(This article was first published on 6 January 2020 and is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark one year of the mob attack on JNU's campus.)
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
“We were three of us, we used all our might and strength against the door. We had to keep the door from opening or we would be killed. For the entire 30 minutes, I kept thinking the door would break open now, the door would break open now... my heart was pounding. I could hear it. I want to go out but I am unable to step away from my room.”
This is what Rehman Mirza, who is doing his Masters in Pashtun from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Quint on the night of Sunday, 5 January, as the students suffered a violent attack by a masked mob on campus.
Standing amidst broken glass and stones, while getting numerous frantic calls from home, Mirza said, “My family is insisting I go to a relative’s house in Okhla. I am scared to step out but. I do not know how I will get there.”
“I heard those goons even manhandled Yogendra Yadav. If that can happen with him. Then I am a nobody,” he added, not knowing what to do to keep himself safe.
The violence started when a masked mob of around 100 people, carrying rods, sticks and stones, stormed into the campus and attacked the students and teachers who were conducting a meeting at Sabarmati dhaba in JNU. The mob allegedly consisted of right wing groups, primarily ABVP students, many of whom could not be recognised as those from the campus, students said.
The Fee-Hike Issue: Meeting Was Called to Ensure Peace in JNU
Over the last couple of days, JNU had been tense, primarily due to the ongoing fee hike issue. 5 January was the last date for registration for the new semester and a number of fights had broken out between left wing and right wing students.
While the left has been fighting for a roll-back of the fee hike the right wing is supporting the administration and encouraging students to sign up.
It was in this charged atmosphere that a meeting was called by the JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association) on the evening of 5 January, in order to maintain peace in the university. Ironically, it was stormed by goons.
“Sabarmati was a peaceful congregation of teachers and students. They decided to attack the very students who were calling for peace in campus. The professors were mercilessly beaten up with rods and sticks. I saw students run with terror in their eyes,” an eyewitness and JNU student told The Quint, requesting to remain anonymous.
Those at the Sabarmati dhaba were beaten up mercilessly. In shock, students ran to their hostels and mess to take cover. However, the mob reached there as well. At Sabarmati hostel, several rooms, including that of Mirza, were vandalised by the masked attackers.
‘Rooms of ABVP Students Barely Touched’
“Activists, leftists and Muslims have been targeted. There are some rooms that haven’t been touched or barely touched, they belong to the ABVP people or their friends,” Mirza told The Quint, pointing towards two rooms on his immediate left, which did not seem to have been vandalised. In another room in Mirza’s corridor, we met Jashan, Bharat and Jaya.
Similarly, on the first floor, the rooms of those in or affiliated to the ABVP were not vandalised, the students said.
‘Students Had to Jump Off Balconies, Now Admitted in AIIMS’
While some students were able to close the door and keep the mob out, not everyone could keep safe.
One room at Sabarmati hostel was vandalised most brutally. However, when the goons were finally able to break into it, they found it empty. A student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Quint, “During the time they were breaking the glass of our windows, two of my friends jumped down from the balcony.”
But, while these students did escape the rioters, they fall from the balcony ended up injuring them. “One of them has a fracture in his hand and another has hurt his lower back very acutely. They are both in AIIMS,” the student added.
A fire extinguisher was sprayed across this room, which saw the most damage of all. Even flower pots from the corridor were brought inside and broken there.
However, three rooms adjacent to it remained completely untouched by the violent mob. Some students said these rooms belonged to those affiliated with the ABVP.
‘Chants of Vande Mataram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai Grew Louder and Louder’
Present at the JNUTA meeting were Richa* and Seema*, both pursuing their Masters at the university. Standing right next to the professors, they saw around 100 people coming towards them.
“One of the professors said that we should make a human chain so that the goons do not pass us,” Seema said.
As they tried to form a chain, Richa saw a stone being hurled in their direction; it hit a girl hard in the head. Richa said:
“The chants of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai were growing louder and louder.”
Both of them ran for their lives.
While many ran to the boys wing, situated at the left side of Sabarmati, others ran to the right, towards the girls wing. Some students also hid in the mess of the hostel.
“I was one of the first ones to run towards the mess. I was so scared. We begged the mess warden to allow us to hide here. Ten of us, guys and girls, were here for about an hour,” Richa said.
Shocked and traumatised, most students want to get away from the campus for now.
Jashan’s parents, in West Bengal, were extremely worried for their child. His room’s window was broken by the mob, and replaced with a thick wooden slab. Shoes that were thrown inside, were still lying there.
Saying that all of them were now planning to go home, Jaya recounted:
“For half-an-hour, I sat on that floor and cried and screamed. For half-an-hour, they banged the door. They abused us. I can not believe this is what they have done. I am still in shock.”
“Security is the first thing that matters,” Jashan said as he tried to comfort Jaya.
Contrary to allegations that the ABVP orchestrated this attack by calling people from outside campus and ensuring they got entry, ABVP Secretary Manish Jangid blamed the students from leftist parties for the violence. “The ABVP members and students are being intimidated since 4 January by these students. They hit us with stones and glass. No one is listening to us,” Jangid claimed.