‘Don’t turn campuses into political battlefields’: Smriti Irani after JNU violence

Union minister Smriti Irani on Monday warned against using campuses and students for political means amid an attack by the opposition on the BJP-led government at the Centre for the unprecedented violence inside Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been under fire from opposition parties after more than 20 people, including JNU students’ union president and a teacher, were injured in the unprecedented violence unleashed by a mob of masked people on Sunday.

The Congress party has accused leaders of the BJP of instigating violence inside JNU and its president Sonia Gandhi said the “bone-chilling attack” was a “grim reminder of the extent the government will go to stifle and subjugate every voice of dissent”.

Smriti Irani seemed to deflect some of that criticism on Monday.

“I had said it earlier and reiterating it now that educational institutions should not be made ‘rajniti ka akhada’ (political battlefield) as it affects the life and progress of our students,” the Union minister said while speaking to reporters.

“I hope students will not be used as ‘rajnitik mohre’ (political tools),” Irani said.

“A probe has started in the matter and it is not justified for me to comment on it as I am in a constitutional post,” she added.

The JNU students’ union (JNUSU) has blamed members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The RSS is also the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.

ABVP denied they had instigated the violence and said they were first attacked by the left-leaning students.

Students at JNU have also alleged that the police had given masked goons a free run to target students and teachers. The JNUSU’s president Aishe Ghosh and Sucharita Sen, a teacher, were among the 23 people who were taken to hospitals after being injured in the attack.

They have said the masked attackers went inside hotels as they checked rooms, where students locked themselves in, and vandalised property in the violence that lasted more than two hours.

The violence broke out inside JNU in the afternoon and the administration called in police hours later, students have accused.

Protests against JNU violence started on Sunday night after the news trickled out and have spread across the country on Monday.

Thousands of students across university campuses and outside have assembled to register their solidarity with their counterparts in JNU.