New Delhi: After violence in Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday night, students from different universities gathered at Delhi Police headquarters to protest against the incident that left at least 16 students injured.
The protesting students maintained that the members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP) -- the students' wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh -- resorted to violence over the issue of non-veg food consumption on campus during Ram Navami. The students were later taken to Chanakyapuri and Tughlak Road police stations for temporary detention.
Delhi Police has registered an FIR on the complaint of Left student outfits -- Students' Federation of India (SFI), All India Students' Association (AISA), Democratic Students' Federation (DSF) -- and the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) against ‘unnamed’ members of the RSS-backed ABVP under the Sections 323,341, 509,506, 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
Yashita Singhi, a student of Ambedkar University, told NewsClick that the incident frightened her about the fate of other campuses in the national capital.
“I am studying at Ambedkar University, and the episode frightened me to the core that someday a lumpen would come to our tables to dictate what we should eat. It is completely unacceptable to us. I think our right to freedom is being threatened through such incidents," she said.
Aseed Karim Hussain, a student at Delhi School of Economics, told NewsClick that the attack should be seen in the context that a majority of the country's residents are non-vegetarians.
"I hail from a state with a wide variety of non-vegetarian food. We have consumed meat our whole life. I think it is enforcing the upper caste Brahminical order where they intend to force one food and one culture. Our Constitution permits us to consume what we desire. Using brazen violence to silence every opposing voice is not acceptable," he said.
Earlier in the day, the JNUSU, at a press conference, said it had registered a formal complaint with the Delhi Police to seek the arrest of the culprits. Showing his wound, Harendra Sheshma said he was beaten with batons, stones, and wipers while Delhi Police officials remained mute spectators to the violence.
"The members of ABVP chased away the chicken supplier with the excuse of Ram Navami when he came to Kaveri hostel to deliver the supplies. When we suggested that we let them eat vegetarian food first and then non-vegetarian food can be served, this too was denied. Later, they started attacking the students. I, too, was attacked with batons. Their audacity could be gauged from the fact that mess secretary too was attacked. The warden also made it clear that there was no ban on serving the meat," he said.
Sheshma added that on Sunday afternoon, they got information regarding some ABVP men manhandling mess committee members of Kaveri hostel. There were videos purportedly showing them disrupting the functioning of the mess and threatening the members over cooking non-vegetarian food.
"On receiving consistent messages of a tense situation in Kaveri, JNUSU took cognisance of the issue and condemned the physical brutality with which the ABVP goons were reinforcing their communal politics. A call for an all-organisation meeting was given to unitedly stand against these discriminatory tactics. According to usual practice, as decided in hostel General Body Meetings, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items are included in the menu in hostels on particular days. For years, students have been eating meals according to their personal choices, and there has been no problem," he said,
Sheshma, also unit president of SFI, JNU, said:"On the night of April 10, when dinner was to be served, ABVP goons in large numbers gathered in the Kaveri Hostel mess demanding that only vegetarian food be served. When the students resisted against this sheer violation of their Right to Food, ABVP went on to intimidate students and violently attacked them using wood laathis, tubelights, and many other sharp objects. This was followed by targeting activists and severely injuring students. Prabhanshu, Anoop, Alok, Unais and Avijit were also injured. Akhtarista suffered a severe blow to her head when the ABVP goons hit her with a tubelight," he said.
"Not only did they attack the students and activists, they also blocked the gates of the hostel afterward, preventing any student who attempted to escape to save themselves. They were openly terrorising all the students present there, using communal slogans like 'Bharat mei rehna hoga to Jai Shree Ram kehna hoga'. They surrounded the ambulance and were not letting the injured students be taken for medical help. All this happened while both Delhi Police and Cyclops Security were present there”, he said.
He alleged that women students were given rape threats, sexually abused, groped, molested, and beaten while the Delhi Police remained a mute a spectator. “The students made repeated requests to Delhi Police to nab the perpetrators but all in vain," he added.
Akhtarista Ansari, who received stitches on her forehead, said she was hit by a stone inside the hostel. "Many students were injured, and were shifted to AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital. We got the information that the chicken supplier was chased away from Kaveri hostel. The students gathered outside the hostel at 8 p.m where ABVP members were already present. They started attacking the students with stones, rods and batons," she said.
Commenting on the incident, senior officials of JNU administration appealed to the students to maintain peace. "Taking serious note of the incident, the Vice Chancellor, rector and other officials visited the hostel and met the students. The VC conveyed that no violence will be tolerated on campus and appealed to the students to maintain peace and harmony," the JNU Registrar said in an official appeal to the students.
"The students are also warned to refrain from involving in such incidents which disturb the peace and harmony on campus. If anyone is found indulging in such acts, they will be liable for disciplinary action as per university rules," he added.
A press release by the University also clarified there is no bar on serving non-vegetarian food; the student committee runs the mess, and the administration has nothing to do with their menu. It said, "There was a scuffle in the JNU campus on 10th April 2022 between student groups. It was the occasion of Ram Navami and a hawan was organised by the students in Kaveri hostel and there were students who were objecting to this. The wardens and deans of students tried to pacify the students and hawan was concluded peacefully. Despite this, some group of students were not happy with this and soon after at the time of dinner a ruckus was created over there and heated arguments were followed by altercation between both groups of students. The wardens clarified on the spot and issued a notice when the ruckus was going among students that there is no bar on serving non-vegetarian food."
However, the version was vehemently opposed by the members of SFI who claimed that the circular issued by the JNU administration reads more like a piece of propaganda aimed at inciting communalisation inside the campus using falsehood. They alleged that the circular tries to shift the gravity of the issue from the violent attacks on the students protesting against the curtailment of their food choices by the ABVP to an incident (the hawan) that never took place. The allegations of disruption of the hawan organised inside Kaveri hostel by the administration are squarely false, the SFI said.