On the evening of 5 January, students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University had gathered to protest a proposed hike in the hostel fees, when they were attacked by a masked mob. According to eyewitnesses, the mob was wielding lathis and iron rods. Members of the mob pelted stones, damaged cars, vandalised hostels and beat up students and faculty. During this time, the students’ calls for help to the police, who were deployed at the university, went unanswered. Over twenty people were injured that night and admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. One of them was Aishe Ghosh, the president of the JNU Students Union. She was severely beaten—a photo that showed blood running down her face was widely circulated on social media.
Several students claimed that the masked men were members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Denying the charge, the ABVP has claimed that “leftist” groups instead attacked its members. On 7 January, Shahid Tantray, an assistant photo editor at The Caravan spoke to Ghosh, a 25-year-old, about what happened on the night of 5 January and the JNUSU’s subsequent demands for an independent inquiry into the mob attack. “Till the VC [vice chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar] is not removed, there will be no free or fair inquiry,” Ghosh said.
Shahid Tantray: Can you describe how you were injured?
Aishe Ghosh: On 5 January at 6.30 pm, we were part of a peaceful gathering at the Sabarmati Tea Point [in JNU]. Around 4.30 pm, we [had gone] to show solidarity. Then we were drinking tea and chatting with the students. Around three hundred–four hundred students were part of the gathering. Suddenly around 6.30–7 pm, I saw students running. As the president of the JNU student union, I told them not to panic and asked why are they running? I understood what had happened five minutes later.
I saw 50-70 people [approaching]. They had iron rods in their hands, some had hammers and sticks, and their faces were covered with cloth. I started going towards the hostel. My friend was with me too. Thirty–forty people surrounded us and they hit me with an iron rod on my head. They hit my friend too. They hit us continuously for a few minutes. I was already bleeding. They hit my hand. Then we both fell down. As we fell down, they left us and ran towards the residential area. Somehow, JNU students picked us up, called an ambulance and took us to AIIMS trauma centre.
ST: Who were these people who attacked you?
AG: Those who were there were masked, but I do not know who they were.