The First Information Report that Delhi Police have registered on Sunday’s violence in the Jawaharlal Nehru University shows that the police waited for more than three hours before acting against the masked mob that attacked students and teachers and vandalised property on campus. Even though policemen witnessed 50-60 masked people armed with sticks enter hostels and attack students – not once but twice – they failed to arrest even one attacker.
The attack on JNU students took place against the backdrop of protests over the administration’s decision to hike hostel fees, which had resulted in clashes between opposing student groups. The JNU Students’ Union alleged that the Akhil Bharathiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had orchestrated the attack on Sunday. The students’ union also blamed the police of being mere spectators when the violence was unleashed. The ABVP, on its part, claimed that its members had been the victims of the attack.
The FIR on Monday, registered against unknown persons, shows that police officers were present on campus at around 3.45 pm, when students were first attacked near Periyar hostel.
According to the FIR, on Sunday at around 3.45 pm, a police inspector and other police personnel who were near the university’s administration block received information that a few students had gathered near Periyar hostel and were beating up others and damaging property.
The complainant, a police officer of the Vasant Kunj North police station, said that he, a police inspector, and other police personnel went to the hostel following the reports. There, a group of 40-50 people, some with masks on their faces and sticks in their hands, were beating up students. “The rioters fled when they saw the police team,” said the complaint quoted in the FIR.
The complaint mentions that around this time, a request was received from the JNU administration asking the police to bring the situation under control. “In light of the request by the JNU administration, additional police force was called for,” the FIR notes. “An attempt was made to bring the situation under control and an appeal was issued to the students to maintain peace.”
This contradicts what Delhi Police public relations officer MS Randhawa told the media in a press briefing on Monday. The officer said the request from the JNU administration to act came around 7.45 pm. Randhawa said that some police are usually deployed at the administrative block, as per directions of the Delhi High Court. But the deployment is confined to this location. When calls were received about the violence, the police deployed there intervened. But as the law and order situation worsened, a larger force was deployed at the request of the administration, he said.
The FIR added that around 7 pm, the police inspector got information that some rioters had entered Sabarmati hostel and were beating up students. The inspector, the complainant officer and their team reached the hostel where they saw 50-60 rioters armed with sticks. “They were warned over the PA [public announcement system] to cease violence and disperse,” the FIR noted. “But they continued to indulge in violence and in defiance of the lawful direction they fled. The students who were injured were taken to hospitals immediately.”
The FIR raises several questions. First, if the police knew by 3.45 pm that there were masked men and women with weapons inside the campus, what did they wait till well after 8 pm to send a larger force to the university? The sequence in the FIR makes it clear that a request from the university to establish peace had come after the 3.45 pm incident near the Periyar hostel, when students were beaten up by the masked mob.
Despite seeing masked people with weapons twice, first at 3.45 pm and then again at 7 pm, the police failed to detain even one of the masked people. The university students had earlier alleged that the police remained in the sidelines as men carrying weapons exited the campus without any resistance.
The investigation of the violence has now been transferred to the Delhi Police Crime Branch.
In the meantime, Scroll.in examined two other FIRs registered against students’ union leaders on January 5 for incidents that occurred on the university campus on January 1, January 3 and January 4. The police have stated that there are four FIRs in total.
These FIRs have been filed based on complaints by the JNU security department that students opposing the recent decision of the administration to hike hostel fees had vandalised the computer server rooms, disrupted the semester registration process and even cut fibre optic wires that disrupted the wireless internet connections.
It is to be noted that both these FIRs against the students, mostly belonging to the Left unions, were registered at around 8.30 pm on Sunday evening, just after masked goons attacked the university. In other words, not only did the Delhi Police react to the violence late, they were busy filing cases against students for incidents that took place days earlier.
Among those mentioned in the two FIRs for vandalising the server room is Aishe Ghosh, the president of the JNU Students’ Union who on Sunday evening was receiving treatment to head injuries at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The FIR registered on the violence does not say how many police personnel were inside the university when the goons first attacked the students near the Periyar hostel at around 3.45 pm on Sunday. Neither does the FIR reveal how many police personnel were moved into the university immediately after this incident.