Five days after a masked mob unleashed violence inside the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, leaving 36 people injured, Delhi Police Friday released the names of nine suspects — all students, of whom seven were identified as members of Left student outfits. The other two are from the ABVP.
While Delhi Police identified the Left outfits as SFI, AISF, AISA and DSF, it did not name ABVP during the press conference it called to release the names of suspects. Police have since Sunday maintained that the violence was led by two groups — one that was behind the attack on Periyar hostel in the afternoon and the other that was responsible for violence at Sabarmati dhaba and hostel in the evening.
Those named by police include JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh, who received 16 stitches for injuries on her head following Sunday’s violence. While police claimed she was involved in an attack on Periyar hostel in the afternoon, Ghosh said: “I have nothing to fear because I haven’t done anything. Is there any video in which I am roaming around with sticks or wearing a mask? Somebody cannot become a suspect just by them saying so. They should also have some proof, as to why someone is a suspect,”
Police also claimed AISA member and former JNU student Chunchun Kumar can be “seen pelting stones, with a stick in hand outside Periyar hostel”, and JNU student and AISA member Dolan Samanta “with her face covered with a red scarf”.
Apart from the Left outfits, DCP (Crime) Joy Tirkey also named a WhatsApp group called ‘Unity Against Left’, and said Yogendra Bhardwaj, a PhD student from JNU, is the group administrator. Bhardwaj, who is among the nine named by police, is an ABVP member.
Tirkey said “evidence has been collected in two ways — from videos and photos online of the incident, and by speaking to students themselves for four days. They have been identified using JNU student database.” He said some people have also been identified using the WhatsApp group, which has 60 members.
He said there is no CCTV footage available from Sunday. “If we could have got the CCTV footage, it would have helped us with the investigation and identification of suspects, but due to the incidents on January 3 and 4 where students destroyed the server and WiFi, CCTV camera stopped working.”
Other students named by Delhi Police are Vikas Patel (ABVP), Sucheta Talukdar (AISA), and Pankaj Mishra, Priya Ranjan and Vaskar Vijay Mech, whose political affiliations are unclear.
When police held the press conference, JNUSU representatives were in a meeting at the Ministry of HRD. Minutes later, JNUSU issued a statement on the naming of Left students by police: “These are the same students who have been protesting against fee hike since 75 days. They have been protesting so that the poor of this country are able to get higher education, so that this country can progress. The Delhi Police may also arrest us (JNUSU office-bearers) who have come for the meeting at MHRD. This comes at a time when the real perpetrators of the JNU violence, the ABVP goons, the JNUTF goons, are roaming freely and fearlessly inside JNU, while many students are yet to overcome the trauma of the violence.”
DCP Tirkey said, “I spoke to many students and a majority of them want the registration to take place, so they can study, but these particular (Left) groups threatened the students who tried to register. On January 3, around 1 pm, they barged into the centralised computer system room and destroyed the server. The staff were pushed and removed from the room. Later, they switched off the server due to which registration had to be stopped. Authorities fixed the system and started the registration. On January 4, a few miscreants broke the glass door at the back of the room and barged in. They damaged the server.”
On two ABVP activists being named by police, its national general secretary Nidhi Tripathi said she does not deny that the two are a part of the organisation. “In case of Vikas Patel, the picture itself is not clear. It also unclear when and where it is from, and what circumstances it was taken in. Yogendra’s name has been circulated because he was the admin of a certain WhatsApp group. Yes, he created that group so that we could all help each other in the circumstances in the university but many other people also joined the group and when he saw that wrong things were being discussed there, he left it himself. Many people were in the group, and those who were saying these things can be identified by police,” she said.
According to Tirkey, on January 5, around 11.30 am, an altercation took place between students from the Left organisations and students who had come for online registration. Teachers and security staff intervened and the matter was resolved. At 3.45 pm, students with masks allegedly entered the Periyar hostel and attacked students. “Ghosh can be seen with the masked students entering the hostel. An FIR has been registered in the matter,” Tirkey said.
Police said the JNU Teachers’ Association intervened and injured students were rushed to nearby hospitals. Students and JNUTA then held a peace-meeting near Sabarmati hostel. “A group came and fought with the students. We have not identified the group. They targeted rooms in Periyar and Sabarmati hostels and attacked students. After this, few of the miscreants also went to Narmada hostel and fought with students,” police said. While many of the injured have alleged that the ABVP led the attack on Sabarmati dhaba and hostel, the outfit has denied the charge.