More than 20 people were injured at a top Indian university when masked attackers stormed the campus in New Delhi.
It comes as tensions continue to rise over the government’s new citizenship law and increases to student fees.
Video footage that emerged after the assault showed people in masks roaming inside the corridors of Jawaharlal Nehru University and beating students who were protesting against the fee hike.
Image: Research scholar Surya Prakash said he cried out to the attackers that he is blind
Surya Prakash, 25, a research scholar at JNU’s Sanskrit school, said he had been brutally beaten in the attack even though he had cried out to the perpetrators that he is blind.
He said: “They first broke the door and windows of the room and barged inside and hit my head with a rod.”
Aarti Vij, a spokeswoman at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said most of the injured were treated in hospital for cuts and bruises.
While the attackers used a fire extinguisher to ram one door open, one student climbed over his balcony into the room next door.
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An ambulance carrying injured people off the campus was attacked by a group of men with sticks while police stood by, according to witnesses.
New Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik said the incident was a clash between rival student groups.
Image: A room on the campus after the attack
But opposition parties and injured students blamed the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organisation linked to prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Rahul Gandhi, a leading politician from the main opposition Congress party said: “The fascists in control of our nation are afraid of the voices of our brave students. Today’s violence in JNU is a reflection of that fear.”
Students said the masked attackers also entered women’s wings in the dorms.
History student Geeta Thatra, 32, said she could see people wearing masks enter the dorms and scream “beat them up”.
Ms Thatra accused the administration of giving “free rein” to the attackers.
December 2019: Footage of Indian police beating students
Referring to an incident in December when police barged inside Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi and tear-gassed students, she said: “We saw the brutal vandalising at the Jamia University.
“There they used police to do it and here they have used other forces, the so called mobs, to do it.”
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which includes students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, released a statement saying it did not start the violence on Sunday and insisted its members were attacked first by students with links to communist groups.
Communist-linked student organisations at the university have led a series of protests against the fee increase which was introduced in November.
Image: A protest against the attacks on students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a member of the prime minister’s party, condemned the violence, saying on twitter: “Horrifying images from JNU – the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today.”
Amnesty International said the attack was “not an isolated incident and must be seen amidst the larger pattern of pushback as massive protests continue unabated across the country”.
Hours after the attack, students across the country took to the streets to protest against the assault.
Indian protesters clash with police over ‘anti-Muslim’ law
There have also been protests in New Delhi over the new citizenship law which entitles non-Muslims who are in the country illegally to citizenship if they can prove they face religious persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It applies to Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities, but not Muslims.
Protesters say it is anti-Muslim, may cause mass migration and is an attempt by the government to make India a Hindu stronghold.
At least 14 people have died and more than 4,000 have been arrested following protests across India against the law.
Source : Sky News