Nursing a bandaged proper hand and bruises on his again from the place he was struck with a rod, Santosh Singh says he not feels protected at Jawaharlal Nehru College in Delhi, the place he’s a masters scholar.

Singh comes from Bihar, India’s poorest state, and is the primary member of his prolonged household to attend any college — not to mention JNU, because the nation’s most prestigious larger schooling establishment is understood. He was so glad when he arrived for the primary time that he kissed the campus gate. “I labored laborious to enter this college,” he says. “It meant a lot to me.”

However on Sunday night, as he was strolling towards his scholar lodging, masked males stormed the campus. Armed with iron rods, sticks, baseball bats and stones, they attacked college students and academics, smashed home windows and vandalized scholar dormitories. “I believed, that is the top,” Singh advised TIME on Monday. “They’ll kill us.”

As he spoke, a crowd of his fellow college students marched behind him, chanting slogans towards the police and authorities.

In all, greater than 30 college students and workers have been injured within the violence, some severely. One video from the scene reveals JNU’s scholar union president, Aishe Ghosh, bleeding from her head. “I’ve been brutally attacked,” she tells the digital camera. Different footage reveals masked males speeding by way of college corridors armed with sticks. Police have been current, some college students mentioned, however did nothing to cease the violence. “The police simply watched each inside and out of doors the campus and did nothing,” says Mohammad Sharif, a masters scholar.

“Even a blind scholar like me was not spared,” mentioned Surya Prakash, 25, a Sanskrit scholar who says he was overwhelmed inside his room. His mattress was nonetheless coated in shards of glass from a smashed window. “After I advised them I used to be blind, they accused me of mendacity.”

Vipin Kumar—Hindustan Instances through Getty PhotosSuryaprakash, a blind analysis scholar pursuing an MPhil in Sanskrit, is seen sitting in his room at Sabarmati Hostel, Jawaharlal Nehru College (JNU), on Jan. 6, 2020 in New Delhi, India. He was additionally overwhelmed up the day earlier than throughout violence contained in the campus.

Singh has little doubt about who the masked males have been. “They have been ABVP goons,” he says, referring to members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group affiliated to the federal government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Their slogans, their fashion of speaking and the phrase they love probably the most — ‘traitors’ — was on their lips after they have been beating us,” Singh tells TIME. Different witnesses mentioned the mob was chanting “victory for mom India” and “shoot the traitors of the nation.” “Even the ambulance which got here for the injured was attacked,” scholar Syed Ali Mohammad tells TIME.

The ABVP denies involvement, saying as a substitute that the attackers have been masked left-wing college students. However proof suggests the assault was coordinated on ABVP WhatsApp teams, and consultants say the assault suits a sample of intimidation by Modi’s authorities and its Hindu nationalist allies towards universities, which have at all times been bastions of progressive thought however now really feel more and more out of step with the nation’s prevailing political local weather of non secular nationalism.

“The authorities have failed of their responsibility to make sure the protection of the scholars, signaling a shameful complicity of the state equipment,” mentioned Avinash Kumar, govt director of Amnesty India, in an announcement. “Furthermore, the fixed demonization of the scholars by the Authorities of India continues to extend their vulnerability to such assaults and awards impunity to the attackers. It’s not an remoted incident and have to be seen amidst the bigger sample of pushback as huge protests proceed unabated throughout the nation.”

In Might 2019, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP) received a large mandate to manipulate India for an additional 5 years, with an elevated majority in nationwide elections. Amid a faltering economic system, his reelection marketing campaign tapped closely into the Hindu nationalist politics held by his get together’s base. Such politics are likely to embody the assumption that India is a Hindu nation, a bitter rivalry with Pakistan, the scapegoating of Muslims (who make up 14% of India’s inhabitants), and a disdain for the secular intellectuals who ran India for a lot of the 20th century and who nonetheless maintain necessary affect at universities like JNU.

Since profitable reelection, Modi has rewarded the get together base by delivering on a number of long-held Hindu nationalist objectives: in August, his authorities revoked the constitutional autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir, India’s solely Muslim-majority state and a territory claimed by India’s arch-rival Pakistan. Later that very same month, a venture to root out “infiltrators” in Assam, an Indian state bordering Muslim-majority Bangladesh, was accomplished, placing almost 2 million folks vulnerable to shedding of their citizenship. And in December, Modi’s authorities handed the Citizenship Modification Act (CAA), a regulation that may supply streamlined asylum functions to members of all South Asia’s main religions — besides Muslims, India’s largest minority neighborhood and an everyday BJP goal.

The passage of the CAA sparked a wave of demonstrations from opponents of the BJP. Throughout the nation, together with on the JNU campus, protesters rose up in opposition to the regulation, which they mentioned was a flagrant violation of India’s secular structure that privileged Hindus and different teams over Muslims. “The very soul of the Indian freedom wrestle and structure was the thought of equal citizenship for folks no matter their religion,” Harsh Mander, an activist and former civil servant, advised TIME in December earlier than he was detained whereas peacefully protesting. “It’s this that they’re destroying.”

Noah Seelam—AFP through Getty PhotosCollege students and supporters maintain placards as police personnel stand guard throughout a protest towards an assault on the scholars and academics on the Jawaharlal Nehru College (JNU) campus in New Delhi on Jan. 6, 2020.

The assault on JNU on Sunday got here shortly after greater than 100 different college students and academics had participated in a protest towards charge will increase that may have made it troublesome for poorer college students like Singh to pay for his or her keep at JNU. Although their protest wasn’t linked to the Citizenship Modification Act, the assault on peacefully-demonstrating college students was seen by many in India as an try by supporters of the BJP to intimidate protesters at a time when it’s struggling to maintain them off the streets extra usually.

It wouldn’t be the primary time. Police stormed two universities in December amid the anti-CAA protests sweeping the nation. At Jamia Millia Islamia college in Delhi, they have been filmed beating a bunch of Muslim college students protesting the regulation. Shortly afterward, police stormed Aligarh Muslim College in Uttar Pradesh. Two college students there claimed to have been tortured in police custody. On Monday, Delhi police charged Ghosh, the JNU college students’ union president who was left bleeding from her head, and 19 different protesting college students with vandalism, however haven’t arrested any of the masked attackers. Police have additionally been blamed for a number of of the 23 deaths in nationwide anti-CAA protests, significantly in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

The group many college students blamed for the assault, the ABVP, is the coed wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the ideological powerhouse of the Hindu nationalist motion, which in flip is the guardian group of the ruling BJP. The RSS was based in 1925 and was closely influenced by European fascist events, together with the Nazis in Germany. Subscribing to the assumption that inflexible self-discipline is the important thing to making a drive in a position to wield political energy, the RSS runs camps the place adherents are drilled with a regime of Hindu nationalist lectures and bodily train whereas carrying khaki uniforms. Modi, together with many different high members of the BJP, attended RSS camps as an adolescent and continues to be near the group.

The attackers at JNU weren’t decked out in khaki — however displayed different indicators of allegiance to the Sangh Parivar, the constellation of Hindu nationalist organizations with the RSS at its middle. Rakeesh Kumar, 24, was strolling in direction of his dormitory on Sunday evening when 4 masked males stopped him. “What’s your ideology?” one man carrying an iron rod requested him. In any regular circumstance Kumar would have laughed on the query, he tells TIME, however he was terrified. He pointed to the e book he was carrying: a political science quantity titled “Hindu Nationalism” edited by Christophe Jaffrelot.

“Had they recognized what the e book was about I might have been overwhelmed badly,” Kumar says, referring to the e book’s vital bent. However when the boys noticed it, they left him alone. “Hail Lord Ram,” they mentioned — a slogan referring to the militaristic deity who has turn into an icon to Hindu nationalists — and moved on towards one other constructing.

— With reporting by Sanya Mansoor/Delhi


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