The centre on Friday night extended the term of JNU Vice Chancellor Jagadeesh M Kumar, who was widely criticised last year for apparent inaction during the horrific attack on faculty and students – an attack that left dozens injured and led to calls for his sacking, including one by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and another by the JNU Students Union.
In a late night notification the Department of Higher Education said Mr Kumar, who completes his five-year term on January 26, was “allowed to continue in office… till his successor is appointed”.
On January 5 last year, between 70 and 100 masked individuals entered the JNU campus in Delhi, carrying iron rods, broken bottles and large stones, and ran riot for over three hours, leaving 34 people, including senior faculty and Aishe Ghosh, then President of the students union, injured.
The outpouring of anger that followed the attack – which was preceded by a bitter and prolonged stand-off between university administration and students over a hike in hostel fees – included cries by angry students who called Mr Kumar a “henchman” who perpetuated violence on them.
“…cowardly Vice-Chancellor who introduces illegal policies… runs away from the questions of students or teachers and then manufactures a situation to demonize JNU. He is using henchmen to perpetrate violence on students and vandalise the university,” the JNU Students Union said.
Two days after the attack Mr Kumar called on students and faculty to “make a new beginning”.
However, he also appeared to reiterate claims the attack was perpetrated by students protesting the hostel fee hike and who, hours earlier, also vandalised the university’s computer server room.
The Students Union denied any connection with the server room incident and, instead, accused the university of using “masked” security guards to carry out the attack.
Several questions remain unanswered from that day, including how armed thugs were allowed past campus security and why street lights and CCTVs were switched off during the worst of the attack.
Questions about the police’s apparent inaction also remain, particularly after a FIR filed by the cops revealed they had, in fact, been on campus and witnessed the violence.
There were also questions raised about discrepancies between the university’s official statement and the version of events released by the police.
Multiple FIRs were eventually filed, but only one was linked to the violence and no arrests have been made, so far, in that case. Two of those FIRs were against Ms Ghosh – over allegations of vandalising the university’s computer server room – and filed as she was being attacked.
The attack was widely condemned across India, with film stars, opposition leaders, civil society activists and members of the public hitting out at the university administration and the centre.