‘JNU biometric systems, CCTVs not broken in Jan. 3, 4 vandalism’

Delhi police vehicles are seen parked at admin block of JNU Campus in New Delhi, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Neither biometric systems nor CCTV cameras were broken or destroyed at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the first week of January, according to the response to a Right to Information query, despite the administration’s claim that vandalism by students damaged these systems.

However, there is no continuous CCTV footage available from JNU’s main gate for the afternoon and night of January 5, when students and teachers were attacked on the campus, says the RTI response to a plea filed by Saurav Das, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, on January 9.

CIS reply

The reply, from the university’s Communications and Information Services (CIS), exposes several discrepancies and ambiguities in the First Information Reports filed by the JNU security services on the night of January 5 and statements by the university administration.

One FIR claims that a group of student agitators entered the CIS office around 1 p.m. on January 4, by breaking open a glass back door. “They illegally trespassed the University property with the criminal intention to damage to the public property once inside they damaged the servers and made it dysfunctional and severely damaged the fiber optic cables power supplies and broke the biometric systems inside the room [sic],” said the FIR, asking for action to be taken against a number of students, including JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh.

Another FIR, also filed on January 5, alleges that the vandalism by students on January 3 severely affected a number of operations, including “biometric attendance and CCTV surveillance system”.

In a statement, JNU vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar has claimed that the violence on January 5 had its origins in the vandalism which occurred on January 3 and 4. He also alleged that the broken biometric systems affected winter semester registration.

‘No damage’

Mr. Das, in his RTI plea, had asked for information on the “total number of broken/destroyed biometric systems at CIS office from December 30, 2019 to January 8, 2020”. The CIS response was “none”.

The RTI response also states that there are four CCTV cameras at the north or main gate of the JNU campus, although the university refused to give full details of the location of CCTV cameras citing “security reasons and concerns”.

When asked for details of all vandalised CCTV cameras from December 30 till January 8, the CIS response again was “none”.

There seems to be some ambiguity about the location of the servers where CCTV camera footage is stored.

Asked whether the CIS Office contains the servers of the CCTV cameras, the RTI response says they are “not located in CIS office but located in data centre”. However, in response to another query, it says, “The location of server room is at Hall #3, CIS, SBT Building of JNU.” It is not clear if these servers were affected by the alleged vandalism at the CIS office.

With regard to the fibre-optic cables used in the CIS servers, the RTI response says 17 such cables were damaged around 1 p.m. on January 4.

The RTI response also says that “no continuous and entire CCTV footage” of the north gate cameras between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. on January 5 was available with JNU. It adds that “no CCTV camera footages are uploaded continuously to the JNU Cloud Computing Platform”.

This seems to indicate there may be no CCTV record of the January 5 attacks.

The JNU website continued to function during this period as it was “critical” and “running from alternate backup arrangement during this period”, says the RTI response. It is not clear whether there were any alternative backup arrangements for CCTV cameras.

One of the FIRs detailing vandalism has a “date of occurrence” listed as January 1. However, in its response, CIS said there were only two incidents when JNU’s main server was shut down during that week — at 1.30 p.m. on January 3; and the same time on January 4, “due to power supply disruption”.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 2:36:05 AM |

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