Protests erupted on the campus of a private university in Mohali over “rumours” that objectionable videos of several women students were recorded by a hosteller, following which Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday ordered a probe. The police arrested a woman student and sent a team to apprehend a youth in Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab’s Additional Director-General of Police (DGP) Gurpreet Deo, who reached the Chandigarh University campus along with other senior officials to take stock of the situation after Saturday night protests, told reporters that the woman appeared to have shared a video of herself with the youth and no objectionable video of any other student was found.
The university authorities also rejected as “false and baseless” reports that claimed that videos of several women students in the hostel were made and leaked on social media and that students had attempted suicide after the episode. However, a fresh protest was held on the university campus on Sunday evening by a large number of students with some of them accusing the university authorities of “suppressing” the incident.
Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police Vivek Sheel Soni told reporters that the protests took place in the university past Saturday midnight after “rumours” that videos of several women students had been made and leaked.
The arrested student’s mobile phone has been seized for forensic analysis, he said, adding that no suicide attempt by any student or death has occurred.
An FIR under Section 354-C (voyeurism) of the IPC and the IT Act has been registered and further probe is on, officials said.
Mr. Mann ordered the 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,” said Mann in a tweet in Punjabi.
“I am in touch with the administration,” said Mann, 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 Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal said those involved in the incident will get the “harshest punishment”.
“Victim girls should keep courage. We are all with you. All should act with patience,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
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.
“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,” Gulati said.
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 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 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 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.
Badal said authorities should make all facts public and not try to suppress anything.
Bajwa, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the state, said, “The Chandigarh University incident is sickening. The perpetrators of this crime should be dealt with strongly and given exemplary punishment. We as a society should report anyone who forwards the videos and stand with our sisters in this tough time”.
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”.
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 is 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 here, Chandigarh University Pro-Chancellor R S 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, “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 that 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.
In a video that surfaced on social media, a few students were purportedly seen confronting the student who is accused of making the videos. The students asked her to tell the truth.
A student claimed that the objectionable videos were made but were later deleted and the accused student’s phone was also broken.
Another student said more than ten girls in the hostel suffered panic attacks on Saturday evening.
She claimed that the boys’ hostel had been converted into a girls’ hostel recently and lacked facilities.
Referring to a video of a student being taken in an ambulance, the SSP said she had some anxiety problems and was fine.
Replying to a question on the hostel warden, the SSP said she questioned the woman student, who was later arrested, to find information on whether she had made a video of any other student.
Notably, in a video, the warden is purportedly seen asking the woman student, “Who told you to record the video?..You will be suspended”.
The warden is then seen pointing towards some other women students who are also present, and could be heard saying, “Don’t these girls have honour? At whose behest did you do this? Who told you to make it?”