Opposition parties on Sunday attacked the BJP over the violence in JNU, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleging that "fascists" in control of the country are afraid of the voices of brave students, but the ruling party blamed the "forces of anarchy" for creating unrest to shore up "their shrinking political footprint".
Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a JNU alumnus, described the violence as "horrifying" and asserted that the Modi government wants universities to be safe spaces for all students.
Violence broke out at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday night after masked men armed with sticks attacked students and teachers and damaged property on the campus, prompting the administration to call in police.
At least 18 people, including JNU Students' Union president Aishe Ghosh, were injured.
Gandhi expressed shock over the incident and claimed it was a "reflection of fear" that "fascists in control of our nation" have of the students.
"The brutal attack on JNU students and teachers by masked thugs, that has left many seriously injured, is shocking. The fascists in control of our nation, are afraid of the voices of our brave students. Today's violence in JNU is a reflection of that fear," he said in a tweet.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said violence in any form needs to be condemned but added that it is equally important to note that a certain group of people in JNU subscribe to a "mindset that calls for dismemberment of India and considers death sentence of a known terrorist by the Supreme Court to be an act of murder".
These people are often called "tukde tukde gang", he said, and added, "obviously their ideology can't be one of peace. It must be ascertained as to what is their specific role in this culture of violence, especially in this specific incident today." BJP and its affiliates refer to groups with alleged sympathy with Maoists and Islamists as "tukde tukde gang".
In a late-night tweet, the BJP said, "We strongly condemn the violence on JNU campus. This is a desperate attempt by forces of anarchy, who are determined to use students as cannon fodder, create unrest to shore up their shrinking political footprint. Universities should remain places of learning and education."
The Left-controlled JNUSU and the ABVP, which is affiliated to the Hindutva group RSS, blamed each other for the violence that continued for nearly two hours.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said reports point to a collusion between the administration and "goons" of ABVP to inflict violence on students and teachers.
It is a planned attack by those in power, which is afraid of the resistance provided by the JNU to its Hindutva agenda, he said.
Congress leader P Chidambaram noted that visuals of violence were captured in videos that showed masked men entering JNU hostels and attacking students.
"If it is happening on live TV, it is an act of impunity and can only happen with the support of the government. This is beyond belief," he said.
Expressing her shock at the violence, Sitharaman tweeted, "Horrifying images from JNU the place I know & remember was one for fierce debates & opinions but never violence. I unequivocally condemn the events of today. This govt, regardless of what has been said the past few weeks, wants universities to be safe spaces for all students."
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, also a JNU alumnus, tweeted, "Have seen pictures of what is happening in #JNU. Condemn the violence unequivocally. This is completely against the tradition and culture of the university.