Masked Goons in JNU

January 6, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

Students and teachers were attacked on 5th January 2020 in JNU by masked goons armed with sticks, iron rods and stones. The violence is condemnable in the strongest possible terms and is completely unacceptable. The ABVP and Left Groups of JNU are blaming each other for the violence. Reposts in three national newspapers (The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Pioneer) indicate clearly that the goons most probably belonged to ABVP and the police if not in connivance was certainly soft on them. The police can hardly afford to be soft on violence of this scale and intensity without some kind of indication from the government.

If the government and police cannot nab the goons and place credible evidence of their identity and involvement before the nation soon enough then either the state is dangerously incompetent or it is all its own doing. In both the cases India has elected a very bad lot to govern itself. The statements from police that some miscreants were involved, of whose identity they don’t know is not satisfactory. It is not reasonable to assume that the Indian state can not find out who these people were. Therefore, if no one is caught for this act of violence then it would be very reasonable to assume that it was with government and police encouragement.

A government—in case it is true—which can use goons to break protests, be they justified or unjustified, be they peaceful or violent; will spell disaster for the country and can not be tolerated. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to catch the culprits if it wants to absolve itself of the charges levelled at it.

The second point in this episode is something that did not attract much attention. The Pioneer notes that “[M]inor clashes were reported on Friday when in an attempt to restrict students from getting registered for new semester, some students allegedly barged into the room used to provide power to Wi-Fi connection to entire campus and shut it down. The protesting students claimed that stopping the registration process was essential as the registration was being done as per hiked fee structure.” The registrar also claims in his press note: “From 1 January 2020, the Winter semester registration was going on smoothly. However, on 3rd January, a group of students opposing the registration process entered the Communication and Information Services (CIS) premises, covering their faces with masks and forcibly evicted the technical staff and made the servers disfunctional. This led to the discontinuation of the registration process on 3rd January. A police complaint was filed immediately identifying the students. However, on 4th January morning, the technical staff again made the CIS functional. Immediately, thousands of students started registering by paying the new hostel room rent. A group of students who are bent upon stopping the registration process, again entered the CIS premises with a criminal intent to make the servers disfunclional. They damaged the power supplies, broke the optical fibres and made the servers disfunctional again on 4th January around 1 PM disrupting the registration process. A police complaint was again filed against the miscreants. For the past few days, the group of agitating students also closed the buildings of some Schools preventing the non-agitating students, staff and the faculty members. On 5th January, when the students who have registered in the winter semester wanted to enter these school buildings, they were physically prevented by the agitating students. Since the 5th January afternoon, the campus has witnessed scuffles at the Schools as well as inside the hostel premises between the groups of students who wanted to stop the registration and those who wanted to register and continue their studies. Around 4.30 PM, a group of students, who are against the registration process moved aggressively from the front of the admin block and reached the hostels. The administration immediatedly contacted the Police to come quickly and maintain law and order on the campus. However, by the time police came, the students who are for the registration were beaten up by a group of agitating students opposting the registration. Some masked miscreants also entered the Periyar hostel rooms and attacked the students with sticks and rods. Some of the security guards doing duties at these places were also badly injured. During the last couple of weeks, these agitating students also vandalized the admin block and ransacked the office of the Vice Chancellor for which a few police complaints were filed. It is unfortunate that a group of students with their violent means of protests are preventing thousands of non-agitating students from pursuing their academic activities.”

If what The Pioneer and the JNU Registrar write be true then the acts of agitating students are also seriously condemnable. They certainly have the right to agitate and not to register for next semester at hiked fees; but have no right to forcibly stop those who want to pay the fee and want to register. Agitations and protests are to communicate their dissatisfaction and reasons thereof to the government and the larger public. Through these means one wants to persuade and convince others; it is not a license to force others to do what protesters want. Therefore, forcibly stopping others is not acceptable. How ever this unacceptable act of protesting students—in case it is true—does not justify the attack on them.

Another point in this episode is the statements of political leaders. Particularly Rahul Gandhi and D Raja. They are absolutely right in condemning the act of violence and also in suspecting the police and the government connivance in this. But they said not a word about the condemnable behaviour of agitating students in vandalising the communication system and forcibly stopping other students from registering. One may argue that they did not believe that the agitating students indulged in aforementioned acts. In that case they should at least have denied such false allegation coming from the registrar.

The language Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Mr. D. Raja use is completely non-communicative to the large sections of Indian public and is completely stultified. If they want to defeat BJP by their slogan of fascism then they will have to wait for 50 years. Their stock characterisation of anything wrong happening which they want to blame on the government is “fascism”. How many Indians who may read their statements are likely to understand what they are saying? How many of their own followers can actually distinguish Fascism from Communism (which have so much in common) and Fascism from Indira Gandhi’s congress? To me their pronouncements seem completely worn out clichés. In comparison Prinyanka Gandhi Wadra seems to be learning a language which may be able to communicate some meaning to people someday.

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6th January 2020