The victims of the violence at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on January 5, 2020, still await justice as the Delhi Police investigation seems to have lost track without identifying the culprits.
More than 30 students and teachers, including JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh and faculty member Sucharita Sen, were severely injured when around 100 masked persons carrying sticks and rods went on a rampage on the campus for almost four hours. The injured students and teachers had accused the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organisation affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of the violence. Apparently, the attack was carried out to prevent the students from protesting the fees hike and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
After recording the statements of the victims during the initial days of inquiry, the Delhi Police could not collect the chat data of WhatsApp groups ‘Friends of RSS and Unity against Left, where the attack was planned with the company refusing to share any information about the members. US-registered WhatsApp said that it would preserve the data but would require an order by an American court to share the information.
The university maintained that it delayed its probe into violence owing to the pandemic and would soon ask students to join the investigation. In an interview to news agency PTI, vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar said that the university did not ask students to testify because the situation was not conducive for such a probe. “Is it the right time to call them when they are in their hometowns? These are our students. Considering the Covid situation, statements have not been recorded. We are waiting for the situation to normalise.”
When the matter was taken up in Parliament, Nityanand Rai, minister of state for home affairs, had told the Lok Sabha that the Delhi Police has not arrested anyone in connection with the violence. “The investigation conducted, inter alia, includes the examination of witnesses, collection and analysis of video footages and examination of the identified suspects,” he said.
Dripta Sarangi, a student of linguistics who sustained grievous injuries during the attacks told Newsclick that the police never recorded her statement.
“The entire world saw what transpired on the campus on that dreadful night. The pictures clearly showed how Komal Sharma roamed around the campus along with her accomplices, injured the students and walked out as security staff and policemen took no action. Any other government would have taken action had world-renowned professors been attacked,” Sarangi said. Sharma, an outsider, was spotted in a video with an iron rod along with the mob and threatening students with dire consequences if they came out of rooms of Sabarmati Hostel.
Amit Thorat, an assistant professor at Centre for Studies in Regional Development, JNU, was among the faculty members who were assaulted. “I was the first among the faculty members who were assaulted when I went to Periyar Hostel to see what was happening on the campus. I somehow managed to flee and reached my other colleagues who had gathered to protest the violence on the previous day. Few minutes later, a mob attacked everybody at the T point near Sabarmati Hostel,” he said.
Thorat, who “recorded his statement and submitted photos and videos in front of Delhi Police team which was on the campus for few days” said, “Still, the people did not take action. We no longer feel safe on the campus. I have grown up here as a child, got enrolled but never felt so unsafe. But the attack has brought us out of our comfort zone prepared us for a future struggle because the worst has already been witnessed.”
Tara Narula, who has been providing legal advice to Ghosh and Sen, told Newsclick over the phone said that it is surprising no one has been arrested and no final report filed despite such a shocking attack on the campus. “The administration does not seem to have taken any steps to ensure the security of students. The investigation must be completed as this is an egregious offence and it is in the public interest to bring the perpetrators to book,” she said.
Calling for the victims to ask a court to monitor the investigation, Narula said, “If the police don’t act, the victims should consider filing a petition under Sections156(3) of the CrPC, under which the concerned court can monitor the investigation conducted so far. Ideally, such an initiative ought to have been taken by the vice-chancellor and other officials of the university in the interest of their students and faculty.”
Moushumi Basu, secretary, Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association, said that the horrors of the attack still haunt the students and teachers. “The vice-chancellor failed to inspire confidence in the university community through his sheer inaction. I distinctly remember how the faculty members hid in the bushes for three hours to save their lives. More than the Delhi Police, it is the university administration, which abandoned its students and teachers when its primary job was to protect them.”
The world can “never forget” the televised videos of the attack that showed masked men brandishing rods being escorted out of the main gate by the Delhi Police, Basu said adding, “what will also not be forgotten easily is the entire facade of the inquiry that allowed the vice-chancellor to cover up his share of institutional complicity in the violence”.
In the last two years, “it has become apparent that professor Jagadesh Kumar continues to occupy the position of caretaker vice-chancellor with the explicit mandate of systematically dismantling the democratic ethos and intellectual fabric of JNU”, Basu alleged.
Alleging that Kumar has “not only failed to protect the interests of the university but has rewarded every such agency and person who has been complicit in the very act of destruction”, Basu said, “A case in point is the renewal of the security contract of Cyclops, which was hired just before the attack. Despite multiple security breaches, including the January 5 attack, the agency of ex-defence personnel continues to provide abject security to the campus.”