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Fresh student protests hit India over university attack

Monday's protests follow a violent attack by masked assailants on students at a university in New Delhi. Some have blamed the clashes on a student group linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

Fresh student protests are taking place across India following violent clashes at a prestigious university in New Delhi which left more than 30 people injured.

Late Sunday, masked assailants beat students and teachers with rods and bricks at the capital's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in an assault that opposition lawmakers say is linked to the government.

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Videos of the attack showed people in masks assaulting students who were protesting against a fee hike. Assailants also vandalized dormitories and university halls. Scores of riot police on Monday patrolled JNU. Police have begun a probe and say that they have found some of the assailants, but so far, no arrests have been made. 

Students at universities across the country continued to protest Sunday's assault on demonstrators. Nimisha Jaiswal was at the JNU for DW, describing a heavy police presence and tense atmosphere, but also a calm day.

Students also challenged police for failing to step in on Sunday, with police saying they were waiting on authorization to act and to organize a large enough force to manage the crowd. Students countered that the police response had been far swifter during protests last month at the university.

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Jadavpur University students protest aginst the JNU attacks, on Monday in Kolkata. (DW/S. Bandopadhyay)

Jadavpur University students protest aginst the JNU attacks, on Monday in Kolkata.

In response to the attacks, more than 1,000 people held a vigil in Mumbai, and demonstrations took place in major cities across India, including Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

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Uncertainty over the assault

New Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik told the Associated Press that Sunday's incident was a clash between rival student groups. However, opposition parties have pinned the blame on Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a right-wing Hindu nationalist student organization connected with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, said the attack was a "collusion" between the JNU administration and "goons" of the Modi-linked party.

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Modi's BJP, however, denounced the attacks in a tweet. "This is a desperate attempt by forces of anarchy, who are determined to use students as cannon fodder, [to] create unrest to shore up their shrinking political footprint. Universities should remain places of learning and education," the party said.

Many students and organizers at JNU have protested Modi's policies in recent years. Protests against the fee hike, which students said would make education too expensive, kicked off in November.

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lc/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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