The Union education ministry on Tuesday sought a report from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) regarding violence on its campus on Ram Navami, even as the varsity's students' union demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the matter.
Two student groups clashed at the university's Kaveri Hostel on Sunday allegedly over serving of non-vegetarian food in its mess of the festive day, with police saying 20 students were injured.
Former JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, who is currently the chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), said that violence of any kind on university campuses should be avoided.
The groups have lodged police complaints against each other, while JNU authorities claimed the violence occurred after some students objected to a 'hawan', an assertion also made by RSS-affiliate Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
However, the JNU Students Union (JNUSU), which is led by Left-affiliated outfits, has alleged that ABVP members attacked students while opposing the serving of non-vegetarian food in the mess.
Police will be recording the statements of the victims once the situation calms down, a senior officer said.
Student bodies protested outside the Jamia Millia Islamia against what transpired at JNU and to demand that food choices cannot be imposed on people in the name of Ram Navami.
"Not only in JNU but there was violence on Ram Navami in states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. You cannot dictate what people should eat and impose your food choices on them," said a protester.
At JNU, its student's union led a delegation to meet the university's vice-chancellor Shantishree Dhulipudi Pandit to put forth its demands but could not meet her. Security officials have asked it to put in a formal request for an appointment with the vice-chancellor.
The delegation demanded that the university withdraw its statement issued on April 11 (Monday) in which it said that the clash broke out on Sunday after some students objected to a 'hawan' conducted "peacefully" on the occasion of Ram Navami.
Claiming that the violence at the Kaveri Hostel has its beginnings in the arbitrary demand of prohibition of non-vegetarian meals at the hostel mess by a group of students, the delegation said that it has been corroborated by the relevant hostel committee and mess committee members.
"However, the same students who raised this demand and violently disrupted the functioning of the mess, who are also associated with the ABVP, have resorted to spreading a narrative of disruption of havan in the hostel premises, a claim that is neither supported by the hostel or mess committee," read a statement by the JNUSU.
It said that "it is extremely shameful" that the press statement released by the JNU administration on Monday endorsed the version of the ABVP "without the conduct of any official enquiry".
"Such partisan support of a single narrative is becoming of a university administration and therefore, we demand that the the press statement released by the JNU administration on April 11 be rescinded forthwith," the statement said.
The students' body demanded that the JNU administration take swift action on the issue and take view of the matter in a free and fair manner.
"However, it is with extreme regret that we must note that the actions of the JNU administration have either fallen short of the expectations of the student community or been partisan in nature," it said.
Noting that there are justified doubts regarding the competency of an internal enquiry in the matter, they demand that the JNU administration either pursue for the conduct of an judicial inquiry into the matter or constitute a committee with a serving or retired judge of the high court as the chair for investigation.
"The committee should give a call to collect all testimonies and evidence, meet with the aggrieved parties, and release the report and recommendations to the public in a time-bound manner. It has been increasingly observed that the prevalence of politically motivated violence in the campus is becoming a norm rather than the exception," the JNUSU said.
Meanwhile, Afzal Ahmed, a meat vendor, who has been supplying meat to the university's hostels' mess for the last 25-30 years claimed that he had received a call on Sunday morning asking him not to supply meat to the Kaveri Hostel on the occasion of Ram Navami.
Ahmed said, "On the morning of April 10, I got a call from some JNU students asking me not to supply meat to the Kaveri Hostel. I told them that I had received the order on April 9."
"But they threatened me saying if I supplied meat to the hostel, they would ensure that I am not able to supply meat to other JNU hostels. I told them I will come down and speak to them," he told PTI.