Female students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University alleged that they were subjected to misbehaviour and stalking by a drunk guard in campus late on Friday night. The students, residents of the Tapti Hostel, said the guard yelled at them to stay inside their rooms when they tried coming out of the hostel gate. The prestigious university had hired the services of Cyclops Security and Allied Services Private Limited for security purposes.
The agency has been in question for offensive behaviour by its personnel in recent months. On April 1, the university’s guards denied entry to a female student who came back after the lockdown was announced. In a separate incident, one of the supervisors of the company engaged in a scuffle with a student who was eventually referred to AIIMS Trauma Centre after sustaining injuries.
Sarita Mali, a student of PhD Hindi, told NewsClick that she and a fried were going out to feed the dogs just outside the hostel. “Since there is a complete lockdown, the dogs are entirely dependent on us for food. Suddenly, a guard charged towards us and started yelling at us. When we retreated, he followed us to the staircase of the girls wing in the hostel. His gestures made it clear that he was intoxicated,” she said.
Sarita added that the guard was constantly screaming at them saying he would check our identity cards and that he would “discipline us” since he was from the army. “My friends and I were shocked. Who gave this drunk guard the authority to stalk and misbehave with us and say that they would convert the university into an army camp. We are anguished,” she added, mentioning that the campus had been the “safest” place for them.
“It is for the first time that we felt frightened and insecure due to security guards. Cyclops claims that it is run by Ex Servicemen. Now, these men are misbehaving with us. I wish to ask our Vice Chancellor, who is responsible for our security?” said Sarita.
She mentioned that most of the guards think that they are all political activists. “On the contrary, I have no political affiliations and I have come here to become an IAS officer. The experience was frightening to the extent that I could not sleep at night. Everyone knows that country is under a complete lockdown. There are 10 to 12 girls in the hostel. At such a time, if a guard is drunk, who is responsible for any mishap?” Sarita added.
In one of the videos the students shot, the guard is seen screaming and asserting his association with the army. Interestingly, one of the supervisors, in conversation with the warden of the hostel, acknowledged that the guard was under the influence of alcohol.
NewsClick reached out to Cyclops’ in-charge for the university who admitted that the guard misbehaved with girls. He said: “The guard in question has been suspended with immediate effect. If we find that a guard is not is compliant with our codes and ethics, we remove him immediately.”
When asked about the guard undermining the sense of security in the students, he said that “students exaggerate things specially when they feel it will be covered by the media.”
The incident incited sharp reactions from the students community in JNU. Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President Aishe Ghosh said: “The incident and the fact that the guard even tried to enter the girls wing of the hostel sheds light on the way Cyclops works. This security agency was hired last year by JNU administration which paid more money than they spent on the previous agency. We now know why. The guards have been found in a drunken state on multiple occasions. They have attacked students and threatened violence against them. On January 5 they facilitated the entry of ABVP goons and helped them identify non-ABVP students,” she added.
Ghose said that they “demand the removal of Cyclops and intervention from the DCW and NCW on a woman student being harassed in this way. Cyclops is trying to vitiate the campus atmosphere in a way which will not be tolerated. They assaulted students on April 1 and misbehaved with another student on March 31.”
Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association Secretary Surajit Mazoomdar said that the incident needs an impartial inquiry and stringent action against the guard. He added that the university administration has been using the Cyclops guards to the gag the students, which cannot be acceptable in a university.
In its statement, JNUTA said: “The brazenness of the Cyclops Security has of course been encouraged by the attitude of the VC and JNU Administration which not only appointed it, encouraged it to stand by and watch on 5 January 2020 when masked marauders went on a riot and then took no action against it for its failure. The approach of the Administration with an autocratic mindset towards the lockdown, of seeing it more as another opportunity to ‘enforce’ compliance on teachers, students and staff rather than as a collective cooperative exercise, also encourages the Security to adopt a hostile attitude towards the University community. Had that not been the case, the Administration would have stepped in to rein in the Security.