JNU Attack: What the Delhi Police Has Done and What it Hasn't

Several discrepancies, in FIRs, in purported time stamps and in motivation, has called the Delhi Police's role into question.

New Delhi: In the aftermath of a brutal attack on students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday, the alleged role of Delhi Police as “mute spectators” of violence has been called into question. 

Both the JNU Students Union and the JNU Teachers Association have accused the Delhi Police of not controlling the masked mob that roamed around freely for almost three hours in the campus, ransacking hostels and hitting students, teachers, and security guards with stones and iron rods. 

Even as 31 students, two teachers, and two guards suffered major and minor injuries, the Delhi Police has not arrested even a single person after three days of the mob violence but has gone ahead and registered an FIR against Aishe Ghosh, the JNU Students Union president, who suffered critical head and arm injuries as the mob ran amok on Sunday evening. 

As security lapses and police inaction has come under scrutiny, The Wire breaks down what the capital’s police force, under the Union home ministry, has done and what it hasn’t. 

Four FIRs in total were filed in the JNU violence case, according to the Delhi police. 

One was filed by the Delhi Police in connection with the mob violence on Sunday, the investigation of which has now been shifted to the Delhi Police Crime Branch. 

The other three were filed on the basis of JNU security department’s complaints that allege that students protesting against fee hike vandalised the computer server rooms and the optical fibres to disrupt the online semester registration that began on January 1.

The JNUSU had given a boycott registration call as part of the ongoing agitation against the university administration’s decision to increase tuition and hostel fees by nearly 300%

Students protest at the main gate at JNU on Monday, January 6, 2020. Photo: PTI/Atul Yadav

According to the FIR filed by the Delhi Police, a police inspector and his team who were deployed in the university’s administration block building got information that a mob near Periyar hostel were beating up students and destroying property. The complainant police officer said that upon reaching the spot he saw a group of 40-50 people, some of them with masks, were beating up students with sticks but it fled when it saw police approaching. 

He further adds that around the same time, he received a request from the JNU administration to control the situation. “In light of the request by the JNU administration, additional police force was called for,” the FIR states.

Also watch | #BeyondTheHeadlines: After JNU, Ignorance is No Longer an Option

The FIR also says that at around 7 pm the complainant was informed that some rioters had entered Sabarmati hostel and were beating up students and ransacking their rooms. And, when he reached there, he saw 50-60 rioters armed with sticks and despite repeated appeals to stop attacking students, “They continued to indulge in violence…”

The FIR also notes that the injured students were rushed to different hospitals immediately. 

Will Delhi Police answer these questions?

The response of Delhi Police to the mob attack on JNU has been questionable on more than one count. 

  • The details in the FIR directly contradicts the Delhi Police’s own initial version on why it failed to control the mob. 

Delhi Police Public Relation Officer M.S.Randhawa had told the press that the JNU administration had requested the police to control the escalating situation only at around 7.45 pm.

“We are usually deployed in the administration block, but the place where the scuffle broke out was a little farther. The JNU administration called us up around 7:45 pm, after which we brought the situation under control. The Crime Branch will investigate the matter, and CCTV footage has been collected,” he had said on Tuesday

The scene at JNU on Sunday, December 15. Photo: Reuters

However, the FIR clearly notes that the complainant police officer was informed of the armed, masked mob at around 3.45 pm and also received a request from JNU administration to prevent violence around the same time. Had the police called for assistance in the afternoon, the mob attack that actually ran berserk between 6 pm to 9 pm could have been prevented.

In fact, the police personnel deployed at the administration saw the masked mob twice, once at 3.45 pm near the Periyar hostel and then again at 7 pm at the Sabarmati hostel, but chose to call for a larger force only at 8 pm.

This is a question which many will ask now.

  • The South-West Delhi’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Devender Arya has an explanation though. “There must have been a mistake while framing the FIR. We received permission only at 7.45 pm. Our teams entered the campus at around 8 pm. Since the FIR has been frozen, the correction cannot be made now. We will stick to our official version (of 7.45 pm) in all the subsequent reports.”

Yet, he could not deny that the police had been getting multiple PCR calls from the university community to control mob violence.

The delay, according to Arya, is simple. The forces were waiting outside the main gate as it had not received a go-ahead from the university administration to enter the university. 

The Delhi Police had come under fire for storming the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, including its library and hostels. 

Describing the anomalies in the Delhi Police’s versions, retired IPS and former UP DGP Vikram Singh said it was a major “discrepancy”. 

“It is difficult to understand why Delhi police waited for permission while students were being beaten inside. This shows the double standards of the Delhi Police. They did not seek permission while entering Jamia Millia but waited at the gates of JNU,” the former UP DGP said.

  • Although the Delhi Police has rejected the claim by students and teachers that its personnel remained on the sidelines even as the mob attacked them, it hasn’t been able to answer any of the charges convincingly. It said that it responded to the unfolding situation professionally but could not properly debunk the content of a few videos circulated on social media platforms that showed the masked men walking out of the university premises in the presence of the police.
  • The other FIRs filed by the JNU security department against protesting students were registered around 8.30 pm on Sunday, which is around the same time when the masked mob was on a rampage at the university. This not only puts a question mark on the intentions of the JNU security department, which was also supposed to prevent the illegal entry of the mob into the campus, but also of the Delhi Police which was busy registering FIRs against students at a time when it was supposed to prevent the brutal attack against them.
  • While the Delhi Police has still not managed to identify any one in the mob even now, it was quite prompt to name students, including JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh’s, in the other three FIRs. Ghosh was being treated for head and arm injury at AIIMS at the same time the Delhi Police was registering an FIR against her.
  • The Delhi Police has remained silent on how roughly 100 people were able to run riot inside the JNU campus for close to three hours — between 6 pm and 9 pm — despite the first phone call to the police control room being made at 4.57 pm Sunday.

Meanwhile, even as it has failed to arrest even a single person, the Delhi Police has formed “a fact-finding team” to conduct “a detailed inquiry” under the authority of the Joint Commissioner of Police into the JNU incident.