10, Jan 2020 | Staff Reporter
(A policeman chases students during a protest march in New Delhi on Thursday – AP photo)
The Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR) has sought a “prompt, independent, impartial and thorough inquiry” into the assault on students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday.
The WGHR and the United Nations have strongly condemned the “impunity with which a violent mob attacked students and faculty and vandalised property on the campus”.
“The WGHR has called on authorities to undertake a prompt, independent, impartial and thorough inquiry into these incidents of attacks with a view to establishing accountability of those responsible and dereliction of duty,” it said in a statement.
The WGHR is a network of human rights groups in India working on a range of issues including gender, children’s rights, land and Dalit concerns.
The WGHR pointed out that masked persons armed with sticks and iron rods had attacked students and faculty members and damaged property inside the campus, “injuring more than 30 people”.
“We seek urgent and appropriate intervention because there appears to have been gross violation of law, constitutional guarantees and fundamental principles. The investigation should also look into providing effective remedy to the victims,” the WGHR said.
It observed that there appeared to have been “a grave failure on the part of the university administration in responding decisively and ensuring the safety of students and faculty on campus”.
The signatories to the statement include Sanjoy Hazarika of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, child rights expert Enakshi Ganguly, social activist Teesta Setalvad, Lawyers Collective members Anand Grover and Indira Jaisingh and Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover.
“The reports of injured persons and eye-witnesses on the failure of the police to stop the mob from targeted assault and vandalism, and thereafter the manner in which the investigation is proceeding, raises serious concerns on the integrity of the police investigation,” the WGHR said.
The rights organisation said that to “restore confidence not only on the JNU campus but also among citizens, an independent, impartial and time-bound inquiry” should be undertaken in the light of the JNU students’ union’s assertion that “the attack was orchestrated” by the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad”.
“The inquiry must take place regardless of whichever group is behind the violence,” the WGHR added.
“The WGHR calls on authorities to abide by constitutional guarantees and international legal obligations on human rights. While these protect persons from torture and ill-treatment and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, they also mandate that police refrain from using unnecessary and disproportionate force,” it said.
The signatories to the statement include child rights expert Enakshi Ganguly, social activist Teesta Setalvad, Lawyers Collective members Anand Grover and Indira Jaisingh and Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover.