A top Bollywood actress is being praised for visiting an elite Indian university where students were protesting against an attack on them by masked suspects with alleged links to a student group backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Deepika Padukone, 34, on Tuesday visited New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where alleged members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) brutally assaulted dozens of students and teachers with sticks, sledgehammers and rocks on Sunday.
The violence in JNU followed a public meeting organised by the university’s teachers association in connection with a rise in hostel charges for students announced weeks ago.
Aishe Ghosh, president of the JNU students’ union who was seriously wounded in the attack, was present among the students when Padukone joined their protest.
Indian media reports said Padukone hugged Ghosh and stayed with the JNU students for about 15 minutes, but only had a brief chat with the student leader and did not address the crowd.
Ghosh, who was attacked by masked assailants on Sunday night, is among 20 students named in the first information report (FIR or police complaint) of the Delhi police on Tuesday.
‘You should speak up’
Photos and videos on social media showed Padukone wearing a black outfit and standing behind a makeshift stage, while former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar addressed the gathering.
According to The Wire website, after Padukone left, Ghosh in her address to the crowd said: “When you are in a position, you should speak up.”
Padukone, who was in New Delhi for the promotion of her next film, Chhapaak, scheduled to release this Friday, is the biggest Bollywood star to express her solidarity with the JNU students.
On Monday night, dozens of filmmakers and actors demonstrated in Mumbai against the attack on the university.
“I feel proud that we are not scared. I think to be able to express ourselves. I think the fact we are thinking about this and about the future of our country,” Padukone told NDTV news channel on Monday.
“It is nice to see people are coming out on the streets to voice this and express [themselves]. Because if we want to see change, this is very important.”