The Delhi High Court suggested inclusion of CBI for further inspection in the mass molestation at Reverie, Gargi College, case. Moreover, HC has also mandated, retrieval of every visual footage captured through the CCTV camera of the College for further evidence.
On 17th of February 2020, in the wake of the Gargi College mass molestation case, new developments have been made, and it’s come up that the Delhi High Court has served a notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Delhi Police, regarding a petition which is aimed at a ‘court monitored CBI inspection’ into the claimed molestation case, which happened in the College, during the star night at Reverie, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College, earlier that week.
As detailed in the petition of advocate M.L. Sharma, retrieval of every visual footage captured through the CCTV camera of the University has to be maintained for further evidence . The court heard his petition where he claimed that nothing had been done as of yet and he further said,”On 9th February, FIR was registered by the police and a handful of people were arrested.” The court has decided 30th April 2020 for further hearing on this matter after registering the responses from the authorities.
The plea was registered on 13th February 2020, Thursday, upon facing a rejection from the Supreme Court and at a suggestion to move to the hearing at the High Court instead. This plea suggests to preserve all video and camera footage that can be retrieved through campus’s CCTV camera. The aim is to put those behind the bars who are associated with this criminal conspiracy.
On 12th February, ten people, between the age of 18 and 25, who were found complicit in the crime were detained by the police. However, the very next day witnessed their release on bail and two more further arrests.
The police claims that over 11 teams visited various sites in the National Capital Region(NCR), to look over technical details in connection with recognition of suspects related with the case. It’s said that allegedly the Delhi police filed the case upon receiving a complaint from the end of college authorities.
A case was registered at the Hauz Khas police station under the Indian Penal Code Section 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).
In response to the unfortunate events that happened in Gargi College during their annual fest, the police booked ten people and further arrested two more suspects.
On February 6, a group of men broke into the Gargi College during the college’s Annual Cultural Fest, Reverie 2020, and allegedly groped, harassed and molested the attendees, who claimed that security officials stood watching when the incidents took place. After the victims shared details of their harassment on social media, a formal investigation was started by the police and college administration.
On Wednesday, the Delhi Police arrested ten students in connection with the molestation of the girls in Gargi College’s fest. A case was registered against the ten accused at the Hauz Khas Police Station. These ten people were all students from other Delhi University (DU) colleges as well as colleges from private universities in Noida and were identified using CCTV footage from three cameras, in which they were seen climbing over the college gate and later pushing a car against it to force it open.
The police said that they have more than eleven teams who are working on the case and coordinating with college authorities. Multiple suspects have been identified and questioned.
However, on Thursday, a Saket court granted all ten students bail, said a police officer. “We have CCTV footage where the arrested persons were seen barging into the college premises by damaging a gate but they do not have any video or CCTV footage to establish that these persons were also involved in molestation” the officer added. He also said that nine students have recorded their statements with the police and that they are approaching more students to provide any videos or pictures that might lead them to the accused people.
A student was quoted on social media platform Twitter as “People have literally been detained for much longer periods for much lesser offences. Heck, sometimes for no offences at all.”
On the same day, the police arrested two more people in connection with the case. One of the accused arrested is a 22-year-old graduate preparing for competitive exams, while another, aged 19, is working as a tele-caller in a company in Delhi.
A notable mention in this case, is the fact that despite guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC), there is no Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in place at Gargi College, to address such concerns and incidents. The students of Gargi College have boycotted classes since the incident and have been protesting for safe and secure campuses, especially for girls.
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court declined to give an urgent hearing on a petition seeking a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into the incident. The plea was mentioned before a bench of Justice G S Sistani and Justice C Hari Shankar and was heard on Monday. The high court has sought a response of the Centre and the CBI on the plea.
Gargi College said that it had taken various steps to address the “anxieties and concerns” of the students and “mitigate their trauma”, like face to face interactions, and setting up a fact finding committee to recommend future course of action.
Sumit Raj, in-charge of the media cell, said students had been given time till Saturday to submit all testimonials and video/image proof to the committee.
On whether there was a deadline for the committee to submit a report, he said, “They are working day and night and they will do it soon.”
Reverie’20, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College wasn’t a good experience for students who attended the star night with Jubin Nautiyal. Numerous accounts of man-handling and abuse were reported.
Trigger Warning: This article contains accounts of sexual harassment and molestation.
Reverie, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College took place from 4th February to 6th February 2020. Despite having a strict entry procedure, it witnessed various incidents of molestation and harassment.
While the first two days were relatively peaceful, the third day turned out to be more horrendous. Girls were groped, abused, and ogled at during Jubin Nautiyal’s concert on 6th February. It became impossible to even move out for safety in the huge crowd that had gathered. Gargi College, as it is known for its ethics and morals, ironically became the center of physical and verbal assault of many women.
While the entry for boys was strictly through passes and supposed to close after 4:30 pm, the gates remained open till late, and there was no checking for identification either. The security system proved to be highly incompetent as middle aged men jumped over boundaries to enter the campus. Due to overcrowding, there was no checking for passes or IDs at the gates. An anonymous source reports that the men did not break the gates initially. An admin official had consciously opened the gates to let a car enter. Once the gates were opened, a pool of men, including many non college students, flooded in. The influx continued till late. Approximately more than 5,000 individuals had accumulated on the Campus. They sat on the stalls of vendors and actively damaged the property of the college.
One of the students shared, “They broke down the gate, climbed over the walls and rammed their scooties into the crowd. The men were walking around drunk and shirtless.” Another girl said, “It was my first ever fest and I was touched inappropriately multiple times. A man just unzipped himself and kept on laughing at me. It is frightening and hard for me to accept what I witnessed in a supposedly safe girls college”.
Video Credits: Anonymous
Video Caption: The entry witnessed lack of frisking and pass checking, leading to mass entry and overcrowding.
Anguished students who went to the principal and other officials to complain, reportedly received only her apathy and insensitive comments. A girl stated, “It was scary and traumatic, and the administration refused to help.”
Several members of the Public and Media Relations and Students’ Union volunteers tried their best to help the students. They went out forming human chains and getting the girls from the crowd inside the barricades. A volunteer comments, “We literally pushed and fought the men back, stood on chairs to hold hands of girls in the crowd and helped them in front. When we were forming a human chain around the stage, a bunch of guys intentionally hurled themselves upon us and we fell down on the speakers. They began laughing and commenting on our bodies”
A lot of students took to social media to share their thoughts and personal experiences.
A student reported that she assisted in carrying out several women out of the ground in her hands. While two of them had panic attacks because of the harassment they faced, one was lying unconscious at the ground entry because a man had started masturbating at her. Another student was cornered by a group of middle aged drunk men who tried to molest her. On the assurance of anonymity, a second year student of Gargi College accounts, “15 girls cannot fight with 500 men alone. The teachers just sat on the sofas and saw everything unfold. When we asked them for help, we were told to fight everything ourselves.”
Anandi Sen from Kamla Nehru College, who also attended the fest, tells us, “I witnessed so many men just ‘scanning’ women from top to bottom. It is not only cheap but extremely creepy. The stares and silent smirks speak a lot. However there were some very decent people out there who ensured that you’re doing well in the jam packed crowd and ensuring that they do not brush or touch any person without their consent.”
There was a continuous pushing and passing comments in the dense crowd. Jammed networks made it worse – one couldn’t text or call in case of emergency because there were no signals. Students were stuck and couldn’t get out.
“I’ve always felt safe on campus except for the three days. The administration lets this happen trivializing our trauma year after year. We did not sign up to be told by the principal that itna unsafe feel karte ho toh mat aayakaro”, says a student of the College.
Random men stood outside the College throwing money at the girls, giving suggestive stares. Many of the girls were followed back to their PGs and metro stations by men in cars. A student reports that she was waiting outside the gate for a cab when a group of three boys adamantly kept on asking her if she wanted a ride and to just get in the car. This happened in the presence of police officers who were patrolling around.
“No amount of money you carelessly take for unknown people to enter the campus can ever pay up to my body being forced into being your property”, quotes Nilanjana.
A final year student wrote on her social media, “Gargi is our space to exist, where our voices are acknowledged not by the administration but by the wonderful women around us. However, every year, during Reverie, this one space we call our own is taken away from us and sacrificed to capitalism and hyper masculinity. We are afraid to move, we are harassed and ogled at. Men come and assert their dominance and toxic masculinity in the most brutal way possible, every year.”
In an official statement, the Students’ Union of Gargi College stated that gate duties are handled by the administrative staff wherein clear instructions were given by the Union to ensure lesser entries of only college students with a pass. Funds had been raised and made available for hiring a private security agency to ensure barricading outside the gate and competent bouncers. However nothing of this was in practice. Even the policemen weren’t as pro active as they should have been despite their repeated requests. Police vans were conveniently parked outside the college with all the mishaps taking place inside.
Suman, a student of the college summed up her fest experience, by stating, “Gargi you’re so much better, safe and homely without the star night”.
Feature Image Credits: Sanyukta Singh from Gargi College
Numerous victims wrote to us their incidents of harassment and molestation during fests.
The fest season has kicked off with the annual cultural fest of Gargi College, Reverie which took place from 30th January to 1st February 2019. Despite having a number of competitions, some of the best societies coming to participate, and a glorious celebrity line-up with The Local Train, DJ Zaeden and Prateek Kuhad, the fest failed on a basic ground level service of providing a safe environment.
Girls were catcalled, groped and grinded left, right and centre during not just Prateek Kuhad’s concert but during EDM night too. Samra Shahzad, a first-year student of Gargi College reported to DU Beat that a guy stared at her when she was dancing and came up to her saying she dances well, the look on his face was suggestive and horrifying, it certainly wasn’t a compliment. Several guys then, forced her to give them her contact number and became quite aggressive when she refused which made her feel extremely unsafe during her own college fest. Her friend pushed, scolded, and glared at numberless guys who were trying to get questionably close to her while she was dancing. DU Beat members faced aggressive masculine misbehaviour first-hand. Our photographers caught some boys pushing girls near barricades on EDM night.
Not only boys, but girls were also seen misbehaving and physically harassing other girls. An anonymous source commented, “I kept count. 4 groped me, and 7 touched me inappropriately. They were like- relax, that’s the fun about swinging it both ways.” There were no volunteers, administration or union members in the crowd to report such incidents to. The crowd outside the barricades was left unattended, at the hands of minimal security.
Security at fests is one of the most important duties of the organisers. While the entry was supposed to be closed at 5:00 pm, students reported that many people entered the college even till 6:30 pm. Even though only students of the University of Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and Delhi Technological University were allowed, but students from other universities entered without proper checking at the gates. A student reported that a boy asked her if she knew someone in the student union to get back ‘some of’ his confiscated weed. The fest on-lookers also saw empty liquor bottles lying around the campus.
When girls at Gargi College personally messaged their own stories of harassment to the Student Council, the President responded by saying, “It is very unfortunate how the line of incidents went down even when we tried to make sure security is handled. We tried to manage our best but there were so much nuisance and many ill elements present in the field. In terms of checking, we shall make sure right people are caught hold of who didn’t do their work properly.” She also thanked girls who came up to tell their stories.
The irony is that the theme of Reverie was “A Brave New World: An Ode to Diversity” which worked on the principles of 3C’s, Consent, Choice and Conservation. Celebration of such empowering themes now stands ironically juxtaposed.
Students on the condition of anonymity have come forward with their stories of groping and harassment from previous year fests like Crossroads (Shri Ram College of Commerce), Tempest (Miranda House), and others.
However, the Reverie incident was only the recent episode of ongoing experiences of harassments in the college fests. On the assurance of anonymity, a final-year student of Miranda House accounts, “These incidents are so common in fests that over the years, you get used to them. There is almost never anyone to make complaints.” She goes on to add, “The fest organising team has to understand this as a major issue. Unless the weeding out of such acts is as much a priority as the fest itself, things will not get better.” Security and gate-checking should be one of the prerogatives of the teams to ensure a good time by all and for all.