Rajat Sharma

Chandigarh video leak scandal: The lessons we should learn

akb full_frame_74900The video leak scandal in Chandigarh University has set off a storm of questions about the privacy of girl students staying in hostels, whether they use common washrooms. Parents of students pursuing higher education in universities, colleges and professional institutes are worried about the issue of privacy. In Punjab, the scandal has set off a storm of fear and rage among girl students and their families. This was fuelled by several baseless rumours, about which I shall deal in detail.

A first year post-graduate girl student made an obscene video of herself in the washroom, and sent it to her male ‘friend’ in Himachal Pradesh. One of her colleagues caught her in the act, and the news soon spread throughout the hostel, and from there to students studying in the university. There were protests on Saturday and Sunday nights in the university campus.

Rumours were spread that at least 60 obscene videos of girl students have been circulated. Rumours were also spread that some of these videos have found their way to hardcore porn sites on the internet. Parents rushed to the university campus to speak to their children. Police arrested the girl student from the campus and her 23-year-old boyfriend in Shimla. A 31-year-old male was also arrested from Himachal Pradesh. Forensic experts are going through the phones of all the three to check whether more videos have been forwarded or whether chats have been deleted.

Since it was a sensitive matter relating to daughters, I sent four reporters to investigate the matter in Mohali. They spoke to top police officials and girl students of the university along with their parents. The university has been closed for one week, and students from Punjab and neighbouring states have been asked to vacate the hostels for the time being. The two ‘friends’ of the girl student arrested from HP, are from low profile backgrounds. The first, Sunny Mehta, has studied till Class 12 and works in a bakery in Shimla. His father is a labourer. The other male accused has also studied up to Class 12, and his father is also a labourer. The girl student was pursuing MBA in Chandigarh University. Punjab Police is carefully putting all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to find out the motives behind this scandal.

The university administration and Punjab Police have been saying repeatedly that no evidence has so far been found about sixty obscene videos circulating. But, several girl students staying in D Block hostel insist that they have seen several objectionable videos in the girl’s phone. They are alleging that the university authorities are trying to hush up the matter. The girls’ concerns and anger are justified, but one must understand that most of them are levelling charges based on hearsay and suspicions.

Our reporter spoke to university officials and police. He found that the girl student had joined the hostel only two weeks ago, and she had no acquaintance with most of the hostel inmates. She had only made a video of herself inside the washroom, and had forwarded to her friend in Shimla.

SSP of Mohali Navneet Virk emphatically said that the charge of 60 videos of girl students was totally baseless, and speculative and based on suspicion. Since these rumours floated fast on social media, it caused panic among the parents and relatives of girl students. Virk said, “she was making the video of her own, another girl saw it, and told her friend, who in turn informed the warden. The warden confiscated the phone. When the phone was opened, there were some videos of the girl herself. From this, it was surmised that the girl might have made videos of other girls too, but till now, no evidence has surfaced of other videos. It was a common washroom.”

The rumours spread because the hostel warden, while scolding the accused girl student, was alleging that she might have made videos of others too and had sent them to her friend. The warden, without crosschecking facts, was making allegations. This was heard by other girls who were warching, and they made a video of the scolding scene, and posted it on social media.

Since the hostel inmates had complained about the warden, the university administration suspended two hostel wardens, while other hostel wardens were transferred. Our reporter Puneet Parinja spoke to a hostel inmate who was staying on the same floor of Le Corbusier hostel. She told our reporter that she read the chats on the girl’s phone, and her apprehension was that the girl was being blackmailed by her boyfriend. She also said, there were no other objectionable videos in the girl’s phone. The inmate said, it was physically impossible to make 60 videos of others because the girl has joined the hostel only two weeks back.

One thing is certain. The rumour about 60 objectionable videos made of girl students is completely baseless. Punjab Police is however not leaving anything to chance. Police have found that the boyfriend had asked the girl to delete all data and apps from her phone. The cellphones of all three accused are now in the forensic lab to check whether data have been deleted or not. Police have verified that the three accused knew each other for the last three years. The blackmailing angle will also be pursued. Police will also probe whether the male friend Sunny Mehta was selling objectionable videos to porn sites. Punjab Police has promised to delve deep into this case and unearth facts.

On Tuesday, the special investigation team of Punjab Police took both the male suspects, Sunny Mehta and Rankaj Verma to their hometowns in Himachal Pradesh, to recover pen drives, computers and other devices. Police officials suspect the two might have stored several videos and photos on other devices. Police is trying to find out whether more videos were shared or uploaded on internet. Already the Kharar court in Mohali, Punjab, has sent the three accused, including the girl student, to police remand for one week.

Police have appealed to students and their families not to believe in rumours. Additional DGP Gurpreet Kaur Deo said, the matter is being thoroughly investigated and so far, there is no evidence of videos other than those of the arrested girl student being shot and shared .

We should remember one thing. This matter is related to the future of our daughters. A girl made an objectionable video, but rumours were spread about 60 videos made of her hostel inmates. Another rumour was spread that eight girl students committed suicide, but the fact was that some girl students fainted due to heat, during the protests that took place on Saturday and Sunday nights. Such rumours tend to make mountains out of a mole hill. They are being spread to strike fear in the minds of people. Most of the girl students realized that rumours were being spread, and they are tackling such rumours with strength. The problem is about their parents who are a worried lot. Several parents have asked their daughters to return home and stop staying in hostels. The biggest fear is whether the parents will discontinue their daughters’ education. Unfortunately, such things are happening because of rumours.

I would therefore appeal to all to be vigilant, and refrain from posting or forwarding baseless rumours without verifying facts. Had the rumours about 60 objectionable videos not spread on social media, such angry protests would not have taken place.

The final suggestion: if anyone feels that he or she has committed a wrong, there is nothing to fear. Go to the police and report. Whenever a victim tries to hide facts, the blackmailers gain an upper hand. Beware of blackmailers.

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