Questions are being raised about the Delhi police’s failure in tracking down five Jawaharlal Nehru University students who went underground after allegedly taking part in an anti-India protest meeting on campus on 9 February and then resurfaced on 21 February.
The Delhi police, according to sources, had created eight teams to find out the whereabouts of the five students, including Umar Khalid. But the students themselves resurfaced inside JNU on 21 February, embarrassing the police who had failed to arrest them despite electronic surveillance and social media monitoring.
The Delhi police had carried out search operations in eight different states including Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to find the students. They used all the resources at their command, albeit unsuccessfully, to locate four other accused, Anant Prakash Narayan, Ashutosh Kumar, Rama Naga and Anirban Bhattacharya, besides Khalid.
Sources on campus said that the students were not seen in their hostels after 9 February but there was a very strong possibility that they were on campus while the police continued to look for them outside.
“They were not in the hostels, this much we can confirm. However, there is a very strong possibility that they were on campus and were being helped by some professors, possibly two, who managed to hide them from police while they formulated their legal strategy,” a university professor, requesting anonymity, told this correspondent.
Emails sent to Ajay Patnaik, president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association (JNUTA), which has been supporting these students, did not elicit any response until the time the report went to print.
Some of the students this newspaper spoke to said that these five students did not stay at their respective hostels while they were on the “run”. “They were not in the hostels, but it is very much possible that their accommodation was arranged by some professors on campus only. There is no place safer than the JNU campus as alarm bells would have been rung as soon as the police entered the campus, thereby giving the accused the chance to flee,” a student said.
According to government sources tracking the issue, the preliminary investigation too is pointing to the fact that the students did not leave campus but were provided support by some of the university professors.
“This whole issue, the way it was handled by the Delhi police, and the fact they were not able to track the five university students is an example of the downfall of the intelligence gathering apparatus of the police,” an official with the Ministry of Home Affairs said.