Protests rocked the campus of Chandigarh University in Punjab's Mohali Saturday night over allegations that objectionable videos of several women students were recorded by a hosteller and leaked. Following the major agitation at the university on the night of Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann ordered a probe into the allegations and subsequent protests.
Students alleged that there were “rumours” that a person had allegedly taken objectionable videos of women students and that they were allegedly leaked. However, after a preliminary investigation, police found that a woman student had purportedly recorded herself and sent the video to her boyfriend. The Punjab police have arrested the woman, and the 23-year-old man said to be her boyfriend was apprehended in Himachal Pradesh and handed over to the Punjab police. The Himachal Pradesh police have also detained another 31-year-old man in connection with the case. An FIR under IPC section 354-C (voyeurism) and the IT Act has been registered in the matter and further probe is on, officials said.
Punjab's Additional Director General of Police, Gurpreet Deo, who reached the Chandigarh University campus to take stock of the situation after the Saturday night protests, told reporters that the woman student appeared to have shared a video of herself with the man, and no objectionable video of any other student was found. University authorities also rejected as "false and baseless" reports that claimed videos of several women students in the varsity hostel were made and leaked on social media and that distraught students had attempted to take their own lives.
During the Sunday evening protest by a large number of students, many accused the university authorities of "suppressing facts" related to the alleged videos. Most of the protesters were dressed in black clothes and chanted "we want justice" in the presence of police. They raised slogans against the police as well. Tension prevailed on campus as students questioned the management’s stance on the issue, and demanded an apology from the police and district administration for calling the allegations “rumours”.
They also demanded that the statements of those students whose videos were allegedly leaked be recorded before the student council. Additionally, in a bid to end the stalemate with the university’s management, the students also put forth other demands including changing of hostel wardens and safety concerns.
Deputy Inspector General of Police GPS Bhullar and Deputy Commissioner Amit Talwar told the protesters that a Special Investigation Team headed by a senior woman IPS officer will be formed for an in-depth investigation. "It is our duty to clear every apprehension of the children," he said. Dr Arvinder Singh Kang, Director, Students Welfare of the University, tried to pacify the protesters.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mann has ordered a detailed probe into the incident, saying strict action will be taken against those found guilty. "Our daughters are our honour... a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident”, he said. Mann, who is currently in Germany, said he is in touch with the university administration and appealed to people not to believe rumours.
The incident sparked a flurry of reactions from political parties and the central and state women's rights organisations too stepped in. Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal said those involved in the incident will get the "harshest punishment". Further, in the wake of the protests, Punjab State Women Commission Chairperson Manisha Gulati visited the university campus.
In a statement, the National Commission for Women (NCW) said its chairperson Rekha Sharma has written to the Director General of Police of Punjab to deal with the matter strictly and without any laxity. The affected students must be given proper counselling and their safety and security must be ensured, the NCW said. The women's rights body has also written to Vice Chancellor, Chandigarh University to take stringent action against the culprits in accordance with the law and investigate the matter extensively.
Opposition leaders including former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa demanded a free and fair probe and exemplary punishment for the guilty. Badal said authorities should make all facts public and not try to suppress anything.
Following accusations of students that they were lathi-charged on Saturday during their protest, Mohali Deputy Commissioner Amit Talwar told them a magisterial inquiry will be conducted into it.
University authorities said that the demand of protesting students regarding relaxing hostel timings has been agreed to. The university management and the police suggested that a students' committee be formed to hold further talks with the university administration regarding their various other issues. DC Talwar also assured the students that no protesting student will be rusticated from the college.
Briefing reporters at the university campus, ADGP Deo, who also holds the charge of women and child affairs, said many rumours about the case were circulating on various social media platforms. "There are 4,000 girl students who live in the hostel. One has been arrested by police. Her phone has been taken into police possession and state cyber crime is conducting its analysis".
Deo said that three to four girl students spotted the accused student in the common washroom where she was taking some pictures with her phone "which they thought she was taking from underneath the bathroom door... They then reported the matter to the warden and subsequently the police were informed".
"I want to clarify after interaction with the group of girls they are happy that their concerns have been addressed. Their concern was if there was any video of other girls on her phone. Prima facie we did not come across any video of other girls," ADG Deo said.
In a statement, Chandigarh University Pro-Chancellor RS Bawa said there are rumours that girls have committed suicide whereas the fact is that no girl has attempted any such step. No girl has been admitted to hospital in the incident, he said. Bawa said, "There is another rumour which is circulating through media that an objectionable MMS has been found of different students. This is totally false and baseless."
Mohali SSP Soni said, "If you look at the sequence of events so far now, in our investigation it has come to notice that the video was only of herself. Apart from this, there is no video of any other (student)."