The January 5 attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) left 36 people injured, among them was Kamlesh Mandriya, a first-year MPhil student at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU. Photographs of Mandriya with head injuries went viral on social media with the claim that the Left attacked him.
On January 16, Delhi resident Pranav Sawhney posted pictures of billboards that displayed images of injured students. The hashtag #LeftAttackstudents adorned the billboard. Swahney’s Instagram post said that the images were clicked by an Instagram user @hameenasto. “Tax-funded propaganda at North Campus, University of Delhi. If you are wondering where your tax money is going. This government is engaged in declaring students of your country as terrorists. Images by and @hameenasto,” read the caption.
One of the billboards shows two photos of Mandriya (highlighted in yellow). Alt News reached out @hameenasto aka Adamaya Tomar who shot the images. According to Tomar, who is a student at Delhi School of Journalism, the billboard was installed near Delhi School of Economics. “Along with such billboards, several small posters were put in and around North Campus. According to what I have heard and observed, these posters were installed on January 15. By January 18, all of them were taken down,” said Tomar on a telephonic conversation with Alt News.
However, before Mandriya’s images turned-up on a billboard near North Campus, several Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) accounts had circulated the same photographs on Twitter. Since January 5, ABVP handles were posting the images with the same #LeftAttacksJNU hashtag.
ABVP blames Left for attacking JNU student Kamlesh Mandriya
ABVP Karnataka tweeted four images, including Mandriya’s, and blamed student bodies aligned with the Left for the attack. “It has been proven once again that violence only describes the left. JNU cannot be the ground for the left goons to go to destruction. This is not an ideological war now. Enough is enough! ABVP answers in the language they understand.” #LeffAttacksJNU #SOSJNU
ಹಿಂಸಾಚಾರ ಮಾತ್ರ ಎಡಪಂಥೀಯರನ್ನು ವಿವರಿಸುತ್ತದೆ ಎಂದು ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಸಾಬೀತಾಗಿದೆ. ಎಡ ಗೂಂಡಾಗಳು ವಿನಾಶಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಲು ಜೆಎನ್ಯು ನೆಲವಾಗಿರಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ. ಇದು ಈಗ ಸೈದ್ಧಾಂತಿಕ ಯುದ್ಧವಲ್ಲ. ಸಾಕು ಸಾಕು!
— ABVP Karnataka (@ABVPKarnataka) January 5, 2020
ABVP Delhi also tweeted Mandriya’s photograph and wrote, “Left’s true face is carrying out negative activities in the society and spreading negative thoughts.”
— ABVP Delhi (@ABVPDelhi) January 5, 2020
Similar allegations were raised by ABVP’s Kerala and Uttarakhand wings. Each of the above tweets was made between 9 to 10 pm on January 5. Twitter handle Friends of RSS also tweeted Mandriya’s photo that same day and blamed the attack on the Left.
Mandriya refutes ABVP’s claim, blames ABVP for the attack
Mandriya posted four images of his injuries on Twitter after his hospital discharge. Speaking with Alt News, he said that the images were clicked by a friend at AIIMS.
भाजपा के गुंडों ने JNU में घुसकर छात्रों एवं शिक्षकों पर किया जानलेवा हमला.@CMMadhyaPradesh kindly help me..
Save JNU@ChhattisgarhCMO @RahulGandhi @priyankagandhi @SanjayAzadSln @_YogendraYadav @kanhaiyakumar @Shehla_Rashid @UmarKhalidJNU @TheDeshBhakt #JNUSOS #JNUAttack pic.twitter.com/Y1BxSzkpiI
— Kamlesh Mandriya (@mandriyakamlesh) January 5, 2020
“I would like to make it clear I wasn’t attacked by Left goons but ABVP members,” he said, adding, “I am not a part of any political group at JNU. However, I was a part of a solidarity march along with JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) against the violence which took place on January 4th.”
Registrations for the winter session at JNU began on January 1 amidst protests against the hike in hostel fees. Multiple media platforms reported violence inside the campus on January 4 after JNU students’ union (JNUSU) allegedly disrupted the registration process.
Alt News reached out to a current student at JNU (identity concealed at request) who confirmed that there were talks about a solidarity march on January 5 and messages regarding the same were forwarded to students.
Mandriya claimed that he was attacked with metal rods by a group of around 10 ABVP members near Periyar Hostel. “I could only identify Jayant Kumar and Vijendra Thakur before losing consciousness,” he said. Mandriya submitted an official statement to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on January 13. Alt News accessed a copy of the complaint where the alleged attackers’ names have been mentioned. Mandriya shared the pictures of his alleged assaulters. However, Alt News is not uploading them for the sake of privacy.
On January 18, Newslaundry published an article which also named ‘Vijendra Thakur’ as a student allegedly involved in the JNU violence.
Mandriya’s interview with the press
Using relevant keywords on Twitter, Alt News found a tweet by Zeba Warsi, special correspondent at CNN News 18, where she uploaded a video interview with Mandriya. The JNU student told Warsi that he is not associated with any political party and showed photographs of his injuries. These were the same images viral on social media. Mandriya also denied that students affiliated with Left parties attacked him. However, the video ended abruptly.
WATCH- Kamlesh Mandriya, JNU student- his picture was being shared by ABVP as being an ABVP activist who was attacked by LEFT.
He tells us he doesn’t belong to any org and alleges he was attacked by ABVP on Sun
— Zeba Warsi (@Zebaism) January 8, 2020
Alt News reached out to Warsi who clarified, “Due to poor network at JNU, I could only upload a part of the video. This interview was a part of News 18‘s 3 pm bulletin on January 8.” Warsi shared another video (attached below) which shows the portion not included in her tweet.
In the video attached above, Mandriya said that around 300 students along with JNUTA planned a hostel-to-hostel peaceful march. “At Periyar [hostel] there was a Delhi Police PCR and 50-60 staff of Cyclops, private security at JNU. Just behind them, there were ABVP students who were carrying rods and stones. As soon as we reached near them, they started stone-pelting as a result protesters started to flee,” he narrated.
Mandriya alleged that he was surrounded by 10 people who attacked him with a rod and with a brick after he fell to the ground. “When I managed to get up, the ABVP students attacked again. Finally, two people give me a ride on a two-wheeler and took me to the administrative block where two PCRs were parked but did nothing,” he said, adding that an ambulance at the location took him to AIIMS.
Various ABVP accounts, therefore, shared JNU student Kamlesh Mandriya’s photographs with the assertion that he was attacked by the Left. His pictures had in fact even found a place on a billboard installed near Delhi’s North Campus. However, Mandriya refutes the claim that he was attacked by the Left and blames ABVP members for his injuries.