Non-vegetarian menu vs Ram Navami puja: What led to a brawl on JNU campus?

Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University once again witnessed violence on Sunday when two groups of students clashed allegedly over meat being se...

Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University once again witnessed violence on Sunday when two groups of students clashed allegedly over meat being served in the hostel canteen on the occasion of Ram Navami.

News agency PTI has reported that six students were injured in the scuffle that took place at Kaveri hostel on Sunday.

We take a look at what happened and how the JNU campus repeatedly sees violence.

Sunday’s clash

There are two versions of what happened on Sunday; according to the Left’s JNU students’ union (JNUSU), the members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) created a ruckus, and assaulted members of the Kaveri Hostel mess over cooking of chicken on Sunday.

ABVP members alleged that members of Left-wing student outfits disrupted a prayer ceremony organised on the occasion of Ram Navami by shouting slogans.

For those who don’t know, the JNU varsity offers chicken at the mess on Sundays for non-vegetarian students and paneer is on the menu for vegetarians.

JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh claimed on Twitter that ABVP members had “badly attacked and injured students” who had eaten non-veg food in hostel messes. Students also allegedly resorted to stone-pelting during Sunday’s violence.

Anagha Pradeep, councillor, JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU), recounting the event, told Indian Express: “Every Sunday, both non-vegetarian and vegetarian food is cooked in all hostels. This is the usual practice. ABVP students were having some event near Kaveri hostel and when the vendor came to deliver chicken, they stopped him. They harassed and heckled both him and the mess secretary, saying that a havan is being held and non-vegetarian food can’t be cooked.”

The students belonging to the Left union, as per a News18 report, alleged that the ABVP was displaying hate politics and divisive agenda and has created a violent atmosphere in the Kaveri hostel.

The Left wing students said that JNU and its hostels are inclusive places for all and not for any particular section. “Students from different physical, social and cultural backgrounds have different food preferences that must be respected and catered to. This act of ABVP's only signifies their exclusionary politics and right wing Hindutva policies to hegemonise democratic and secular spaces like JNU,” a statement read.

However, the students of ABVP have a different version to the events that unfolded.

As per an NDTV report, the ABVP students had organised a puja and havan on the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami at Kaveri hostel.

"This puja was joined by a large number of common students of JNU. The Leftists came to object, obstruct and prevent the pooja from happening. They have created a false ruckus on the issue of 'Right to Food' (Non-Vegetarian Food)," they said.

Rohit Kumar, president of the JNU unit of ABVP, told Hindustan Times that no member of the outfit was involved in the row. He said some members of Left-leaning outfits were saying that they would not allow the puja to take place on the campus. The puja was delayed since students were raising slogans,” said Kumar. He added that ABVP was only standing in solidarity with the students who were performing the prayers.

Shivam Chaurasia, member of ABVP’s JNU unit, also alleged the same that it was the Left that had instigated the violence.

Police speaks

The situation kept worsening as the day progressed and the violence finally came to an end around 9.45 pm, as the police had reached the campus. DCP Southwest Manoj C was quoted as saying, “Both the student parties are protesting peacefully. Appropriate legal action will be taken as per the complaints. We entered the premises after we got permission from the JNU administration; allegations of police inaction are false.”

Violent history

The last time the campus was a scene of violence was back in January 2020 when a mob of masked men stormed the campus and targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods, hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings.

At least 28 people, including JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh, were injured as chaos reigned on the campus for nearly two hours.

An FIR was registered, but no arrests were made.

In 2016, reportedly seditious slogans were raised during an event organised on the campus to mark the hanging of Afzal Guru, who had been convicted by the Supreme Court for his involvement in the Parliament terror attack case.

The event led to clashes between various student groups. Four days after the event, then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested by the Delhi police and charged with sedition. Two other students were arrested soon afterwards, including Umar Khalid.

With inputs from agencies

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