On 5 January, at around 6:30 pm, a group of masked men wielding lathis and rods attacked students and faculty at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The students and teachers had gathered to protest a proposed hike in the hostel fees. According to students and eyewitness accounts, the mob pelted stones, damaged cars, vandalised hostels and beat up students and faculty. Calls for help to the police, who were deployed at the university, went unanswered. Over twenty injured people were admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Several students claimed that the masked men belonged to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS. The ABVP has denied the charge, and instead claimed that “commie” and “leftist” groups attacked its members. On 7 January, Pinky Chaudhary of the Hindu Raksha Dal, a right-wing organisation, told ANI that his group “took full responsibility for the attack in JNU and would like to say that they were our workers.”
While the majority of the violence took place at the student hostels, the masked men also stormed the faculty accommodation. We spoke to two couples who recounted an evening of terror. On the evening of 5 January, Shiv Prakash, an assistant professor of Urdu, was relaxing with his wife and children at home in the faculty accommodation known as the New Transit House II. Suddenly, at around 7 pm, he got a call from a colleague about hungama—ruckus—in Sabarmati, the nearby students’ hostel. Shiv stepped out of his apartment to see what was happening, leaving his wife and two sons, aged 12 years and 18 months, behind. His eight-year-old daughter was at a neighbour’s place. “I walked towards Sabarmati and suddenly saw a large crowd of men advancing menacingly towards the transit house with sticks and rods in their hands, so I turned and ran back home,” Shiv recalled. His wife, Suneeta, was startled to hear him shouting at them to run into the bedroom, even as he shut and latched the front door. “His face was in a panic and I immediately grabbed the children and rushed inside,” Suneeta said.
Suneeta peered fearfully from her bedroom window and saw fifteen to twenty men. “Some were masked, but all of them were carrying steel rods and sticks,” she said. Suddenly, they heard banging on their front door. “The men were outside our house trying to gain entry,” Suneeta recalled. “They were banging and kicking our front door and shouting at us to open the door.” The Prakashs’ had already called their neighbour to secure her door and keep their daughter till further notice. Soon, the front door’s latch fell open, and the masked men gained entry into their living room. By then, the couple had moved into the bedroom. “I placed both my hands against the door and pushed, so that the added bodyweight would prevent them from breaking the bedroom door,” Suneeta said, as she showed me the red marks on her hands. “I was so frightened that I started crying, thinking about what would happen to my children.”