Students across universities in the region stand up for CU students

By Sukant Deepak Chandigarh, Sep 20 : While the Chandigarh University (CU) authorities have declared holidays for one week at its campus in Mohali and students are leaving for home after their major demands were agreed upon, student unions in universities across the state including Panjab University (Chandigarh), Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritsar) and Punjabi University (Patiala) have mobilised their cadre to raise support for CU students. Raising their voice against the "insensitive" and "unprofessional" handling of the entire issue by CU authorities besides premature statements by the Punjab Police including several senior officials, the student unions at different universities on Monday demanded not just clarity but an explanation from CU authorities and Punjab Police on the handling of the recent MMS scandal that rocked CU. Even as the CU authorities and Police continue to claim that the accused made only her own video, a large section of students believes otherwise. PU, Chandigarh witnessed two protests on Monday -- at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at different locations on its campus. Exhorting the student community to stand with those at CU, union leaders stressed several discrepancies in versions of the Police and what could be seen in the interaction between the prime accused and the warden. On the evening of September 17, five women students approached the warden that the accused was 'caught' making videos. While the warden (now suspended) could be heard reprimanding the accused, she did not take any 'action'. The students then approached the hostel manager who confiscated the 22-year-old accused's phone. Allegedly, the accused admitted to making the videos. That same evening, around 7.30 p.m., protests broke out at CU. The accused was detained and later arrested. Speaking to IANS, the women students at CU stressed that what shocked them was the police's statement that the girl had made only her own video and sent it to her boyfriend. This was also CU authorities' stance. "How could they arrive at that conclusion even before the forensic team had touched the phone?" said one student who did not wish to be named. In fact, the FIR filed by six girls against the accused was registered under section 354-C (voyeurism) of the Indian Penal Code and section 66 (E) of the IT Act. Besides the accused, two men have been remanded in Police custody. Another claimed that they had been told by the CU authorities not to speak with "outsiders" as the same would tarnish the institute's reputation. "We are leaving for a few days as our parents are nervous, and quite understandably." The last two days also witnessed several rumours. In fact, the state government, Police and CU authorities had to appeal repeatedly through media and social media, warning people not to pay heed to them. President of PSU (Lalkar), PU, Aman recalled: "On Sunday when we went to the CU campus, all efforts were made to stop us. We were clearly told that 'nothing had happened and we were here to create trouble'. I do not understand how supporting fellow students is trouble-making. They have declared holidays. With no hostlers, how does the Police now plan to hold investigations?" Adding that now students have left the hostels, they plan to mobilise the support of the civil society, the student leader said: "Lawyers' forum and others are in touch with us. We want the CU to clarify why are they trying to suppress information. Also, what made the Police reach the conclusion that there were no videos of other girls? The hostelers told me that when the Police reached, the girls were forced to switch off their phones and statements of those speaking against were not recorded." Simran Atwal of Punjab Feminist Union of Students added: "We are in touch with students there as they need external help. It is a private university, and they are scared to speak up. What is the kind of security they have there? First, they were put in a hostel built for male students, and if someone is not safe inside a hostel, what does it say..." The organisation, which acquaints women students on the campus with intricacies of the Panjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment (PUCASH) says that the incident at CU and the way it was handled also questions the legal provisions and mechanisms made to protect women. "These practices are on paper, and seldom practised. By the way, the external member of PUCASH is an animal rights activist," concluded another member of the organisation. /IANS


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