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The Darkness of Sunday Night – Editorials


The unprecedented attack on students and professors at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi on Sunday night is one of the darkest episodes of recent times in India. It brings to attention a number of troubling issues: the increase in mafia violence; the rule of law (or its absence) in the heart of the capital; the action (or inaction) of the Delhi Police, which reports directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); systematic undermining of one of India’s leading higher education institutions in line with what appears to be a concerted attack on universities; the deployment of inflammatory rhetoric to tarnish critics; abdication of constitutional duties by the authorities concerned; and, ultimately, the weakening of India’s own democracy.

Here’s what we don’t know conclusively about what happened at JNU on Sunday: The full background of all the attackers who brutally beat students and teachers, unleashed a reign of terror, and vandalized property. But here’s what we do know: These attackers are dedicated to violence; many of those beaten were critical of both government and university administration; the university administration was absent: the police did not enter the university and restore order for hours, allowing the mob to continue; police also turned a blind eye to violence outside the gates, where activists and journalists were beaten, even as others applauded the attack with violent slogans; the wrongdoers left, with the police watching; and no one was arrested.

Put it all together, and certain conclusions are inescapable. Regardless of the history of the violence, the JNU administration claims that those students who were boycotting the registration process for the new semester because of their opposition to rising rates were putting pressure on those who were interested in registering and this is the clashes—it is clear that three institutions have failed. Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar was unable to end the controversy over the fee hike, ensure peace, provide security for students, call the police on time, and has generally been partisan in his approach, treating a set of students as enemies. The Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) has failed to provide leadership and solve problems at the UnJ, in fact, by replacing the secretary who was trying to find a middle ground, closed the doors on a reconciliation. And the Delhi police, and by extension the home ministry, have failed, because at best it was a bystander of violence and, at worst, an active facilitator of violence on Sunday. For true justice, the VC must resign for moral reasons; the HRD ministry must obtain an independent, nonpartisan figure as a VC and address student complaints; Delhi police must immediately arrest the culprits; a truly independent investigation must be instituted; and the heads must roll in both the Delhi police and the MHA for the abdication of homework. Otherwise, be prepared for the erosion of the rule of law and the increase in mobocracy.

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