Published: 06th January 2020
Have we identified the 'masked goons'? Rumours quashed about the people who attacked JNU
Within minutes of the violence inside the JNU campus, leftists on social media linked the perpetrators to ABVP members while the right-wingers blamed the former for the attack
As the violence mounted on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on Sunday evening after 50-odd people with their faces covered entered the campus with lathis and rods and went on a rampage, attacking students as well as teachers, misinformation began spreading like wildfire on social media.
While the JNU Students' Union and the other left-leaning organisations on campus alleged that the attack was pre-planned and carried out by the members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisdhad, ABVP blamed the Left, calling the violence an attack by the 'leftist goons'. Within minutes of the ruckus inside the JNU campus, people on social media linked the perpetrators to ABVP members, WhatsApp screenshots also alleged that ABVP pre-meditated the attack. On the other hand, the right wingers put up videos and photos claiming that left-leaning organisations began the attacks. And the blame game continued.
A user on Twitter alleged that one of the masked people seen in the video and photos with lathis in their hands, a girl, was an ABVP functionary. Some identified her as Komal Sharma, a student from Delhi University and a member of the varsity's ABVP unit. The assertion was based on the clothes that she was wearing and some of her other physical features that seemed to match an earlier photo. The ABVP has denied the allegations saying that it was not Komal and they are yet to find out the correct identity.
Another ABVP functionary named Shambhavi was also alleged to be in the video, however, the ABVP has stated that Shambhavi was herself attacked and was at AIIMS trauma centre on Sunday after the violence took place.
Image on extreme right is of Shambhavi (Pic: ABVP twitter)
Several screenshots from namely two WhatsApp groups — RSS Ke Friends and Unity against Left — were being shared widely on social media that show texts by alleged members of the ABVP planning the attacks, which also they have denied saying that they do not recognise any such groups. So, what do the WhatsApp exchanges exactly suggest?
Using Truecaller, an app that enables the identification of mobile phone users, and Facebook, the identity of some of the people exchanging messages about the violence on these WhatsApp groups could be traced.
In the WhatsApp group called 'RSS Ke Friends', a person messaged to say: "Please join this group for unity against left terror. These people should be beaten up. That is the only treatment."
To which, someone responded saying: "Get the people from DU to enter from the Khajan Singh swimming side. We are 25-30 of us here." DU is likely to be a reference to Delhi University. Khazan Singh Swimming Academy is situated inside JNU, and has a separate entry gate. The number associated with this message, when traced using Truecaller, showed the name Vikas Patel. His Facebook profile states he is an Executive Committee member of ABVP and former Vice President of ABVP at JNU.
There were several other numbers in the groups which were traced to ABVP functionaries as well. These screenshots became public after non-ABVP and non-RSS people managed to infiltrate and join the WhatsApp group 'Unity Against Left' using an invite link that was circulated. However, their presence was detected soon. Anand Mangnale, who has a lot of friends in JNU and believes in the left-wing ideology, posted on his Facebook profile accepting that he joined the right-wing to get information on what they were planning.
The identities of the attackers have not yet been confirmed by the Delhi Police and no arrest has been made yet in connection to the violence. The police has clubbed several complaints it received after yesterday's violence and filed a single FIR (First Information Report).
For nearly 70 days now, a standoff between the students and the administration is on over the hike in hostel fees at JNU. JNU Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar appealed to the students to maintain peace on campus and stated that the top priority is to protect the academic interest of the students. "They need not fear about their process (of winter semester registration). The top priority of the University is to protect the academic interests of our students," he said in a statement on his official Twitter account.