Fresh protests erupted on the Chandigarh University campus in Punjab’s Mohali late on Sunday with some students accusing the authorities of suppressing the alleged leak of objectionable videos of several women students. Most of the protesters were dressed in black clothes and raised slogans like “we want justice” in the presence of police. After an accused woman student was arrested earlier in the day, a 23-year-old youth from Shimla known to her was also arrested after being detained in Shimla. Punjab Police took custody of the youth, who belongs to Rohru town near Himachal Pradesh capital Shimla.
Chief minister Bhagwant Mann had ordered a high-level probe into the matter and, after a preliminary investigation, police arrested a woman student and dispatched a team to apprehend the youth, who is said to be her boyfriend, in Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab ADGP Gurpreet Deo, who reached the campus of the private university along with other senior officials to take stock of the situation after the first round of protests on Saturday night, said the woman student appeared to have shared a video of herself with the youth 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 students had attempted suicide after the episode.
Mohali SSP Vivek Sheel Soni said the arrested student’s mobile phone had been seized for forensic analysis. An FIR has been filed under IPC Section 354C (voyeurism) and the IT Act and further probe is on, officials said. Mann ordered a probe into the incident, saying strict action will be taken against those found guilty.
“Sad to hear about the unfortunate incident at Chandigarh University… our daughters are our honour… a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident… severe action will be taken against whoever is found guilty,” Mann tweeted in Punjabi. “I am in touch with the administration,” he added, while appealing to people not to believe rumours.
The incident sparked a flurry of reactions from political parties and the central and state women’s rights bodies too stepped in. Delhi CM and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said those involved in the incident will get the “harshest punishment”.
Punjab State Women Commission chairperson Manisha Gulati visited the university campus. “I understand parents’ concern and I want to assure them that the incident is being investigated by the police,” she said, adding, “it is a matter of deep investigation why the woman, who made the video, did so. Whether or not she shot videos of other girls is a matter of investigation.”
Opposition leaders, including Punjab Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, 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.
Briefing reporters at the university campus, ADGP Deo, who is also holding 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.”
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,” Bawa said, adding, “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 a woman investigating officer has been deputed to investigate the incident. “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),” he said.
Here are the latest updates in the story:
- The Shimla district police detained a 23-year-old youth in connection with the Chandigarh University row. The role of a male known to the arrested woman student was under the scanner. Punjab Police is expected to arrest the person, said sources from Himachal Pradesh police.
- Himachal Pradesh CM Jairam Thakur said he had instructed the state police to cooperate with Punjab Police in the matter of inquiry against a youth whose role in the Chandigarh University row in under the scanner. “I’ve instructed police officers to cooperate with the Punjab Police. According to the information received, the boy is from Himachal. Legal action will be taken against him," Thakur told news agency ANI.
- Deo said the district police had already asked the state forensic laboratory to examine the bathroom area (of the hostel) and see whether any hidden camera or anything objectionable was there. “Even if the girl was sharing her video which you may say is a private affair between a boy and a girl, what if tomorrow that youth misuses the video? Earlier, too, we have handled cases in which such videos have gone viral on social media. But in the present case, so far, no such thing has taken place,” she added.
- About the youth from Himachal Pradesh whose role is under the scanner, the ADGP said, “Ostensibly the girl student may have shared those with her boyfriend and a police party has been despatched to nab him. No other video has been found which can be called objectionable except for the girl’s own videos,” adding, “let us not sensationalise the issue. Many things are circulating on social media platforms like girls attempted suicide, which are not correct.” Deo said even if any video was deleted from the accused’s phone, “there is a possibility to forensically recover them. But let us not base anything on presumptions and assumptions and go according to scientific evidence”.
- Punjab ADGP Deo said three to four women students spotted the accused 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 that the students are now happy because their concerns have been addressed. The students needed a clarification on whether the accused’s phone had videos of other girls. Prima facie, we did not come across any such videos.”
- The Punjab Police top brass along with senior officials of Mohali district administration met a group of women students from Chandigarh University. Punjab’s ADGP Gurpreet Deo, Mohali SSP Vivek Sheel Soni and other top officers, including GPS Bhullar, senior officials of Mohali district administration, including the deputy commissioner, reached the university campus. Deo, who also holds the charge of women and child affairs, said many rumours about the case were circulating on social media platforms. “There are 4,000 women students who live in the hostel. One of them has been arrested by police. Her phone has been taken into police possession and the state cyber crime unit is conducting its analysis,” adding, “second part of the case is a group of women students in the hostel who saw the accused doing some objectionable acts. As the additional DG holding charge of women and child affairs, I was deputed to interact with the students because many rumours were circulating about this case.” Deo said she met 50 to 60 women students who live on the same floor along with the accused and most of them have joined a new session and did not know each other. The senior police official said the women students were especially perturbed at the alleged circulation of “videos” on social media.
- University officials urged protesting students not to fall prey to rumours and told them that all their demands will be met. The officials said all concerned in the matter will get justice. The officials further said protests were not the right way to ask for justice and press for their demands. “We will listen to all your demands, we will provide justice to all of you. But, you will have to approach the matter professionally, only then can we solve the issues. I know that you all are angry. You all will get justice,” officials told students.
- Fresh protests erupted on the Chandigarh University campus as a large number of students gathered wearing black in the presence of police, demanding justice over the alleged leaked objectional videos row.
#WATCH | Punjab: A large number of students gather inside the #ChandigarhUniversity campus in Mohali, demanding justice over the alleged 'leaked objectional videos' row pic.twitter.com/kOJ8X6cnDm— ANI (@ANI) September 18, 2022
- Chandigarh University has declared September 19 and 20 as non-teaching days for students in “due to some unavoidable reasons". A circular was issued in this regard.
- Chandigarh University said a preliminary probe by police shows that no student had attempted or died by suicide, while the accused girl student shared her own video and pictures with her boyfriend and no other material has been found. “No student committed suicide. Preliminary probe reveals that the accused girl had sent her own pics/videos to her boyfriend. No other material found. FIR filed. Police probing it. I appeal to students & parents not to believe in any rumours," said the university’s pro-chancellor Prof RS Bawa.
- Police said a man from Shimla was also involved in the matter and only after he was caught, more details will come out. “A man from Shimla is known to the accused. Only after he is caught, more details will be known. Forensic probe of her mobile phone will be conducted," said ADGP (community affairs) Gurpreet Deo.
- The National Commission for Women has sought an FIR in connection with alleged suicide attempts by students of Chandigarh University after their videos were “leaked”. The commission said it had come across multiple media reports and Twitter posts alleging that videos of girls living in a hostel of the private varsity had been leaked and some had tried to end their lives. The NCW said chairperson Rekha Sharma had written to the Punjab DGP to immediately file an FIR against the culprits and to deal with the matter strictly and without any laxity. The victims must be given proper counselling and their safety and security must be ensured, the NCW said. The rights body has also written to the V-C of Chandigarh University to take stringent action and that the university must investigate the matter extensively and in a fair manner. The commission has also urged the chairperson of the Punjab State Commission for Women to immediately inquire into the facts and ensure police were conducting a fair investigation.
- Police have registered an FIR in the matter and the accused girl has been arrested. The cops have also denied reports of any attempted suicide by the girl students of the varsity.
- The university, in an official statement, also denied reports claiming seven girls attempted suicide. “There are rumors that 7 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," Dr RS Bawa, Pro-Chancellor of Chandigarh University said.
- Dr RS Bawa also said that the initial investigation showed that there were no videos found of any students which are objectionable except a personal video of the girl herself, which was sent to her boyfriend.
- All the mobile phones and other materials have been handed over to the police for further investigation, the university further said. It added that the varsity is fully cooperating with the police in the investigation.
- The Aam Aadmi Party, which is in power in Punjab, immediately took cognizance of the matter and promised action. Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann said a high-level inquiry has been ordered and requested everyone to avoid rumours. “Sad to hear about the unfortunate incident at Chandigarh University…our daughters our respect…a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.severe action will be taken against whoever is found guilty. I am in touch with the administration. I request everyone to avoid rumours," Mann said.
(With PTI inputs)