New Delhi: Two groups of students clashed at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Kaveri Hostel here on Sunday allegedly over-serving of non-vegetarian food in the mess on Ram Navami, with police saying six students were injured in the incident.
The two groups, however, claimed that over 60 students were injured from both sides.
The Left-controlled JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) and RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad accused each other of pelting stones and injuring their members.
The Left outfits claimed about 50 of their members were injured, while the ABVP said their 10-12 activists were hurt.
Several purported videos of the violence surfaced on social media, with one of them showing Akhtarista Ansari, a second-year MA student of Sociology, bleeding from the head. Officials have not confirmed the authenticity of the videos.
The JNUSU also alleged that the ABVP members stopped the mess vendor from supplying chicken and attacked him in the afternoon.
However, the right-wing ABVP denied the charge and claimed that Leftists obstructed a Ram Navami puja in the hostel.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southwest) Manoj C told PTI that a total of six students have received injuries and have been sent to a hospital. "There is no violence as of now. We are all positioned here with our team. On the request of the university, we have come here. We are trying to maintain peace," he said around 9.30 pm.
"Presently, the situation is peaceful. Both student groups are protesting peacefully. Appropriate legal action will be taken on receipt of a complaint. The situation is peaceful," the senior police officer added.
The JNUSU alleged that the ABVP, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), used "muscle power and goondaism" to create a ruckus, manhandled the mess staff and asked them not to prepare any non-vegetarian item.
"They were forcing and attacking the mess committee to change the dinner menu and exclude the usual non-vegetarian items from it for all students," it alleged. "JNU and its hostels are meant to be inclusive spaces for all and not one particular section," it said.
A student alleged that the ABVP members asked the Kaveri Hostel mess committee not to prepare non-vegetarian food for the dinner, but the members refused to comply, saying students have the choice to have non-vegetarian or vegetarian food on Sundays.
"In the evening, when the mess committee members were having a meeting with the mess manager, ABVP activists barged inside and started attacking them with (Ram Navami) flag stick. Later, residents of Kaveri Hostel sent an SOS message to student office-bearers who reached there but were attacked with stones and sticks, he said.
Madhurima Kundu, All India Students' Association Delhi president, said, "In the afternoon, they attacked the mess vendor who had come to supply chicken.
On Sundays, students have the option to choose between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food across all hostels. Around 7.45 pm, they came inside the mess and first attacked students with fists and then with items they could find inside, she alleged.
Students started running towards the main gate to save themselves but ABVP activists picked up flower pots, sticks to attack students. I was hit on the head and near the eye while Akhtarista Ansari, a second-year MA student of Sociology, was hit on the head. She lost vision for a few moments, she claimed.
Another student of JNU, Jahanvi Sodha, who claimed to be unaffiliated uploaded a video on social media saying, I am a witness to what happened.
In the evening, students came to the Kaveri Hostel mess and saw that the ABVP activists were already present there. They were hurling abuses and in response, some women students called them ''cowards'' (darpok). They were so enraged that they started attacking the women by throwing water coolers and when they started to escape, the ABVP activists hurled stones and broke the glass doors of the mess. Women students were severely injured," she has said in the video.
The ABVP, however, rejected JNUSU's allegations and claimed that Leftists disrupted a puja and havan organised by some unaffiliated students at 3:30 pm at the Kaveri Hostel on the occasion of Ram Navami.
The Leftists came to object, obstruct and prevent the puja. They have created a false ruckus on the issue of Right to Food, (Non-Vegetarian Food), they said.
The ABVP said that posters of the puja had been put up three days ago and since then, members of the Left and the Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India were threatening and saying they won't allow the puja to be held.
There is no angle of the non-veg food. Ten to 12 activists of ABVP have been left injured. When students were coming out after the puja, they were caught unawares as student from the Left outfits started pelting stones and attacking us with sticks, said the ABVP.
After the violence, both the sides took out protest marches to action against each other.
Police denied allegations of being a mute spectator at the spot and said as soon as they received a PCR call, they rushed with their teams and ensured that no further escalation of violence.
Late on Sunday night, members from both parties went to police station and demanded FIRs to be registered based on their complaints.
"We have assured the students that their complaints will be taken note of and accordingly we will take appropriate legal actions," a senior police official said.
The incident brought back the memories of January 5, 2020 violence on the campus when a mob of masked men had stormed the campus and targeted students at three hostels.
At least 28 people, including JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh, were injured as chaos reigned on the campus for nearly two hours.
Kavita Krishnan of the CPIML said in a tweet on Sunday, "In JNU ABVP has again badly attacked & injured students who ate non-veg food in hostel messes. I'm informed @madhurima_k_ & @AktaristaAnsari are injured & bleeding. @nsaibalaji is also hurt. @DelhiPolice Vasant Vihar SHO was present but none of the attackers has been arrested."