An Indian university has become the latest battleground between emboldened Hindu nationalists and their opponents, after a masked right-wing mob stormed the campus and attack dozens of students and teachers.
Sunday’s attack, in which more than 30 people were assaulted while police stood by, has triggered nationwide outrage and sparked protests at universities across the country. On Tuesday, anger grew at the news that police had laid charges against a left-wing student leader who was beaten during the rampage — but failed to arrest any of her attackers.
Aishe Ghosh, president of the student union at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was among those injured when the mob — wielding sticks and iron rods, and shouting pro-government Hindu nationalist slogans — rampaged through the campus for about three hours. Ghosh, who had been protesting against a fee increase announced by the government, was filmed bleeding heavily from head injuries in the wake of the attack, saying: “I have been brutally beaten up.”
But rather than arrest the attackers, police announced Tuesday they had charged Ghosh and 19 others with vandalizing the university’s server room and attacking security guards as part of their protests against the fee hike. While police have launched an investigation of the mob assault, filing a complaint against unidentified people for rioting, no arrests have been made — despite police having been filmed at the scene when the attackers left the campus.
The police response has sparked widespread criticism, amid growing concerns that the authorities are turning a blind eye to abuses by hardline nationalist groups with ideological links to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has pursued an unabashedly Hindu nationalist agenda, and has been criticized for emboldening hard-liners and seeking to marginalize the country’s Muslim minority from public life.
Journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted that it was “shameful” that the charges had been laid against Ghosh but not her attackers.
“Police that looked the other way while masked vandals beat students and teachers with iron rods have filed a case against Aishe Ghosh, whose head was thrammed with said rod, while filing [a complaint] against unidentified people in the main case of assault,” she wrote.