Chandigarh: The atmosphere at Chandigarh University Sunday was tense as the campus saw hundreds of students gather to protest the leak of alleged ‘secret’ videos of women from the university. Amid heavy police presence on campus, the students raised slogans and demanded action and justice, their anger towards the authorities palpable.
The videos in question were purportedly made by a female student of the university residing in one of the hostels on campus.
Several students have alleged that the girl made “60 videos”, recording other girls in the hostel without their knowledge. The police, however, has said that they did not find any videos on her phone.
Speaking to ThePrint, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Mohali, Vivek Sheel Soni, said that their preliminary investigation has revealed that the woman had “deleted” some videos from her phone and claimed she had only sent one of her own videos to her “boyfriend” in Shimla. The campus, he added, has broken out in protests due to “rumours” that are creating “panic” on social media.
The police arrested the girl, a first year MBA student, from the university campus, and two other men — alleged to be her boyfriend and his friend — from Shimla Sunday. They are now working to recover the deleted videos from her phone and ascertain their nature.
The arrested student has been expelled from the university, ThePrint has learnt
The situation over the past two days spiraled as students clashed with the university administration and the authorities, alleging they were trying to ‘dilute’ the matter. The police have dismissed claims of any lathi charge during Sunday night’s protest.
The incident had come to light Saturday after some students saw the girl fiddling with her phone in one of the common bathing areas of the hostel. The warden was alerted and it was alleged that she was trying to record some videos.
“No one has seen any video,” said SSP Soni. “The hostel mates panicked and thought that she had made videos of other students and was sending them to someone.”
ThePrint visited the campus Sunday and spoke to students, both male and female, enrolled in different courses and living in various hostels about the incident. And though everyone claimed that ‘60 videos’ had been made, none of them could substantiate how and when they were recorded and none of them had seen the videos.
The protesters dispersed late Sunday night after assurances from the police and the administration of a fair probe. The university has announced a week-long holiday, R.S. Bawa, Pro-Chancellor, Chandigarh University, confirmed to ThePrint.
“Most of the students have left the campus on their own. We have called for a week’s holiday to bring things to normalcy and to avoid outside influence,” said Bawa.
The students, however, claim that this has been done to prevent any further protests, during which they also demanded that the wardens of the hostels on campus be changed.
“The college administration and the police are working hand in glove trying to dilute the matter and save the college’s reputation. We demand that a fair probe is conducted, the wardens are changed and the students protesting aren’t suspended,” said a BTech student from the university.
According to the police, the accused’s phone has been seized and sent for forensic examination.
Punjab Director general of police Gaurav Yadav Monday said that an all women three-Member Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted to probe the matter.
In a tweet, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann Sunday said, “Sad to hear the incident of Chandigarh University…Our daughters are our pride…have ordered a high level inquiry into the incident…Whoever is guilty will have strict action taken against them…I am constantly in touch with the administration”.
“I appeal to all of you to avoid rumours,” the CM added. Mann ordered a high-level probe into the matter Sunday.
Chandigarh University in Gharuan, Mohali’s Kharar district, was co-founded in 2012 by Satnam Singh Sandhu, Chancellor of the institution and a prominent Sikh entrepreneur, and has around 30,000 students.
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Students of the private university have also alleged that several female students from the university have attempted suicide over the matter and two girls have “gone missing”. The police and the administration maintain that only one girl left the hostel Saturday night after she fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital.
A senior member of the college administration, who wished to not be named, said, “They [students] are saying eight girls have attempted suicide, many are missing. Would the parents not have filed a missing persons complaint if that were the case?”
Calling the incident “shameful”, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha said, “Punjab Government will leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. I appeal to everyone to maintain calm. We all are with you and justice will be done”.
Speaking to the media Monday, the MP said, “This is a serious and sensitive issue. The Punjab government is standing with the students. We have done a forensic investigation and the accused have been arrested from Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh”.
“We have done a Magisterial inquiry and have registered FIR… We are constantly in touch with students, the situation is under control,” the MP added.
‘Slid her phone under door of the washroom to record videos’
According to others in the hostel the accused was a resident of, the girl was “caught” by other hostelers in one of the washrooms on the seventh floor Saturday.
“The hostel used to be a boys’ hostel and was recently converted into a girls’ hostel; hence the washroom doors have a gap at the top and bottom. Anyone can climb up or slide a phone under the door. One of the girls saw her [the accused] slide in a phone and record a video,” a law student, who wished to not be named, told ThePrint.
“She had locked the door to the common washroom area [so that no one could walk in on her recording videos]. The girls who confronted her have been taken away by the college administration and no one knows where they are now.”
This particular hostel, according to the students and the administration, is reserved for first year students of graduation and masters and none of them know each other well having lived here for just a short period since admissions less than a month ago.
Students have also complained about the lack of security in the hostel, which houses around 500 students and is divided into four blocks with 12 washrooms divided into sets of four on each floor.
The senior staff member of the administration quoted earlier claimed that the entrance of the hostel has CCTV cameras, but there are no cameras in the dormitories for privacy reasons. Some hostels have as many as five wardens, depending on the strength, and 150 guards are present through the day and night working in shifts manning the campus, the staff member added.
According to a first year B tech student, “She [the arrested student] had admitted on video that she recorded videos of the girls, but the college administration locked her up and later she was arrested. Many of the girls had noticed a pattern that she would always lock the main door of the washroom for a long time every day”.
An FIR has been lodged on the basis of a complaint made by hostel manager Ranaut under the Indian Penal Code’s (IPC) section 354C (voyeurism) and section 66E (punishment for violation of privacy) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The FIR, which ThePrint has accessed, states that at around 3pm Saturday, Ranaut received a call from the warden that one of the girls in the hostel was making “secret videos” in the washroom and that the other female students had complained about it.
According to the FIR, the girl denied the existence of any such videos on being questioned. It also adds that while speaking to warden Rajwinder Kaur, the girl was repeatedly getting calls and receiving messages from one number. When asked to put the call on speaker, it turned out to be the now-arrested friend of her alleged boyfriend.
The phone was then checked, the FIR states, and it was found that the “photos and videos were deleted”. When the warden reprimanded the girl, she purportedly confessed to having sent the videos to her friend in Shimla and said that she didn’t know where or how they got leaked.
In one of the videos doing the rounds that ThePrint has seen, a group of girls can be seen questioning the accused.
“She has seen you getting up from the floor and making a video,” one of them can be heard saying.
“Everyone has seen it… tell us what has happened. Why did you close the door? The police will come. If you tell us the truth, the matter will remain here…. Did some boy ask you to do this? Did anyone pressure you? Which university does he study in? Nothing will happen to you. Tell us. If you keep quiet like this then he will blackmail others as well. Everyone is scared,” the others are heard saying.
“I don’t know. I made one video and deleted it immediately. I was asked to do it but I don’t know who he is,” the accused is heard saying softly. She nods when asked if she is under pressure, and shows the boy’s photo.
“He asked me to do it…make videos and send them Repeatedly. I told him I don’t want to do it,” she said.
In another video, Kaur can be seen reprimanding the girl in public and even threatening to hit her.
“Strip her naked and send her video… shameless. Who asked you to make the videos? We will suspend him… Do these girls have no respect? You do this dirty thing, who asked you to do this? What made you so scared of him that you are doing this on his instructions? Why do you send them to him? Why do you make them?” Kaur can be heard saying.
“A boy from Shimla asked me to do this,” the girl says in a pleading voice, and adds that she has no ties with him.
Other students remain unconvinced. “If she didn’t do anything, why did the police arrest her? Also, she confessed in the videos that she did it,” a BTech student pointed out.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)