Police have chased and struck protesting students with batons after they marched through the Indian capital on Thursday to demand the resignation of the vice chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the wake of an attack on the campus by masked assailants.
About 1,000 students and faculties marched from the JNU to a government office to demand the resignation of the vice chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar, whom some accuse of allowing the assailants armed with sledgehammers, shovels and other weapons to ransack a university dormitory and beat up students on Sunday.
The dorm occupants said the attack lasted about two hours, and that neither the security guards at the building nor any external help came to their rescue. More than 30 people were injured.
After reaching the government office on Thursday, a splinter group of dozens of students decided to continue marching towards the president of India’s official residence.
The demonstrating students were stopped by baton-wielding police.
Utkarsh, a JNU student, said an officer struck him in the head with his baton and attacked others. He gave only his first name, fearing police reprisal.
Footage captured by The Associated Press news agency showed an officer repeatedly hitting a female protester in the back of her legs while other protesters fled.
Police then forced the students onto a bus, where one person could be seen bleeding from his head. It was not immediately clear where the students were being taken. Calls to police officials were not immediately answered.
Opposition parties and injured students blamed Sunday’s campus attack on Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the ideological parent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
They say the attack was meant to stop a months-long protest against a fee increase announced in November. Left-wing student organisations say the fee rise makes education too expensive for many.
Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik said Sunday’s incident was a clash between rival student groups. No arrests have been made into the incident, but the police have filed a case against JNU student leader Aishe Ghosh who was badly injured during the mob attack.
New Delhi and cities across India have seen regular protests since a controversial citizenship law was passed last month that provides a path to naturalisation for religious minorities from three neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims.
Opponents say the law violates India’s secular constitution.
India’s Supreme Court is set to review petitions challenging the law on January 20.