A video that has circulated over social media and has been validated by AP shows masked assailants beating students and teachers with sticks on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, India, Sunday, January 5.
READ MORE: The assault at the prestigious university injured more than 20 people in an attack opposition lawmakers are trying to link to the government.
Protests erupted in numerous cities, Monday, January 7, including New Delhi and Mumbai led by hundreds of students in response to Sunday's assault.
The violence that wracked the university Sunday evening has led to accusations that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to muzzle dissent on campuses.
Tensions have been simmering over a new controversial citizenship law passed by the government.
Men with their faces covered, carrying sticks and rods vandalized hostel rooms, beat students and teachers and smashed windows and cars at the university for nearly two hours. Videos of the armed men roaming the buildings went viral on social media.
Several students gave accounts about how they locked their rooms, fled and tried to hide.
It is not clear what sparked the attack. New Delhi police have described the incident as a clash between rival student groups – a reference to the left-leaning student union at the school and a right-wing student group linked to Modi’s party. Both groups are pointing fingers at each other.
The BJP and opposition parties have condemned the violence on the campus. But while the ruling party blamed it on “forces of anarchy who are determined to use students as cannon fodder,” several opposition leaders called it an “organized” attack carried out by the right-wing student union.
Opposition Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi alleged “active abatement of government in the attack” and said it was a “grim reminder of the extent the government will go to "stifle and subjugate every voice of dissent."
Jawaharlal Nehru University is known as a bastion of left-leaning activism that strongly opposes the ideology of the ruling Hindu nationalists.
College students have been at the forefront of protests since the government passed the new citizenship law. The measure seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other minorities who fled Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to escape mistreatment based on religion. Muslims are not covered by the law.
Modi has said the law is designed to ease the suffering of many people who have faced unfair treatment in India for years. Critics say the move is another effort by the government to marginalize India's 200 million Muslims.
This is the third time that students have been targeted since those protests erupted -- police action last month injured dozens of students at two universities - Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.