'30 minutes of pure terror': Reporter covering JNU violence

'30 minutes of pure terror': Reporter covering JNU violence

New Delhi: Police personnel deployed outside the JNU campus after Akhil Bhartiya Vidhayrthi Parishad (ABVP) has accused left inclined students of vandalising the Periyar hostel of Jawharlal Nehru University (JNU) and severely injuring various students present inside the hostel, in New Delhi on Jan 5, 2020. (Photo: IANS)

BY ANANYA BHATNAGAR New Delhi, (IANS) It was a Sunday and I was relaxing at home, when all of a sudden, my phone rang. It was a call from the office saying that there were reports of violence in the Jawaharlal Nehru University and asking me to go to the spot. I was just 15 to 20 minutes away from JNU and rushed there immediately. I reached the North Gate, the varsity's main entrance, and saw police present in substantial numbers. The guards weren't allowing entry to outsiders, but I, somehow, managed to get in. Moving in on foot, I saw some people going towards the hostels. I started shooting the visuals with my mobile phone, when some of the people, who were masked and armed with sticks and rods, rushed at me. I ran towards the hostels and students at one of allowed me in, despite it being a girls hostel. The masked people also barged into the hostel after me. I rushed up the stairs and knocked desperately on doors. I was finally allowed into a room but only after the occupant checked my identity as a journalist. I waited silently, in fear, as we heard sounds of people shouting and yelling from the outside. Those were moments of pure terror for all of us hiding behind locked doors and peering through windows. I could hear the cries of students being beaten up in the distance. After some time, the noise had abated and I could hear students slowly emerging from their rooms. I walked out of the room to see devastation all around. There were students who were badly injured. One of the girls had been hit over the eye with an iron rod, and was bleeding profusely. The students were scared and angry. There was no sign of hostel wardens throughout the violence. All the while, I was trying to take pictures, shoot video and update the office about the ongoing situation. This episode lasted around half an hour, but they were thirty minutes of pure terror - waiting for somebody to break open the door and beat me to pulp. I walked out and joined the students going out. By this time, the police had arrived and a semblance of order began trickling in. I followed the police who were marching in the campus. The students now feeling braver, started raising slogans, while the police watched. Telling the cops that I'm a journalist, I stood to a side taking in everything. All of a sudden, a cop lashed out with his lathi at me, despite knowing I was from the media. The pain that seared through my hand was something unimaginable. I writhed in pain, in silence, for a long time. After some time, I gathered myself and went towards the main gate seeking help. Some girls in the Godavari hostel came to my help with water and first aid. They bombarded me with questions on the situation elsewhere in the campus. I left to explore the situation. With the police stepping in, normalcy slowly began to return. I continued with my reporting on the phone, though with my thumb still aching from the lathi blow, I was unable to type on my phone's keyboard. It was a Sunday not to be forgotten. (Ananya Bhatnagar can be contacted at ananya.b@ians.in)

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