NEW DELHI: A pall of terror and fear prevails in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. What was a normal day for students and the faculty became a nightmare on Sunday. It was not the same ‘safe space’, after about a 100-strong mob entered the campus, breaking and hitting everything that came their way. Students described that neither them, their teachers, cars, motorcycles and other property were spared.

In this chaos, the only thing saving Mirza from being battered was the door to his room in the Sabarmati hostel, which was the worst hit area in the violence. “Darwaza nahi tutta, bas jaan Bach gayi (my life was saved because the door didn’t break),” he said.

Mirza claims that the mob had reached the hostel soon after he finished his namaz with two other people in his room at around 6.45 pm. He had gone out of the room to fill water in a bottle. That was when his friends came running to him, informing him that the mob was inside. He dropped the half empty bottle, rushed inside his room and locked it. He and the others placed their backs against the door, preventing the mob from breaking in. “They had called out my name… I feel I was targeted because I am a Muslim,” he said. He and other students claim that the mob knew exactly who to target and were well aware of the places to hit. “They had insider information. They were naming and identifying people before beating them with rods,” a student said.

The most badly hit room was on the first floor of the hostel’s boys wing. Students claim the reason was because a Kashmiri student lived there. The room which was locked from the outside had a fire extinguisher inside as the mob had sprayed the contents on the floor, a makeshift bed and clothes on a hanger. The inside doorway was filled with wet mud and shoe marks were visible on them.

The first floor was also the place from where some students jumped to the ground to save themselves from the ‘menacing’ mob, according to people there. “A student broke his back doing that,” Mirza said.

The mob didn’t even spare the women’s wing of the hostel. It went on a rampage, damaging property, a female student said. An ex JNU student said that she received audio recordings from her female friends present on the campus when the violence broke out. One such recording was of a woman claiming she is hiding from the mob and is begging for help, while breaking out in sobs.

Women, however, were not spared by the mob. Aishe Ghosh, the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) President, after being discharged from the hospital with head and hand injuries, described how she got them. “My friend and I were surrounded by 30 boys. The first swing of the iron rod hit me. I shouted at them to not hit. But they kept hitting us on our heads. They also punched and beat us with hammers several times. They were shouting kill them. But some people identified us and said don’t hit them anymore,” she said.

Around this time at about 7 pm, Professor Shukla Sawant and other women faculty members tried to maintain peace, asking the unruly mob to stop hitting people. The professors created a human chain to stop the mob from moving forward. But stones were pelted at them, she claimed. Shukla was hit with a rod as well.

The attack on the students and teachers by the mob broke out near the Sabarmati hostel, after they first vandalised the Periyar hostel. Thereafter, the mob damaged cars and motorcycles before heading to attack other hostels- Sabarmati and Tapti. Students and teachers alleged that the RSS’s student wing, ABVP, and some faculty members identified students and indulged in the violence. ABVP, however, claimed that the violence was incited by the Left wing organisations and several of their own members have been injured.

Meanwhile, students and teachers added that neither the police nor the university security intervened to stop the beating. The police, however, claim they had intervened to control the situation. Ghosh called for the resignation of the JNU Vice Chancellor, M. Jagadesh Kumar, with students claiming that the violence, which left over 30 students and faculty members injured, could not have broken out without the ‘complicity’ of the administration. The situation has been tense since Saturday when violence started between the ABVP and Left, following the latter not allowing students’ registration for the next academic semester. The Left and most students are demanding the roll back of the fee hike before the start of the next semester. But, the left dominated JNUSU has made it clear that it will not respond with violence to violence. “Every iron rod will be given back with debate and the democratic culture of JNU,” Ghosh said.

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