Gargi College Updates: A timeline of events in the aftermath
With the slogan "Ladai lambi hai par hum jeetenge", meaning the fight may be long but we will triumph, Gargi College students have staged a week of sit ins, protests and meetings with the college administration regarding the lapses that led to an incident of mass molestation. Here are updates from the ground, over the past week.
One week ago, the nation was rocked with news of alleged mass molestation and invasion at Gargi College, in Delhi.
On February 6, a group of men broke into the Gargi College during the festival 'Reverie' and allegedly groped, harassed and molested the students who claimed that security officials stood watching. The incident came to light after some students took to Instagram to narrate their ordeal and alleged that security personnel did nothing to control the unruly groups. For a full account of what transpired, click here.
Today, the Delhi High Court sought a response from the Centre and the CBI on a plea seeking a court-monitored probe into the incident. The Bench, presided over by Justices GS Sistani and C Hari Shankar, heard the plea filed on Thursday after the Supreme Court declined to take up the matter, and asked the petitioners to go to the Delhi HIgh Court.
Filed by advocate ML Sharma, the plea asks for the preservation of all video recordings and CCTV camera footage of the college campus.
The students of Gargi college have had continuous protests since the incident, seeking accountability from the college administration.
Here is a day by day account of what has happened, from the day the incident hit the news, on Monday February 10, until today, Monday February 17.
On February 10, the student body gathered on campus to have collective complaints and demands heard by the Principal and faculty. They were also heard by the Delhi Commission for Women.
According to Atul Kumar Thakur, DCP (south), a case had been registered under IPC sections 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
He said the case will be investigated by Inspector Pratibha Sharma, of the South District Crime Against Women Cell. Police are scanning the footage of CCTV cameras to collect evidence and speaking to students to ascertain facts, the officer said at the time.
On the same day, the student body was told that an internal fact finding committee would be set up which will comprise of an elected teacher and student from each department. The committee will work independent of the administration and all other forms of authorities in college.
The students also demanded a written apology, a minimum security plan, a press release and written answers from the Principal and the administration. The administration had been granted two days to get back to the student body with the demands which also included a breakdown of the entire budget of the fest, with special emphasis to the budget allocated to the security .
Besides the security arranged for by the college, the area had Delhi Police and paramilitary force personnel who were stationed in the area for the Assembly polls.
A student, who went through the horror said, "A month before the college festival, the student committee that handles the fest told us that the college had arranged for private security. This would be in addition to police security. When the men jumped walls and gatecrashed, the security officials kept watching. They didn't even try to stop those men."
Expressing disappointment with the behaviour of the security personnel there, another student said, "A half-naked man approached towards me. He was not in his senses. He rubbed himself against me and made lewd comments. We ran from one corner of the college to another, screaming, requesting security personnel to help, but none did."
"The college had hired bouncers for security. The security personnel were also standing right there and watching it all. My friend, who was molested, rushed to a security guard and pleaded him for help but he did not move," a student said.
The students of Gargi College issued the following statement on February 11:
In a big win for the students, the police started investigating the case and have set up a base in the college itself. The students also took part in a General Body Meeting to formulate a high functioning Fact Finding Committee, that would investigate the events prior to reverie, the events that happened during reverie, and specific complaints against the administration of the college, and the organizing committee of Reverie 2020. The FFC shall become fully functional tomorrow and has to submit its report by the 15th of February 2020.
However, the students shall go into the third day of strike tomorrow, to seek a written apology, get the formulation of the ICC, and seek the budget from the principal for Reverie 2019, and 2020.
Delhi University issued an advisory asking its colleges to ensure safety of women employees and students. The university has also sought an action taken report within two weeks on the steps taken by the colleges to ensure the safety of students on campuses, the university said in the advisory issued by proctor Neeta Sehgal.
"You are requested to take immediate steps to review the status of safety and security of female in your colleges, and accordingly prepare plans to strengthen their safety and security in consultation with the stakeholders, law enforcement agencies and social organisations working in the field," the advisory to college principals said.
Ten people were arrested on February 12 in connection with the alleged molestation, police said. Over 11 police teams were looking at the technical details available and also visiting various sites in NCR to identify the suspects and investigate the case, they said, adding that they were questioning a number of people and had identified suspects.
According to the police, the accused persons were outside the college when the fest was underway. A senior police official said the accused are students of various colleges in Delhi and NCR areas. They gathered outside the gate of the college, vandalised a car and then broke in, he added. Police said the accused jumped over the barricades placed by the college security staff, outnumbered them and then misbehaved with the women students.
Students of Gargi College issued the following statement on Feb 12:
The Students of the College continued their fight to have a safe college for the third consecutive day, while the Fact Finding Committee became functional. The committee has started gathering evidences and is expected to release its findings on the 15th of this month.
The Students also reiterated their demands and questions in front of the principal. While the principal did come out to have a dialogue with the students, the students weren’t satisfied with her explanations and answers. The principal is yet to issue a notice about the elections of the ICC and present to the students the budget of the college fest.
The students shall enter into their fourth day of strike tomorrow.
'Ladai lambi hai par hum jeetenge.'
A petition was filed the same day in the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe monitored by it into the incident. The PIL, filed by M L Sharma, has sought a direction to the probe agency to seize all video recordings and footage from CCTV cameras around the college campus.
It also sought arrest of the people behind the "planned criminal conspiracy".
"The state government took no action. It is a clear criminal conspiracy hatched by the political party to deploy accused persons to provoke the Delhi public for effecting voting in their favour. Despite presence of Delhi Police ... on February 6, neither principal nor other state authorities tried to stop and arrest the accused persons," the PIL stated.
The petition claimed that "deliberate chants of Jai Shri Ram discloses that it is a political, planned conspiracy" and blamed the chief minister of Delhi for not taking any action against the accused.
"Entire incident is being supported/protected by the state government and no action of arrest has been done till now for justice and to prosecute all accused persons therefore unless this court takes action, real political persons and accused persons will not be arrested at all," the plea said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday, February 13, refused to entertain the plea.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked lawyer M L Sharma, who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing, to move the Delhi High Court with his plea.
"Why don't you go to the Delhi HC. If they dismiss the petition then you come here," the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said.
The apex court said it would like to have advantage of Delhi HC's view on this matter.
Sharma expressed apprehension that electronic evidence related to the case might be destroyed.
On this, the top court said, "Delhi High Court can also pass order like the Telangana High Court in the police encounter case to preserve electronic evidence".
Hours after this, ML Sharma moved a petition on the same issue before the High Court, as directed.
Two more persons were arrested on Thursday in connection with the case. One of the accused arrested on Thursday is a 22-year-old graduate preparing for competitive exams, while another, aged 19, is working as a tele-caller in a company in the national capital. All arrested so far are between 18 and 25 years of age.
On the campus of Gargi College, students issued the following statement:
Gargi College has continued to strike for its fourth consecutive day, to reiterate that the students aren’t happy with the tokenistic answers given to them by the administration. They portrayed their anger through poetry today, using their words as a tool of resistance. They shall be striking till they receive the budget of the event, the final constitution of ICC, and the reports and findings of the Fact Finding Committee.
In addition to that, the University Proctors visited the college today and met with the Students Union. The Proctors assured that they shall support the students and their cause, and have also reinstated that they shall work to make the University and the Colleges safe throughout the year.
The students shall enter the fifth day of strike tomorrow. They will continue to fight till they get the answers that they demand.
The Delhi High Court agreed to hear the case and scheduled it for Monday, February 17. The plea was mentioned on Friday for urgent hearing before a bench of Justices G S Sistani and C Hari Shankar which said it will be listed for February 17.
When the bench asked what was the urgency, the counsel there was apprehension the evidence could be destroyed.
The students of the college have not received any any concrete answers from the Administration. The principal categorically denied that she won’t submit the budget to the students, since it is ‘not allowed’ but can show it to a few of them. The students aren’t happy with the response of the administration and their shirking of responsibility of giving solid answers to the demands and has shifted it all to the Fact finding committee. The students have determined that tomorrow remains the last day to show the written copy of the budget to them.
They shall be entering their 6th day of strike tomorrow.
Students at Gargi brought books to the protest site to continue studying during the sit out.
Scores of DU students took out a march in Delhi University's north campus on Friday in solidarity with anti-CAA protesters and the students of Gargi College. During the march, the students stopped at various points on the campus where they recited poems and raised slogans of 'azaadi' and 'Inquilab Zindabad'.
The event was organised on Valentine's Day to highlight the message of how unity and love are answers to hate.
Students of Gargi College issued the following statement:
As students entered into their sixth day of protest, the principal hasn’t shown them the budget of the previous year or this year’s event. The Fact Finding Committee shall release their report today. Moreover, the students wish to reiterate that they would want the women of other colleges, especially girls colleges to demand higher scrutiny from their administration to ensure that the educational institutions that they visit are safer and more inclusive. The incident should raise more questions, especially about the institutional patriarchy that enables people to ignore the security of women, and the one that enables people to encroach upon the spaces of others.
A 19-year-old man was arrested on Sunday in connection with the alleged molestation, taking the number of people held in the case to 15, police said.
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of the Centre and the CBI on the plea. A bench of justices G S Sistani and C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Centre and Central Bureau of Investigation on a plea filed by advocate M L Sharma.
A statement issued by Gargi Students said,
The students of the college had a General Body Meeting with the Fact Finding Committee and the following concerns were raised-
1. The committee found out that there was a gross lapse in the overall security of the fest and the college had underestimated the number of individuals who would attend the campus.
2. The Fact Finding Committee recommended immediate sensitisation of the staff of the college to gender issues.
3. The committee also said that It shall come up with a more conclusive second report to address the event in its entirety.
4. The committee laid emphasis on the fact that the ICC of the college is grossly biased and compromised and shall form a new ICC as per the UGC requirements by the end of February.
Since a lot of discrepancies exist on different levels, and the Delhi Police hasn’t answered any questions posed by the committee, it shall need some time to form a final, conclusive report.
The Budget was presented but not in its entirety. Students are now looking at the alternatives of an RTI to extract the exact budget.
Finally, the students seek the resignation of the teachers directly responsible for the security lapse from their posts as the OC of reverie. This decision shall be taken by the Governing Body of the College.