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Unmasked on WhatsApp: JNU chief proctor to eight ABVP office-bearers

As reported by The Indian Express Monday, the groups kept buzzing in the hours leading up to the violence, and some messages came in even as the masked men were on the loose, entering hostel rooms, beating up students and damaging furniture.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi | Updated: January 7, 2020 2:53:24 pm
Unmasked on WhatsApp: JNU chief proctor to eight ABVP office-bearers View of rampaged Sabarmati Hostel of Jawaharlal Nehru University. (Express photograph: Tashi Tobgyal)

At least eight office-bearers of ABVP, the chief proctor of JNU, a teacher of a Delhi University-affiliated college and two PhD scholars were members — some as active participants — of at least three WhatsApp groups where messages threatening violence against students of the university did the rounds on Sunday.

As reported by The Indian Express Monday, the groups kept buzzing in the hours leading up to the violence, and some messages came in even as the masked men were on the loose, entering hostel rooms, beating up students and damaging furniture.

The day after, more details emerged on the members of the groups. JNU chief proctor Dhananjay Singh was a member of the group ‘Friends of RSS’, one of the groups active before and during the violence. When contacted, Singh said he was not aware of the conversations on the group.

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“I am not an active member and have now quit the group. What is most important for me right now is to restore peace. They are all my students after all, irrespective of groups. I have been a student of this university and it is a very trying time for me emotionally as well. So many times you don’t even look at the messages in such groups when you are added,” Singh, who was ABVP’s presidential candidate in 2004, said.

Among the administrators of the group ‘Unity Against Left’, at least eight were ABVP’s current and former office-bearers. Vijay Kumar, Vibhag Sanyojak of JNU ABVP unit, was one of the administrators. When contacted, he said: “I was added by an unknown number and was made admin of that group. When I checked my WhatsApp, I left that group immediately. I am getting threatening calls from international numbers now.” A student of the School of International Studies of JNU, Kumar is in the final year of his PhD course.

Read | Day after Delhi Police watched mob, not one arrest, no attacker identified

The other administrators of the group include Manish Jangid, the ABVP presidential candidate for the 2019 JNUSU polls, Valentina Brahma, ABVP’s Delhi girls coordinator, the student body’s joint secretary candidate during the polls and its Delhi state joint secretary.

Unmasked on WhatsApp: JNU chief proctor to eight ABVP office-bearers Express Cartoon by EP Unny. Click to see other cartoons.

Brahma said she realised that she was added to the group around 5.30 pm. “Initially I did not check the messages. But I saw people from ABVP as admins, so thought it was our group. After a few hours, when I saw the messages, I realised that the group has been hijacked by people from the Left. Then I started removing people. Then someone removed me as the admin. And then I exited the group. Only an admin can remove that admin, so it was clear who took over the group,” she said.

Meanwhile, another group ‘Left Terror Down Down’ also saw similar activities around the same time. The name of the group was changed at least thrice from ‘Left Terror Down Down’ to ‘Sanghi Goons Murdabad’ to ‘AVBP chee chee’ before being reinstated to its original name.

Opinion |JNU violence reflects an apocalyptic politics driven by a constant need to find new enemies

Kabeer Chungathara, who changed the name of the group to ‘Sanghi Goons Murdabad’, said he is an unemployed youth from Kerala, who joined the group through a link and then changed its name to protest against ABVP.

Meanwhile, Jangid, who is also secretary of ABVP’s JNU unit, said, “I was added to that group (Unity Against Left) after my phone was broken. ABVP has no such group. That group was made by Communists and they made us its admin. Till now I have not seen any of the messages in that group. There were members of AISA, SFI, NSUI in that group and we were added to it through a link.”

A man identified as an assistant professor at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College had posted “saalo ko hostel mein ghus ke tode” in one of the groups on Sunday. When The Indian Express called him, he said he stays in Noida and disconnected the call. On Monday, he did not respond to calls and texts. The man’s Facebook profile says he is affiliated to the BJP.

Also Read | Recourse to violence frightening, says Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee on JNU

Another man, who had posted “tod do saalon ko” in a group, when contacted, claimed to be a businessman from Azamgarh. “I will forward your number to the cyber cell,” he said.

Saurabh Kumar, who claimed to be pursuing PhD from the School of International Studies, posted multiple messages in a group, including: “This is a now or never battle. If we don’t beat them now, then when?” On Sunday, he admitted he was a member of ABVP, but denied having posted any message. “Someone misused my name,” he said.

Also Read | Do not precipitate, do not go after students: HRD to JNU

Among those spotted with batons outside the campus on Sunday night was a member of the ABVP, JNU. He had also written in one of the groups, “Entry of Delhi University people are being done from the Khajan Singh Swimming Pool side. Around 25-30 of us are here.” His mobile phone was switched off on Monday.

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