Government

JNU Attack: Delhi Police Fact-Finding Committee Gives 'Clean Chit' to the Force

The committee found that the campus "had been on the boil through the day" on January 5 but the situation was brought under control "with police intervention".

New Delhi: A Delhi police fact-finding committee inquiring into the January 5 violence inside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus has given a ‘clean chit’ to the force after students alleged that those police officers who were stationed near the gate did not take any action even as the ‘masked goons’ who attacked students, faculty members and staff passed by them.

According to the Indian Express, the committee that was formed to “probe the sequence of events” and “negligence on part of local police” had recorded the statements of police officers and came to the conclusion that the campus “had been on the boil through the day” but the situation was brought under control “with police intervention”.

On the evening of January 5, around 100 masked persons entered the campus and attacked students, faculty members and staff. In the rampage, at least 36 students, teachers and staff were injured. The police registered an FIR and the case was transferred to the Crime Branch, but no arrests have been made so far. One masked member was identified as an ABVP member, but she has not been arrested.

The Delhi police’s refusal to take action against the ‘masked goons’ or indeed enter the university to bring the situation under control was in stark contrast to its conduct merely weeks earlier to storm Jamia Millia Islamia. Though the police claim that they entered the Jamia campus to control ‘rioters’, CCTV footage showed them attacking students in the library. In the case of JNU, the police stated they could not enter the campus without the administration’s permission. This was once again in contrast with the police action in Jamia, with the university’s vice-chancellor placing it on the record that the police entered the campus without permission.

According to the Indian Express, the fact-finding committee was headed by joint commissioner of police (Western Range) Shalini Singh and comprised four inspectors and two ACPs.

During the enquiry, the committee recorded the statements of then deputy commissioner of police (DCP) (south-west) Devender Arya, then assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Ramesh Kakkar, Vasant Kunj (North) station house officer Rituraj and inspector Anand Yadav. Inspector Yadav was stationed at the university’s administrative block on the morning of January 5 after the high court asked the police to ensure that protests do not occur within a 100-metre radius of the block.

All the police officers gave similar statements, according to the Indian Express, saying that the police officers who were stationed at the administrative block were only present to ensure that the high court’s order is complied with.

A woman looks at damaged belongings of students of JNU at Sabarmati hostel after it was attacked by a mob on January 6, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

“All those police personnel did not have any weapons or lathis. The PCR [police control room] calls started from 2.30 pm and in total, 23 calls were made from inside the campus to the police,” an officer told the newspaper.

An officer told the Express that DCP Arya visited the campus at around 5 pm but returned to the main gate as the “situation appeared normal” at the time. The officials also showed JNU vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar’s WhatsApp message, sent at 6:24 pm, asking the police to be stationed at the gates.

“At 7:45 pm, Registrar Pramod Kumar handed over an official letter to Delhi Police, seeking increased presence and deployment on the premises,” an officer said.

After recording the statements of the police officers, the committee concluded that the campus had been on the boil through the day but the situation was brought under control with police intervention.

What witnesses told The Wire

However, witnesses told The Wire on January 5 that between 8 and 8:30 pm, “men with lathis” were seen exiting the JNU campus – most on foot and some in SUVs. The police and campus security did not stop them from leaving. When asked why men with lathis were being allowed out without questioning, a guard said, “Anyone who wants to leave, can leave.”

By midnight, the numbers of people protesting the attack swelled near the main gate. Earlier, there were reports of members of right-wing groups heckling, abusing and assaulting others there, including Yogendra Yadav.

Though the police had blocked off by the main gate by then, students inside the campus and alumni and supporters on the other side stormed the gate open. It was only after the protestors’ march that the police held a “flag march” on campus silently.