Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri arrived at the main gate of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) soon after reports of ‘masked goons’ attacking students and faculty members emerged. This is their recounting of the events that occurred after they reached the gate at 8:45 pm on Sunday, until 12:30 am, when they left.
We went through the DDA Munirka flats complex to get to JNU. The gates of the colony were locked towards the JNU side. At the gate, we saw four-five young men, with lathis, on two-three bikes.
Two ambulances also came through Munirka. When the colony’s gates were opened to let them through, we also exited on foot. All street lights from the Munirka DDA gate till beyond the JNU gate on Baba Ganganath Marg were switched off. It was pitch dark.
Outside the gate, a huge crowd was raising anti-JNU slogans, saying ‘Desh ke gadarron ko, goli maro salon ko (Shoot the traitors of the country)’; ‘Urban Naxal wapis jao and desh chorho (Urban Naxals go back, leave the country)’. The crowd must have been at least 500-600 strong, and several had masked their faces. There was large deployment of police outside JNU. As we were taking some photos and videos, people started shouting at us.
Around 9- 9:15 pm, an ambulance came from Vasant Kunj side with the sirens on. As the ambulance tried to turn right towards the gate, the crowd surrounded it and started banging on it. They banged their fists on the bonnet and kept shouting at the medical personnel inside, even as they were holding up their ID cards to show that they were doctors and medical staff. The crowd broke the glass of the ambulance, hurled abuses and threatened anyone trying to record a video of the attack. They forced the ambulance to turn around. It made a U-turn and exited towards Vasant Kunj.
Our team of doctors, nurses & medical volunteers who reached JNU to give first aid to injured students & teachers, was attacked by hundreds of goons. Mob manhandled doctors, nurses & threatened them. Our ambulance’s glass & windows broken, this is totally inhuman & insane. pic.twitter.com/IOiu7BHVbG
— Harjit Singh Bhatti (@DrHarjitBhatti) January 5, 2020
Shortly after that, we saw Yogendra Yadav addressing the media outside the gate and he was being heckled and shouted at. Suddenly he was pulled down and disappeared from view. We tried to make our way through the crowd to get to him (we were on the other side) but it was impossible. It appeared like he was dragged to the left and towards the divider (towards Munirka).
Tonight I was assaulted thrice.
1st: APX 9:30 pm.
while speaking to JNU teachers, a police inspector (no nameplate) dragged me and ABVP/RSS group (incl Prof Mishra, Sanskrit Dept) pushed me,pulled my muffler. I fell down, minor injury. Police contd to push me out after I got up.
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) January 5, 2020
It is important to note that even though police personnel were present in large numbers, they did not intervene to prevent the attack on the ambulance or on Yogendra Yadav. It continued to be pitch dark through all of this.
Around 10:30 pm, CPI leader D. Raja and Annie Raja arrived. Shortly after that, a crowd gathered and started aggressively shouting slogans against all of us. Yogendra Yadav was heckled and pushed away again. D. Raja, Annie Raja, Rakhi Sehgal and the two of us were cornered by the crowd, which kept shouting ‘Urban Naxal go back, wapas jao, wapas jao‘ ‘desh chorro‘, ‘jhootha, jhootha (lies, lies)’ etc.
ABVP students and a masked mob heckling D.Raja and other leaders calling them ‘Afzal Ki Aulaad’. Not once did the cops standing in mute mode break their silence. pic.twitter.com/fyXzQVcWOP
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) January 5, 2020
Some people within the crowd covered their faces and started shoving, pushing and twisting the arms of women and students who had reached the spot. The aggressors claimed to be students, but they could not name the school/centre they were studying at the university. Some were smelling strongly of alcohol. At several points, they pushed and almost caused a stampede. The most aggressive of the lot was a young man in a white sweatshirt with a blue cap. In the commotion, one young man fell and broke his glasses.
Several people pleaded with the police to come and help as we were cornered, but no police persons came to the spot. Finally, some students and those who had come out in solidarity managed to get between the aggressive crowd and us and took us closer to the main gate. At this stage, police in riot gear also appeared.
We saw the police open the pedestrian side of the JNU main gate and some men, with helmets or faces covered, exited the campus.
Around 11:15 pm, the street lights were finally turned on. At some distance, behind us, opposite the main gate (on the far side of the road) we could see 60-70 people were gathered. One of them had a walkie talkie (they were not dressed in police or security personnel uniform). After some discussion, they all dispersed.
When the lights came on, the aggressive crowd had dispersed and only students and those who had come in solidarity remained. They formed a large ring at the gate. The police did not allow any of us to enter the campus. Through the gate, we were able to speak with several JNU faculty members, including Ayesha Kidwai, Nivedita Menon, Atul Sood and others. The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) addressed the students through the gates.
Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri are RTI activists and are associated with the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information and Satark Nagrik Sangathan.