A professor at Mahatma Gandhi Central University in Motihari in Bihar’s East Champaran district was assaulted by suspected Hindutva activists on Friday after he posted a comment on Facebook criticising former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Vajpayee died on Thursday and was cremated on Friday.

Sanjay Kumar, who teaches in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, had commented on a friend’s post that claimed Vajpayee was not a Nehruvian socialist but a staunch loyalist of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who always pushed the right-wing organisation’s agenda. “Ek fasiwad yug ka samapti. Atalji anant yatra pe nikle [The end of a fascist era, Atal ji begins an unending journey],” Kumar commented on his friend’s post, which had said, “Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a Sanghi and not a Nehruvian. His oratory skills made Hindutva politics a ‘sexy’ thing for Indian middle class. Calling him Nehruvian is a misreading of history.”

Following this, he was abused online by suspected members of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal. He started receiving threat calls and messages on WhatsApp on Friday morning.

“He got a call at around 10.30 am and the caller said he would be killed,” Pramod Meena, who heads the university staff association, told Scroll.in. “At about 1 pm, 10 to 12 goons came to his home and beat him with shoes and steel rods, dragged him down the stairs and to the road. They even poured petrol over him.”

But a few students and friends of the professor, who had gathered at his home near the university campus in his support, “managed to stop them and save him”, Meena added. Amid the chaos, a third-year sociology student named Amit Vikram allegedly went missing. The professor’s friends and students alleged that Vikram has been kidnapped.

Kumar has been a vocal critic of the university’s vice chancellor and had been participating in a teachers’ protest against the vice chancellor for the past 70 days. In his complaint, he alleged that the attackers had asked him why he had been speaking up against the vice chancellor and a few others. A purported video of the assault shows a person asking Kumar if he wants to “become Kanhaiya Kumar”.

The police initially refused to register a complaint, the professor’s supporters claimed. But The Indian Express reported that 12 people have been booked, including Sanjay Kumar Singh, who is the local bureau chief of Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar.

Kumar has been taken to Patna for medical treatment.