A day after violent clashes broke out at Jawaharlal Nehru University over non-vegetarian food being served at Kaveri hostel, where a Ram Navmi puja had had been organised, both the JNU Students’ Union and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad levelled allegations of a “pre-planned attack” against one another.
The university administration said in a statement on Monday that the hostel warden had clarified that there was no bar on serving non-vegetarian food on Sunday and that some students had objected to the puja. The statement added that vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit visited the hostel on Sunday night to take stock of the situation.
“It was the occasion of Ram Navmi and a havan was organised by the students in Kaveri hostel and there were students who were objecting to this. The wardens and dean of students tried to pacify them and the havan was concluded peacefully. Despite this, some students were not happy and soon after, at the time of dinner, a ruckus was created and heated arguments were followed by an altercation between the groups,” the statement read.
It added, “We appeal to everyone to exercise restraint and let the academic environment flourish in JNU without external disturbances.”
ABVP claimed that the skirmish was not over non-vegetarian food, but the celebration of a Hindu festival. Rohit Kumar, president of ABVP’s JNU unit, claimed, “Students independently took the initiative to organise the puja. It was not an ABVP programme. It was to begin at 3.30pm but got delayed by two hours when students affiliated to left organisations arrived at Kaveri hostel and began sloganeering. For three days after the news of the havan being organised broke, we received threats from them. They attacked women and differently abled students too.”
Kaveri resident and Arabic student Mahendra said the puja was organised by some students with even students from the Muslim community contributing. “Some of us, with no affiliation to any political ideology, took permission from the administration to observe Ram Navmi. We accepted contributions from students and put up a poster two days ago,” Mahendra claimed. “A day ahead of the puja, the left parties brought out an unsigned poster in the name of the hostel warden opposing the event.”
JNUSU, however, countered the claims and said that there was evidence that ABVP members had heckled the chicken supplier. Demanding action against the perpetrators, the students’ body alleged the same group of ABVP members had been involved in acts of violence over the past few years, including the January 5, 2020 incident.
Apeksha Priyadarshini, councillor, said, “In the afternoon, ABVP attacked the meat vendor and mess committee members and violence broke out around 7.30pm. Caste-based and sexist abuses were hurled at us. When the situation was about to die down, they went to the garden area and started throwing whatever they found there, including stones and pebbles, at us. Two security guards were also seriously injured. Moreover, we were sexually threatened in the presence of police.”
Another Kaveri resident and organiser, Dhruv, claimed surprise at seeing the media attributing the controversy to meat being served in the mess. “How can a political group decide what to eat or not. It’s the mess committee that decides and in Kaveri hostel, it’s the left students who run the committee. All 18 hostels in JNU serve non-veg, so why would anyone oppose non-veg in just one hostel?”
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