NEW DELHI (AP) — Masked assailants beat students and teachers with sticks on the campus of a prestigious university in India's capital, injuring more than 20 people in an attack opposition lawmakers are trying to link to the government.
Videos that emerged after late Sunday's assault showed people in masks roaming inside the corridors of Jawaharlal Nehru University and beating students who were were protesting against a fee hike.
Most of the injured were treated at a hospital for cuts and bruises, said Aarti Vij, a spokeswoman at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
New Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik said the incident was a clash between rival student groups.
Opposition parties and injured students blamed the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organisation linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
“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,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, a leading politician of the main opposition Congress party.
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which includes students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, released a statement saying they didn't start Sunday's violence and insisted their members were attacked first by students with links to communist groups.
Communist-linked student organizations at the university have led recurring protests against the fee increase, which went into effect in November and opponents say will make education too expensive for many.
The government was quick to condemn the violence.
“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,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a member of the prime minister's party, said on Twitter.
The party itself released a statement blaming opposition parties for the violence and trying to “create unrest to shore up their shrinking political footprint.”
Hours after the attack, students across the country took to the streets to protest the incident.
Hundreds of students and ordinary people of the city gathered outside police headquarters in New Delhi and accused officers of inaction.
In Mumbai, students from several educational institutions gathered at the Gateway of India and demanded that the government act against the assailants.
Students at a university in Uttar Pradesh state held a candlelight march to protest the incident.
The violence comes amid simmering anger over the government’s new citizenship law, which has resulted in a series of violent protests and clashes around the country that have left at least two dozen people dead.