Attack at elite India university injures at least 23 Demonstrators shout slogans outside the Delhi Police Headquarters to protest following alleged clashes between student groups at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi on January 5, 2020. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
At least 23 people were hurt at a prestigious Indian university on Sunday (5) in what police said were clashes between rival student groups but which an opposition politician blamed on a student organisation linked to prime minister Narendra Modi.
Unverified videos on social media appeared to show a group of several masked attackers roaming the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in New Delhi wielding batons as students screamed.
“Today evening, two groups clashed with each other and some students are injured,” a senior Delhi police officer told journalists.
“The university administration has requested the police to enter (the campus),” the officer said, adding, “things are under control right now.”
Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, called the attack a “collusion” between the JNU administration and “goons” of a student group linked to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It is a planned attack by those in power, which is afraid of the resistance provided by JNU,” Yechury said.
An official at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi said that most of the injured at the hospital were undergoing treatment for “lacerations, cuts and bruises.”
“The brutal attack on JNU students & teachers by masked thugs, that has left many seriously injured, is shocking,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, a leading politician of the main opposition Congress party.
The incident is the latest in a series of violent clashes that have killed at least two dozen people amid protests over a controversial new citizenship law Modi’s government passed in December.
The law allows New Delhi to grant expedited citizenship to minorities from three neighbouring Islamic countries who entered India by December 31, 2014, but critics say it marginalises Muslims in the country as part of Modi’s larger Hindu nationalist agenda.
The Delhi police last fought street battles with JNU students in November after protests broke out over fee increases at the top university.
JNU student organisations dominated by leftists have since been holding protests demanding a rollback of the fee increase while facing accusations of obstructing administration officials.
Many linked the Sunday clash to simmering tensions since the fee hike, while others criticised police and the university administration for failing to protect students from masked attackers on campus.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called on police to “immediately stop violence and restore peace.”
“How will the country progress if our students will not be safe inside (the university) campus?” he asked in a tweet.
The prestigious university counts top Indian politicians including Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and this year’s Nobel economics prize winner Abhijit Banerjee amongst its alumni.
Jaishankar took to Twitter to condemn the violence, saying, “This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university.”