Updated: May 12, 2020
One of India’s most prestigious universities is half-empty. Students on campus track each other on their cellphones to ensure that their classmates are safe as violent clashes spill onto campuses, which are hotbeds of antigovernment protests. In recent weeks, there has been a rise in extremist violence in India’s university. As we reported last week, at least 40 students and staff of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were admitted to hospital with injuries after a group entered Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, shouting ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist slogans while beating students, smashing windows, and destroying property.
Activists and students shout slogans as they participate in a protest against the alleged violence on JNU students Sunday evening, during a rally from Hutatma Chowk to Gateway of India, in Mumbai, Monday, January 6, 2020. (PTI photo)
For the past couple of months, Indian cities have been rocked by demonstrations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new citizenship law that some say discriminates against Muslims. Protests have been in and around universities, and some students now fear for their safety following clashes with police and unidentified mobs.
“I don’t think I can ever feel completely safe, either in the girls’ hostel or on campus,” said Nayla Khwaja, a student at New Delhi’s renowned Jamia Millia Islamia university.
Students say they are concerned about further attacks, which they blame on right-wing groups tied to the ruling Hindu nationalists. Last month, police smashed their way into the institution, firing tear gas shells as scores of terrified students barricaded doors and hid inside bathrooms.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the brutal attacks on JNU students. There has recently 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.