New Delhi: A Right to Information query filed under the ‘life and liberty’ clause by an activist has now revealed five discrepancies in the claims of the Jawaharlal Nehru University administration and the Delhi police regarding the recording and storage of footage through CCTV cameras during the violence on the campus on January 5.
According to RTI activist Saurav Das, who asked a number of questions, the replies furnished by the Communication and Information Services (CIS) office of JNU have cast doubts on the claims made by the university and the police.
A member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, Das said the replies have proved several assumptions.
Vandalism on January 1
Most importantly, he said, the First Information Report registered by the Delhi police on the complaint of JNU administration had stated that there was vandalism at JNU on the first and fourth of this month. Students of Left-affiliated parties were blamed for this. The replies show that on January 1, at least, there was no violence, said Das.
“The RTI also reveals that JNU does not have CCTV footage of the main gate for January 5. It also says that the footage was not uploaded to the cloud computing system,” he said.
On the claim that servers were down that day, he said the graph provided in the reply showed that “there was some activity during the day.”
‘Server room remained intact’
Also, he said, the RTI confirmed that “the room which has servers of the CCTVs had not been vandalised by the students. It was a different room. Not the one which was claimed by the VC as having been destroyed.”
Incidentally, VC Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar had also claimed that biometric system was broken. “Nothing of that sort happened,” Das said, citing the RTI report.
These answers assume significance since VC Kumar had claimed that the January 5 violence – in which about 40-50 masked and armed men and women had attacked students – was a fallout of what happened the previous day.
Kumar had claimed that the mob had entered the campus on January 4 itself, about 24 hours before unprecedented violence was unleashed on the campus and Left-affiliated students were attacked.
Claims of January 4 violence questioned
“What happened on 5th has its origins in what happened in the past few days, we have our CIS centre here, which houses the data centre. So one day before [JNU violence], a few students came with their faces completely covered and took control of the data centre. If the students were working for the right cause, why would they cover their faces?” Kumar had told India Today in an interview.
The university administration had also claimed that its data centre was destroyed on January 4. And Kumar had linked the malfunctioning of CCTVs during the January 5 violence to the shutting down of data centre by the group of masked protesters. On the other hand it was suspected that the power supply was deliberately disrupted during the attack so that the violence of January 5 could not be properly captured and recorded.
Incidentally, the JNU administration took the line of ABVP, which was accused as having been behind the January 5 violence, to complain that it was the Left-wing students who had brought the masked protesters in. The main FIR was filed on the basis of this complaint.
Since the video footage is crucial to the investigation, three JNU professors had also approached the Delhi high court to seek directions that the data and other evidence be preserved.
A look at the detailed response of the CIS office to Das’s query reveals several discrepancies in its claims.
No mention of violence on January 1
On “the total number of incidents since December 25, 2019 to January 8, 2020 when the main server of the JNU in Communication and Information Services (CIS) Office have been recorded to go down/not working/shut down,” the CIS states that there have been two such incidents.
It further stated that “the main server of JNU was shut down on 3rd January, 2020 at 1-30 p.m.”
The second instance was when “the main server of JNU gone down on 4th January, 2020 at 1-30 p.m. due to power supply disruption (sic).” Thus there was no mention of the main server being affected on January 1, due to any violence, as claimed by the administration.
Further, in response to another query on “action taken to fix the problem,” the JNU administration responded by saying that “the main server of JNU (was) fixed through reboots/recycling of services/backup restoration and configurations validation.”
It said five technicians were involved in resuming services. As for register entries, it admitted that they “could not be done due to crisis situation for resuming ICT services of the university on priority and the premises was under full control of security branch.”
‘CCTV servers not in CIS office, but data centre’
To another question on whether the CIS office also contains the servers of the CCTV cameras in and around the campus, the JNU administration clearly responded by saying, “The servers of CCTV cameras are not located in CIS office but located in data centre.” It added that “the details of locations of CCTV cameras cannot be provided due to security reasons and concerns.”
Answering another query, the CIS said “none” of the biometric systems at CIS office were broken or destroyed during the period.
It also answered that a total of 17 fibre optical cables were damaged at around 1 pm on January 4.
Difference between CIS, university website claim
As for CCTV cameras at the north and main gate of the JNU campus, the University said there were four of them in those locations. It also said that the server room where “all information/ footage captured by CCTV installed at the north/main gate of the JNU campus is stored/uploaded” is located at Hall No. 3 of CIS in SBT Building of JNU.
Further, the CIS clarified that “no CCTV data is stored on JNU cloud computing platform.” It also stated that “no CCTV camera footages are uploaded continuously to the JNU cloud computing platform.”
However, Das pointed out that the JNU website states that CCTV data is indeed stored on a cloud computing platform.
No CCTV cameras were vandalised
The university also stated that none of the CCTV cameras were vandalised during the period. It also said there was no server room at the north or main gate.
The university also stated that “no CCTV servers are installed at north or main gate of JNU campus”.
It also said that “since JNU website is critical and a logical public face of the University, thus it was running from alternate backup arrangement during the period.”
Graph shows the server was functioning between January 3 and 9
When asked if continuous and entire footage of CCTVs installed at north or main gate of the JNU campus from 3 pm to 11 pm on January 5, 2020 was available, the administration replied in the negative.
Along with the reply, the university also forwarded a graph indicating the “service disruption” from January 3 to January 9. This, however, showed that the server was indeed functioning during the period in question.