Chat groups, pictures in JNU attack suggest link to ABVP; body denies role
Two WhatsApp groups with posts purportedly showing attempts by the suspects in Sunday’s rampage to organise and coordinate their attack on JNU students and teachers are being linked to the ABVP.Updated: Jan 07, 2020 09:05 IST
Two WhatsApp groups with posts purportedly showing attempts by the suspects in Sunday’s rampage to organise and coordinate their attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students and teachers are being linked to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) - a link that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) student body strongly denied.
According to screenshots circulated on social media, the first signs of coordination on the platform were visible at around 5:30pm when one user shared the link to the “Unity against Left” WhatsApp group on another group called the “Friends of RSS”. This user, according to members of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) and publicly available files available on internet, was identified as Yogendra Bhardwaj – an ABVP leader in JNU.
Bhardwaj’s name comes up next to the posts on the screenshots, and the phone number used by him is associated with his name on publicly accessible documents uploaded by the Delhi University’s Sanskrit department, which identifies him as an “ad-hoc” teacher. PhD scholars are often appointed as temporary teachers for lower-level courses in DU colleges.
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Manish Jangid, secretary of ABVP’s JNU unit, confirmed that the WhatsApp groups existed but said that the numbers of his colleagues were added by rivals from Left organisation onto the groups to defame them. “Our numbers were taken using some server and we were added in the group as admin. We were not aware about those groups,” he said. Rahul Chaudhary, ABVP’s national media coordinator, too, denied the role of any ABVP member. “We can add anyone in any group these days and take a screenshot and defame people. If they [Left groups] have proof against us for planning and plotting on WhatsApp groups then they should give it to the police,” he said. A JNUSU councillor, asking not to be named said Bhardwaj was an ABVP member and studied in Sanskrit department.
HT called the number that purportedly belonged to Bhardwaj but it was switched off.
A second WhatsApp number linked to an ABVP member appeared to belong to Vikas Patel. “People from DU can also enter from the Khajan Singh swimming pool,” said a message from a phone number linked to Patel in the “Friends of RSS” group.
That number was seen in posts made by ABVP community groups on Facebook, where Patel is linked to that number. In a Facebook profile, which was later deleted, Patel identified himself as a member of the ABVP.
This number was switched off when HT attempted to reach it.
“Many of us saw Patel with a stick along with the mob inside the campus. He has deleted his Facebook account now. Patel is an ABVP member and was a student here,” said JNUSU vice president Saket Moon.
Chaudhary denied Patel or any other ABVP member have shut their social media accounts.
JNUSU members alleged that several others who were part of the WhatsApp groups and made posts were members or supporters of the ABVP. HT could not get a second corroboration of who these other numbers belonged to.
A third number also became the subject of social media attention and was traced to political consultant linked to the Congress. The owner of the number, a political consultant named Anand Mangnale, told HT that he had joined the group to warn friends of where attacks were happening. Mangnale posted, “People in support of JNU are coming to main gate. Whaa kuch karna hai (Do we need to do something there)?”
He said he was in the group to spy on members. “I had entered the WhatsApp group around 8:30pm, about 3 hours after it was formed. To extract information from them, I acted like I am one of them,” said Magnale.
After supporters of ABVP and RSS highlighted Mangnale’s posts as a Congress worker, he denied he was associated with the party. “I was hired to help Congress during the LS polls, but I am not affiliated to them,” he told HT.
Viral posts on social media also carried images and videos, purportedly of ABVP members, carrying sticks and hammers. HT could not verify the origin of the images. In one such photo, two purported ABVP members were seen carrying sticks and walking into the JNU campus.Chaudhary contended that some of these posts could be morphed.
ABVP, too, released videos to target JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh, with one purporting to show her at the Periyar hostel where an alleged attack took place on the ABVP members. Moon, the JNUSU vice president, denied that Ghosh was an attacker and said that she had gone to stop the attack.
Delhi Police spokesperson, Mandeep Singh Randhawa, said that the crime branch team is monitoring social media and is in the process of collecting videos and pictures showing the mob attack and those involved in it.
“We have been requesting students and teachers of JNU to provide us all the videos and pictures they have related to Sunday’s violence on the campus. Pictures of masked attackers extracted from mobile videos that are being uploaded on social media along with pictures of individuals taken from their social media profiles, establishing a link, will also be examined to ascertain its authenticity,” he said.