The attack on the students and faculty members of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the evening of January 5 was state-sponsored, said Congress leader Sushmita Dev. The damning allegation against the government came at the unveiling of a 26-page fact-finding report at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday.
“The Vice-Chancellor was the mastermind behind the incident,” Dev said, as she accused the JNU VC M Jagadesh Kumar of “connivance” and “complicity” in the violence.
“The VC should be in jail and must be charged for criminal conspiracy,” demanded the Congress leader.
Accusing the VC of misrepresenting facts in front of police, she pointed out that even though the VC’s press release stated that police was called up around 4:30 PM, the cops have stated that there were allowed to enter the premises at 7:45 PM.
Responding to a reporter’s question at the press conference, Dev said that the party was also actively considering to offer legal assistance to the victims of the violence who were “unfairly targeted by the police.”
“Our team submitted the report to party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday. She has forwarded it to KC Venugopal and we are in talks with our team of lawyers,” she said.
The Congress’ fact-finding panel comprised All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev, Rajya Sabha MP Dr Syed Nasser Hussain, Lok Sabha MP Hibi Eden and former National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) President Amrita Dhawan.
The four-person team interviewed 20 staff members and 46 students from the university as part of their investigation into the January 5 episode. The Congress’ team stated in its report that its calls seeking appointments with Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, the Chief Security Officer (CSO), activists from the ABVP and certain professors didn’t elicit any response.
Dev noted that repeated verbal and written requests from the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) to the VC, seeking an end to the logjam over the hostel fee-hike, were deliberately stonewalled by the university administration.
Levelling more serious allegations against the university administration, the Congress leader highlighted to reporters that the varsity press release on January 5 didn’t even mention the name of Sabarmati Hostel, even though it bore the maximum brunt of the violence.
“Both JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh and JNU faculty member Professor Sucharita Sen were beaten up at the Sabarmati Hostel. Why did then the registrar’s press release only name Periyar Hostel,” she questioned.
The party’s fact-finding team also found that electricity connection at the sites of violence were snapped at the time of the attack. Claiming that the university administration deliberately didn’t fix the server so as to keep the CCTV footage of the incident from being recorded, the Congress’ team accused the VC of “taking advantage” of the non-functioning of cameras.
“It is almost as if the VC took advantage of the disconnection of the server to prevent a recording of CCTV footage to protect the attackers and go about their business without any record,” says the report.
The Congress team has claimed that even most of the rooms attacked at Periyar Hostel were those of students affiliated to Left organisations.
“The faculty members like Tapan Bihari, warden of Periyar Hostel, were actively involved in facilitating the mob violence,” Dev said at the press conference, citing the fact-finding report.
“There is no explanation how so many sticks, hammers and other weapons were available on campus or how were they brought into the campus unless there was support of the security guards and some members of the faculty,” noted the former Congress MP.
Dev, the All India Mahila Congress President, further accused the Chief Security Officer Navin and Delhi Police on enabling the violence and turning a blind eye to it while the episode was ongoing.
The role of Chief Security Officer
The Congress team expressed surprise that the campus security was busy registering FIRs with the local police station at the time when the students and faculty members were under attack.
“Two FIRs were filed, No.0003 and 0004 on January 5 at around 8:39 & 8:43 PM by the security of the University about disconnection of the internet on Jan 3 and 4,” states the report.
“Ironically, this was the time when the students were at the AIIMS Trauma Centre for treatment of their injuries,” it adds.
The Congress’ team said that repeated calls to the campus security by members of the faculty and students while the assault was happening remained unanswered.
Delhi Police Commissioner must be probed
The report claims that there is “ample evidence” indicating towards the “negligence” and complicity of Delhi Police to allow violence on campus. “They even beat students during flag march at 7.45 PM,” it states.
Raising questions on the quality of the probe being carried out by Delhi Police, Congress said that not a single case on attempt to murder had been filed till date.
“The quality of the investigation is questionable where till now a case for attempt to murder has not been filed despite serious head injuries suffered by students and faculty,” the report states.
The report notes that the president of the JNUSU, Ayesha Ghosh, filed a complaint on Jan 7, but no arrests had been made till date.
“The role of the Delhi Police Commissioner, and not only the cops present at the scene, must be probed,” says the report.
Among its major recommendations, the report has called upon the government to sack the vice-chancellor and initiate an independent enquiry into the appointments he has made till date. The Congress has also asked for a criminal investigation to be initiated against the VC and the security company manning the campus. The party report has further demanded a rollback of the fee hike as well as action against Delhi Police Commissioner and officials for being unresponsive to SOS phone calls on the day of violence.