New Delhi: Unprecedented violence was seen in the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday as several masked individuals, both male and female, thrashed students, including girls, and teachers inside the campus with wooden and metal rods, injuring many.
While the number of the injured in the various clashes which occurred through the day was not yet known, at least 20 students were admitted to the AIIMS with severe injuries following the evening clash.
They included two office-bearers of the Jawaharal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU), including President Aishe Ghosh - who was reportedly hit over the eye with an iron rod, received severe injuries.
"I have been brutally beaten up by masked people. I don't know who they were," Ghosh said as she broke into tears while blood flowed profusely from her head.
JNUSU General Secretary Satish Chandra was also injured in the attack.
JNUSU Vice President Saket Moon accused the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad of leading the attack, which was bolstered by outsiders.
Hostel rooms, and lobbies, and vehicles standing on the road were vandalised during the assault.
There were terrifying moments for students as the masked men and even women with faces covered, barged into hostels, ransacked rooms and beat up the frightened students.
A girl student recounted those moments in tears: "I was in the room and I heard loud noises and I saw many girls coming. I asked everyone to lock their rooms. We were in terror. While I was trying to take a video clip, they hit me with a stone."
On the other hand, the ABVP blamed Left-affiliated students for earlier attack on its activists that had left several injured.
"Around four to five hundred members of the left wing gathered around the Periyar hostel, vandalised the hostel and forcibly entered the hostel to thrash the ABVP activists inside," ABVP's JNU unit President Durgesh told IANS.
The ABVP claims its presidential candidate Manish Jangid was injured badly and may have suffered a fractured hand after he was assaulted.
According to intelligence reports and students, the genesis of the clashes began in the confrontation between students seeking to stall the semester registration process as part of their agitation against the hostel fees hike and groups opposing them. Members of the earlier group were allegedly behind the disruption of the varsity's Wifi network late on Friday.
The JNU administration summoned the police which deployed in the campus and prohibitory orders were imposed. Four goons were nabbed from the varsity's main North Gate late on Sunday.
Both groups also reached the Vasant Kunj police station late night to file complaints over the violence.
While eyewitnesses maintained that the flare-up could have been averted if the police had taken action on time, Special Commissioner of Police, R.S. Krishnaiah said that the police entered the campus only on the varsity administration's request following the clash.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik to take all necessary action to control the situation in the campus. He also ordered an inquiry.
The violence was condemned by leaders across the political spectrum.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar - both JNU alumni - on Sunday condemned the violence.
"Horrifying images from JNU- the place I know and remember was one for fierce debates and opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today. This government, regardless of what has been said the past few weeks, wants universities to be safe spaces for all students," Sitharaman, who did her MPhil from JNU, said in a tweet.
Jaishankar, who has an MA in Political Science and an MPhil and PhD in International Relations from JNU, also took to Twitter to express his reaction.
"Have seen pictures of what is happening in JNU. Condemn the violence unequivocally. This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university," he tweeted.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who reached the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to meet the injured JNU students, later said, in a tweet, that there was "something deeply sickening about a government that allows and encourages such violence to be inflicted on their own children".
Her brother and former party chief Rahul Gandhi attacked the Central government.
"The brutal attack on JNU students & teachers by masked thugs, that has left many seriously injured, is shocking. The fascists in control of our nation, are afraid of the voices of our brave students. Today's violence in JNU is a reflection of that fear. #SOSJNU," he said, in a tweet.
CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, also a former JNUSU leader, also condemned the violence, and the party's student wing, the Students Federation of India, called for a nationwide protest on Monday.
CPI-M leader Brinda Karat also reached the AIIMS to meet the injured students.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said he was shocked by the violence.
Jamia students reached the Delhi Police HQ at ITO to protest, while the Jadavpur University Teachers' Association called upon all sections of society to condemn the "heinous act".
In Kolkata, Ghosh's "scared" father, said with the current volatile situation, even he could be beaten up any time. Her mother demanded the JNU Vice Chancellor's resignation and affirmed she won't ask her daughter to back out of the protests.
Former Union Human Resource Development Secretary R. Subrahmanyam, who was recently transferred to the Social Justice Ministry allegedly over his position on the JNU students protests against the fee hike, demanded "immediate action against the hooligans".
The BJP also condemned the violence, but called it a "desperate attempt by forces of anarchy" misleading students to achieve their own political goals.
"We strongly condemn the violence on JNU campus. This is a desperate attempt by forces of anarchy, who are determined to use students as cannon fodder, create unrest to shore up their shrinking political footprint. Universities should remain places of learning and education," the party said in a tweet.