An assault on students brings trouble for Narendra Modi

Jan 09, 2020

AISHE GHOSH is no stranger to trouble. She heads the student union at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a prestigious state-run institution of which the leafy campus in Delhi has long been a seedbed of radical activism. Even so, Ms Ghosh (pictured) did not expect to be attacked by a mob of masked, club-wielding thugs on January 5th, and to end up in hospital with a broken hand, multiple contusions and 16 stitches in her scalp. Nor did she expect police to file charges against her, rather than the aggressors. And she certainly did not expect such instant national fame as to prompt Deepika Padukone, the reigning glamour queen of Bollywood, to join a subsequent student rally and whisper encouragement to her wounded comrade.

The trouble at JNU that landed 34 students and teachers in hospital had been brewing for some time. The Hindu-nationalist movement has long demonised the university, which has a strong record of independent research, as a taxpayer-funded playground for long-haired “anti-nationals”. Such attacks grew fiercer following the first national electoral triumph of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, in 2014. Then, the appointment of a new university head who was determined to impose “discipline” and “patriotism” set the scene for running campus quarrels. Students, many of whom come from poor families and remote regions,...

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