Hours after this, a large group of masked people armed with iron rods and sledge-hammers entered the campus and attacked students and teachers.
New Delhi: Even as the nation continued to express outrage over the brutal attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University students and faculty by masked goons and police’s inaction, the Delhi Police and at least two Union ministers on Friday tried to put the blame for the violence on the very students who were injured and student bodies affiliated to the Left.
While the police held the JNU Students Union and its president Aishe Ghosh “responsible” for the violence, Union ministers Smriti irani and Prakash Javadekar gave a clean chit to the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and claimed that the “Left groups were behind the violence”.
Reacting to the allegations, Ms Ghosh asked the police to make public their proof against her. “I too have evidence of how I was attacked,” she claimed.
On Friday, the police named Ms Ghosh among nine suspects for the violence at the university last week and released their circled photographs to the media. Naming mostly members of the Left-controlled students’ union, the police gave just a few details of the Sunday’s campus attack.
Focusing on clashes that took place on the campus before Sunday over increased hostel fees, the police named Ms Ghosh, Chunchun Kumar, Pankaj Mishra, Waskar Vijay, Sucheta Talukdar, Priya Ranjan, Dolan Sawant, Yogendra Bhardwaj and Vikas Patel. The last two, Yogendra Bhardwaj and Vikas Patel, are said to be members of the ABVP.
A national news channel, which carried out a sting operation, has nailed the possible assailants who, by their own admission, had engineered the assault on the Left-leaning students with the support of right-wing groups outside. The channel caught one of the main attackers on camera, who confessed that he mobilised the mobs from within and outside the campus.
A first-year student of the French degree program at the JNU, Akshat Awasthi identified himself in the footage of Sunday’s attack as an ABVP activist. JNU’s online records show that one Akshat Awasthi is a resident of Kaveri hostel on campus.
Armed with a stick, his face covered with a helmet, Awasthi showed the video and said he could be seen rushing through the hostel corridors in maddening rage and knocking anything and anyone that came in his way.
“What did you have in your hand?” an undercover reporter asked Awasthi. “It was a stick, sir. I pulled it out from a flag lying near (the) Periyar (hostel).” As the mystery deepened over the identity of the attacker’s organisation, the self-identifying assailant revealed his affiliation and the motive behind the raid.
Awasthi said the attack occurred in retaliation to an assault allegedly by the Left students on Periyar hostel the same day earlier. “It was a reaction to their action,” he said.
Asked how he was able to organise mobs in a matter of hours, Awasthi named office-bearers of the ABVP from outside the campus.
“He’s an organizational secretary of the ABVP. I called him. Left-wing students and teachers were holding a meeting at Sabarmati. When Sabarmati was attacked, they all ran away and took shelter inside,” Awasthi explained.
“You were telling us that 20 of the ABVP activists belonged to the JNU and 20 others were mobilised from outside,” the reporter asked Awasthi. “I can tell you that I did all the mobilisation. They don’t have that much mind. You know you need to act like a superintendent or a commander. Why it’s to be done and where exactly. I guided them about everything — where to hide, where to go. I told them to do everything systematically. I didn’t have any position or a tag. Still they listened to me carefully,” the student claimed.
The student recounted how mobs smashed vehicles and furniture on a street facing the Sabarmati hostel. “All students and teachers standing there ran away when the attack happened. They had no idea that the ABVP would ever retaliate like this.”
Earlier on Friday, deputy commissioner of police (crime branch) Joy Tirkey, who is probing the case, said a majority of the students wanted to register for the winter semester from January 1 to 5, but Left students’ groups were not allowing them to do so. He said that members of Left groups attacked the server room at JNU to stop online registrations and enforce a strike over their protest against the increased fees.
Hours after this, a large group of masked people armed with iron rods and sledge-hammers entered the campus and attacked students and teachers. Ms Ghosh was among those who suffered a head wound, and was bleeding when she was taken to AIIMS Trauma Centre. None of the attackers were stopped or arrested, even though several policemen were outside the campus.
The police admitted that it was facing difficulty in identifying those responsible for the attack on the Sunday and cited the lack of security footage, authenticated video recordings and witnesses.
Ms Ghosh, speaking to the media around the same time as the police, denied any role in the violence and accused the police of blatant bias. She said she had gone to the scene to stop the violence. “I was not wearing any masks, I have done no wrong... I still have my blood soaked clothes,” she said.
Police’s claims were seized by members of the ruling BJP as vindication of their stand. Mr Javadekar said, “Today’s police press conference established that for the last five days the chorus that was created deliberately to blame ABVP, BJP and others wasn’t true. It’s the left organisations that pre-planned the violence, disabled CCTVs and destroyed the server.”
His colleague Ms Irani, a former HRD minister, tweeted, “Left design in JNU unmasked. They led mobs of mayhem, destroyed public property paid for by taxpayers, disallowed new students from being enrolled, used the campus as a political battleground. #LeftBehindJNUViolence becomes public knowledge as Delhi Police releases evidence.”
The two cases against Ms Ghosh and other Left students for the clashes on Friday and Saturday were filed by the police within a span of four minutes on Sunday evening, while she was being taken to hospital bleeding from the attack.
Three professors of JNU have approached the Delhi high court seeking directions to preserve data, CCTV footage and other evidence relating to the January 5 violence at the varsity campus. The petition also sought directions for preservation and retrieval of all material/evidences available with WhatsApp, Google and Apple pertaining to relevant data of WhatsApp groups ‘Unity Against Left’ and ‘Friends of RSS’, including messages, pictures, videos and phone numbers of the members, in connection with the violence at JNU.