Tomar, popularly known as Pinki Bhaiya, said he and his right wing group take full responsibility for the attack.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the brutal attacks on JNU students. Recently, there has been a rise in such extremist violence in India, including a series of attacks on bloggers and intellectuals who have been critical of the government. Students, professors, and academics have been increasingly targeted in violent attacks—an unacceptable trend that hurts the future of societies at large. Universities, as symbols of freedom, empowerment, and peace, are attacked for the values they promote, values that stand in strong contrast with the extremist ideology now dominant in India.