On the morning of September 5, members of the right-wing students group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP) attacked students and activists of the United Left Alliance during the students’ union election debate at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). ABVP cadres resorted to punching students, while hurling sexist abuses at them. One student affiliated to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Venkatesh, was severely injured in the attack and was taken to the hospital.
The attack came at the end of the first session of the prestigious presidential debate, which witnessed charged speeches by presidential candidates of various students groups.
JNU’s student body has a history of rejecting right-wing forces and electing leftist student groups. This year’s JNUSU elections will be held on September 6. The four communist students’ organizations – SFI, All India Students Association (AISA), the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) and the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) – are fighting the polls together under the banner of the United Left Alliance.
Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, the outgoing president of JNU students’ union (JNUSU) and member of AISA, N. Saibalaji said, “ABVP, which claims to represent students interest, has exposed itself once again. When the whole country was watching JNU’s democratic tradition, the ABVP, which never has answers to students’ questions, indulged in violence, assaulting Venkatesh. Imagine what would they do if elected to the union?”
“Violence for ABVP is in its DNA. Last year, we all witnessed how ABVP cadres captured booths at the counting center and assaulted students who were protesting against the malpractice,” Balaji added. Last year’s JNUSU election saw massive violence by the ABVP after the right-wing group lost the union elections to the Left Alliance.
The electoral fight is for four central positions – president, vice-president, secretary and joint secretary. Elections for councillor positions, representing different schools (academic departments), will also be held during the JNUSU polls.
Ever since the far-right wing Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, there has been a sustained attack on JNU, which has for decades been a bastion of leftist politics in India. These attacks include the arrest of students, the targeting of faculty who are against the right wing and efforts to undermine the autonomy of the university. The students and the academic community at large have responded in force, challenging every such effort by the government.
Thursday’s attack comes a day after ABVP members assaulted SFI and AISF candidates, contesting the polls for the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU). As a result, one AISF and three SFI candidates were prevented from filing their nomination forms.