JNU violence: Don’t belong to Congress, says owner of WhatsApp number in eye of political storm
Several Twitter users pointed out that the number belonged to someone from within the Congress, as searches for the number online led people to a site for crowdfunding of Congress candidates ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year. The owner of the number, however, denied being associated with the party.Updated: Jan 07, 2020 12:12 IST
A phone number on one of the WhatsApp groups reportedly discussing the attack on students and teachers in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been traced to a consultant hired by the Congress, who the party said has nothing to do with them.
Even as the JNU violence was unfolding on Sunday, several students belonging to different student organisations started tweeting.
Most alleged that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was organising the violence from some WhatsApp groups, including one called ‘Unity against left’.
Several screenshots of communications within these groups were shared by some students of JNU on social media alleging involvement of the ABVP—the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated students’ wing.
Students from the ABVP have countered these allegations by sharing the number of the person in one of these groups who they said was associated with the Congress.
A senior journalist on Twitter, who had received one of the screenshots from a student, cropped out the rest of the content to focus on only one WhatsApp message.
The message, shared in the same group, read: “People in support of JNU are coming to main gate. Whaa kuch karna hai (Do we need to do something there)?”
Soon after, several Twitter users pointed out that the number belonged to someone from within the Congress, as searches for the number online led people to a site for crowdfunding of Congress candidates ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year.
The owner of the number, Anand Mangnale, told HT that he had joined the group to warn friends of where attacks were happening.
Magnale, a political consultant who has worked with JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor’s IPAC, Congress and even with activist Irom Sharmila in the 2017 Manipur assembly elections, said he was engaged by Congress only for a few days.
“I was hired to help Congress during the LS elections, but I am not affiliated to them. I had entered the WhatsApp group around 8:30, about three hours after it was formed. To extract information from them, I acted like I am one of them,” said Magnale.
He said that after the number was traced to him, he started getting several hate messages and calls.
The Congress, in reply, issued a clarification saying it was the number of a vendor it had hired ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
“The SM (social media) team of INC had hired the services of several private vendors to run the crowd funding campaign, for a limited period before Lok Sabha Elections after which it was discontinued. The number belonged to a vendor and has nothing to do with INC,” read one of Congress’ tweets.
“The BJP must explain and reveal to the country the identities of all those being used to create violence in our campuses,” read another.
Congress’ social media chief Rohan Gupta also said the party had employed Magnale to help crowdfund four to five candidates, who came from economically weaker sections.
“The person was hired to set up the site, and we had engaged him for only 10-15 days. He’s not affiliated with the party,” said Gupta.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi told HT that all such numbers will be part of a probe.
“All these students are kids of my children’s age, and so I would urge them to refrain from violence. I would also like to say that several ABVP members were hurt, too. I was at AIIMS and spoke to ABVP supporters who had head injuries and young girls who were hurt on the back,” Lekhi said.
“The violence of one side was not recorded. And, there is a coincidence—Delhi elections, weaning of support for anti-CAA and BJP president Amit Shah carrying out a door to door campaign took place at the same time. Many students who want to were not allowed to study. That narrative should not be left out,” she said.