At around 7 pm on 5 January, social-media platforms and WhatsApp groups started sharing SOS reports coming from students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. The panicked messages said that a masked mob had gone on a rampage in the campus, and attacked students and faculty members, even as the Delhi Police silently watched. Over the next seven hours, The Caravan’s reporters on the ground collected multiple testimonies of students, faculty and residents of the surrounding areas about what transpired.
According to the accounts The Caravan heard, at around 6.30 pm, scores of masked people attacked a peaceful gathering being conducted by the JNU Teacher’s Association. The masked mob pelted stones, damaged cars, beat up faculty and students present. The mob then proceeded to vandalise at least three hostels, and beat up the residents. All calls for help to the police personnel deployed at the university since the morning went unheeded; the police even tried to stop an ambulance from leaving the campus. The violence continued for at least 45 minutes and the police blocked all entry and exit into the campus till around 12.50 am. All the accounts blamed the Akhil Bharaitya Vidhyarthi Parishad—the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—for the unprovoked violence. The ABVP’s Twitter handle, however, claimed that “leftist” and “commie goons are on a rampage attacking ABVP students and karyakartas.”
As The Caravan’s reporters converged on the campus, they discovered that by around 7.45 pm the Delhi Police had blocked all access roads to JNU—Aruna Asif Ali Marg, Baba Gang Nath Marg and the Nelson Mandela road—and there were police personnel deployed at all the main and side gates to JNU. When one of the reporters tried to walk in through the gates, his way was initially blocked by young men who refused to identify themselves. They insisted that he delete any videos he had recorded from his phone. When he asked the police personnel standing there who these men were, the police told him they were “students.” The roads had not been opened till at least 12.15 am.