The telecast of a sting operation by India Today TV Friday evening in which two students, claiming to be ABVP members, brag about their role in Sunday’s violence and some glaring omissions by Delhi Police during a press conference earlier raised questions about the police version on the series of events in JNU on January 5.
Barely an hour after the police called a press conference to release names of suspects in the JNU violence case, the sting operation was telecast in which two first-year BA (French) students, claiming to be ABVP members, “confessed” their role in the violence. Another JNU student, a member of Left outfit AISA and pursuing a PhD, was shown “confessing” her role in disrupting the server room on the campus.
In footage aired by the channel, one of the BA (French) students claimed to have “led the mob attack at Sabarmati hostel”.
“Periyar (hostel) was attacked first and it was a reaction to their action… I picked a stick from a flag lying near Periyar. I mobilised people to attack Sabarmati hostel.” He said he “called a friend, who is an organisational secretary of the ABVP”. “There was a man with a flowing beard. He looked like a Kashmiri. I beat him up and then broke the gate with my kicks,” he said.
The student also claimed that there was police presence on campus, and that a policeman encouraged the violence. “I had called police myself after a student was injured at Periyar,” he said.
The second student said he gave the other student his “helmet as it is a must for safety when you break glass”. He said there were 20 ABVP activists from JNU in the mob.
ABVP’s national secretary Nidhi Tripathi later said, “I don’t know either of these two individuals who are being named. They are not members of the ABVP, and they have not been given any responsibilities by the ABVP. You can’t say that someone is from the ABVP just because they are claiming they are. It can be checked if the ABVP has ever given them any responsibilities.”
Both the BA students were unavailable on the phone.
The PhD student, an AISA activist, was recorded saying that she “shut down the university servers”. The student, when contacted by The Indian Express, said: “How can the reaction to this incident be ABVP’s violence on us? We accept admin work had stopped because of our protest. Then they should have come and talked to us; who is the ABVP to come and hit us?”
She also tweeted: “How come me sitting in front of the sever room provoked ABVP so much that they attacked students on January 5 brutally with iron rods?”
In linking seven of the nine students to the violence, Delhi Police appeared to have relied heavily on videos and photos circulated by ABVP over the last five days. The ABVP also confirmed to The Indian Express that the footage circulated by them online and on WhatsApp had also been submitted to Delhi Police following the violence.
Addressing the press conference, DCP (Crime) Joy Tirkey listed four Left outfits — SFI, AISF, AISA and DSF — and said seven of the nine students belonged to them. He did not, however, mention the ABVP, though the remaining two students belong to the outfit.
Those named by police include JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh. To indicate her involvement, Tirkey, who is heading the special investigation team, showed a screenshot of one of the many videos, purportedly from Sunday’s violence. This same video had been tweeted by ABVP at 11.35 am on January 6.
Text next to the video grab shared by police reads: “Ghosh with a red bag is seen in the video of Periyar hostel vandalism, leading her masked violent comrade gang.”
Police also shared a screen grab of a video purportedly showing Dolan Samanta from AISA. This is the same video tweeted by ABVP at 6.27 pm on January 6.
Two photographs purportedly showing Chunchun Kumar, a former JNU student affiliated with AISA, were also released by police with text that read: “AISA activist (pelting stone with stick in hand outside Periyar Hostel).” The same photographs had been tweeted by Ashish Chauhan, ABVP’s national organising secretary, at 11.54 pm on January 7.
Manish Jangid, the ABVP secretary, JNU, told The Indian Express: “When stone-pelting and violence was happening, some of our workers and other hostel staff had gone up to the terrace and they filmed this footage. We had submitted all the footage with our complaint to police.”
Some officers probing the case told The Indian Express that the “hurried” press conference had caught them unawares, given the “sensitive” nature of the case.
Not a single arrest has been made by police so far, and even before the press conference, Delhi Police spokesperson M S Randhawa maintained that the violence at JNU on Sunday was still being investigated by the crime branch.
“In the last few days, misinformation is being spread everywhere especially about the investigation. We want to give out information about the chain of events and update media about the investigation. Also, I want to convey that these cases involve a reputed institute and its students. Keeping in mind the future of these students, the information we are sharing is sensitive and we hope that you will put the information in proper perspective,” he said.
Also read | JNU violence: Teachers seek to retrieve footage
Photos and text released by police also had some errors. The photo of ABVP’s Shiv Poojan Mandal was used in place of Vikas Patel, and it was only later that the photo was corrected and a fresh document released by police. The JNUSU said this showed the “shoddiness” of the SIT.
The Delhi Police also called the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) the Student Front of India — not once but multiple times. Police also wrongly identified Sucheta Talukdar as being from the SFI. She is a JNUSU councillor from the All India Students’ Association (AISA).
Police also stated that Patel was pursuing a course called ‘MS’ Korean, though there is no course in JNU with the abbreviation ‘MS’. Tirkey and Randhawa did not take questions from the media.
(With inputs from Aranya Shankar)