In yet another manifestation of Hindu right-wing hate in India, a group of students were beaten up at a Central government-run university in the State of Jammu and Kashmir last week. The incident took place at the Central University, Jammu, where tensions have been brewing for a while on the issue of some of the students from the south of the country eating beef.
Beef is consumed across the country but some sections of the Hindu community consider the cow sacred. Ever since the far-right wing government of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, there has been a massive rise in what has been called ‘cow vigilantism.’ This involves armed gangs attacking farmers transporting cattle, or even invading the homes of those who they suspect are storing beef, and killing them.
The incident at the university took place on April 12 when students from southern State of Kerala were not allowed to perform a traditional dance from their region at a function. The students argued and opposed the decision. As they were returning to their hostels, they were confronted by members of the right-wing student body, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The ABVP members and residents of the locality beat up the students from Kerala, two of whom were injured. Anyone who attempted to intervene was also roughed up. Incidentally, it is students from Kerala who were also restricted from eating beef on a number of occasions.
A few days later, on April 16, a group by the name of Kerala Cyber Warriors hacked the home page of the university and put up pictures of cooked beef.
The response of the administration on this issue has ranged from weak to actively hostile to the affected students. The vice-chancellor of the Central University, Jammu, Ashok Aima, called the students from Kerala “volatile,” especially those belonging to the leftist students organizations, Students Federation of India and All India Students Front. He outrightly denied that the incident of beating up had happened and claimed that he had “controlled the situation,” adding, “Had I not intervened things would have been just like Hyderabad University and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University)”
The University of Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru University have been bastions of leftist student politics in India. Over the past few years, students of these universities have been at the forefront of resisting the Modi government’s attack on education and religious identity-based politics. Many of the students of the Central University, Jammu, said that one of the main ‘charges’ leveled against them was of being sympathetic to their counterparts in JNU.
Last year, disciplinary action was initiated against some students from Kerala who had organized an event condemning the death of progressive journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was assassinated by right-wing elements in 2017.