First-person account

‘I kept running non-stop…’

Print edition : January 31, 2020

Assistant Professor Avinash Kumar. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The first-person account of Avinash Kumar, Assistant Professor in Political Studies at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, JNU.

Avinash Kumar, Assistant Professor in Political Studies at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, has filed a complaint with the Vasant Kunj (North) police station, but it has not been converted into a first information report (FIR) as yet. He is a former office-bearer of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA). This is his account of the violence:

On January 5, 2020, the JNU Teachers Association had called for a peaceful assembly at the Sabarmati T-point at 4 p.m. I was also present there. I reached the venue at around 4:20 p.m. or so, where I saw many teachers and students had already assembled. The programme called by the JNUTA continued until 6:30 p.m. It was addressed by teachers’ and students’ representatives. I was the last speaker. Just as we were concluding, we heard that a mob of 70 to 100 people armed with sticks and rods was spotted at Periyar Hostel. Some teachers and students had left by then. Some us felt that we should go there and try to talk them out of it.

We were very scared as we heard that the people were large in number and were armed. I called the inspector in charge of JNU and informed him about the presence of the masked men near the hostel. Instead, I was told that there was no such mob present there and that it had been verified by the police. The police gave me wrong information about no mob being present as there was a mob and that too an armed one. This was verified by Dr Amit Thorat, a faculty member who offered to go and check it out. He cycled to Periyar Hostel. Within five minutes we saw him running towards us whereupon he informed us that a mob had gathered at Periyar Hostel and he was attacked when he attempted to photograph it. Some people in the mob made him delete all the pictures. He said that the mob was very violent, armed with rods and sticks and was approaching the T-point to attack us. We decided we would stay on at the T-point instead of going towards Periyar Hostel.

Even as we were discussing what to do next, we saw a mob of about 100 people approaching us. They were carrying many weapons—lathis, sticks and rods—that were sufficient to cause death or grave injury. It was clear to us that this mob had a premeditated and well-coordinated plan to attack students and teachers. We thought we would form a human wall of teachers, including female teachers, in the hope that they would not attack the students. But we were mistaken. The mob, which was at a distance of 50 to 100 metres away from us, began throwing stones and started chasing us. Everyone ran in different directions. I kept running towards Tapti Hostel to escape being attacked. I reached the 24x7 dhaba at Tapti Hostel where I was told that JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh had been hit on her head with a rod and she was bleeding profusely. I started making calls to other colleagues.

Prof. Sucharita Sen informed me she was injured and was being taken to the health centre by another injured colleague, Ameet Parameswaran. Even as I was making calls, I saw the violent mob again coming from the side of the Sabarmati Hostel, with no police or security guards in sight to stop them. I was scared and I felt I was in danger if I stayed there. I ran towards New Transit House and hid in the house of a colleague. I tried calling my other colleagues but couldn’t get through. Then from the balcony of the house where I had sought refuge, I saw some masked individuals walking towards Sabarmati Hostel and telling more people to get inside and create more violence. This is my eighth year in JNU; I joined in 2012 and this is the first time I have seen such open violence on the campus.

As told to T.K. Rajalakshmi