Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar said the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the probe into the violence on the campus in January last year that left around 35 people injured. Asked why the committee set up by the university to probe the incident did not conduct online depositions, he said the students are already under a lot of stress and it is not the right time to send them notices for online depositions.
A group of masked men armed with sticks and rods attacked students and teachers and damaged property on the JNU campus on January 5, 2020, prompting the university administration to call in the police. JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh was among those injured in the violence.
Days after the incident, JNU set up a five-member committee to probe the incident and recommend measures to ensure the safety of students.
“The committee is looking into the matter. It has to call the students for deposition. Is it the right time to call them when they are in their hometowns? For this, we need to see the condition. These are our students. Considering the Covid situation, depositions have not been conducted. We are waiting for the situation to normalise,” Kumar told PTI on Friday.
Asked why the committee did not conduct online depositions, the VC said, “The situation is not conducive. We are waiting. Students are already under a lot of stress. It is not the right time to send them notices for participating in an online deposition. We don’t consider our students as criminals. They are our own students.”
In August this year, the Lok Sabha was informed by Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai that the Delhi Police had not arrested anyone in connection with the JNU violence, even though several people were examined.
After the violence, there was a clamour for Kumar’s removal as the JNU VC and the Delhi Police came under attack for not acting when the mob was running riot on the campus and especially, for naming student union leaders, including Ghosh, in two FIRs for alleged vandalism.
On the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association’s (JNUTA) objection to the renewal of the contract of security agency Cyclops for another two years by the university’s Executive Council (EC), Kumar said the contract had not been renewed but extended till the process of appointing a new agency is completed.
“If you want to appoint a security agency, then you have to follow the tendering process and the General Financial Rules laid down by the government. During this Covid period, many of our staff members were down (with coronavirus). You cannot suddenly ask the security people to pack their bags and leave and put the security of the campus at risk,” he said. “The EC took a decision that the security company will continue,” he said.
The VC stressed that the contract hasn’t been renewed but only extended till the process of appointing a new security agency is completed. This process will require at least six months, he said. In a statement issued on September 9, the JNUTA had said that the EC had renewed the security contract of Cyclops for another two years despite its failure to prevent the violent attack on students and faculty members on January 5, 2020 and the spate of burglaries on campus during the COVID-19 lockdown.