The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expelled two members of the party’s IT cell in Varanasi, after they were arrested for allegedly being the perpetrators of the November 2 gangrape of a 20-year-old BTech student of the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) Varanasi (IIT-BHU) on campus. Three people were arrested late Saturday, December 30, and were identified as the alleged accused. BJP’s action came hours after the Opposition alleged that the accused were linked to the ruling party.
Lanka Station House Officer Shivakant Mishra identified the arrested trio as Kunal Pandey of Sunderpur's Brij Enclave Colony; Anand, a.k.a Abhishek Chauhan, of Jivadhipur Bajardiha; and Saksham Patel of Bajardiha. Kashi Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) RS Gautam said the three accused men have confessed to the crime, including disrobing and filming the survivor at gunpoint, and could be charged under the National Security Act and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act.
BJP’s Varanasi district chief Hansraj Vishwakarma did not reveal their designation and role in the party. Speaking about the party’s decision, Vishwakarma said, “Definitely their (accused) names have appeared in the police probe, so they have been expelled from the party after an investigation.” He then clarified and added that further action would be taken as per the directions of the party leadership.
Hours after the arrest of the accused, social media was flooded with screenshots of Kunal and Saksham's Facebook pages, mentioning the positions they hold in BJP's IT cell. BJP’s Kashi media in-charge Navratan Rathi said Kunal was the convenor of the cell's city unit while Saksham was its co-convenor.
DCP Gautam said the motorbike and mobile phone used in the crime, besides other electronic evidence, had been seized. The arrested trio’s criminal history, if any, is being checked.
Based on the survivor's complaint on November 2, Lanka Police had registered an FIR under sections 354B (use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC and 66E of the IT Act. Sections 376 (D) (gangrape) and 509 (outraging a woman's modesty) were added after the student’s statement was recorded before a Magistrate on November 8.
The survivor said she had stepped out for a walk outside her hostel around 1.30 am that night when a male friend from the same institute joined her at the Gandhi Memorial Hostel crossing. The duo was approaching the Karmanbir Baba temple when the accused approached them on a motorbike. They forcibly separated her from her friend, dragged her behind some bushes and assaulted her, the survivor said.
The crime triggered a tumult on campus, with thousands of students joining a sit-in that continued for days. Later, IIT-BHU students staged a demonstration near the office of the institute’s director, protesting the delay in arresting the accused.
The revelation that two of the three alleged culprits were BJP IT cell members has sparked a political slugfest in Uttar Pradesh, with the Samajwadi Party's state spokesperson Manoj Rai Dhupchandi accusing the BJP of harbouring rapists.