The Jawaharlal Nehru University has issued a clarification amidst media reports claiming that a reply to an RTI punctured holes in the administration’s version of events with regards to what happened at the university campus in the first week of January. The JNU administration said that the reply to the RTI was related to the specific location as mentioned and all the information mentioned in the FIR and other complaints are in line with facts.
The RTI query had asked about vandalism at CCTV server room at North/Main gate of the JNU campus, but as there is no such server room at that place, the RTI had replied ‘None’ to the question about the vandalism at that server room. But this reply was taken out of context by media houses to claim that the RTI reply does not match with FIR filed in the case, and no server room was damaged at the JNU.
If we go by the RTI reply, we can see that the petitioner had asked about details of server room located at the North/Main gate of JNU campus, along with CCTV camera details. The RTI query had also asked whether any vandalism incident had taken place at the North/Main gate server room where CCTV cameras are installed, with details of the incidents. To the first question, JNU had replied that there is no server room at the North/Main gate, and they had replied none to the next question as this server room does not exist. As there is no server room at the location asked, which is the North/Main gate, it is natural that no vandalism took place there, as the vandalism had happened at the CIS data centre. Another reply to a question on connections at the server room also states that there is no server room at the North/Main gate.
The RTI reply does say that the CIS server room was dusrupted on two occasions, on 3rd and 4th January.
JNU clarifies on media reports on RTI filed over 3rd Jan incident at Comm&Info Services Data Centre premises.Reply of RTI was provided relating to the specific location and questions sought by the RTI applicant. All FIRs& other complaints filed with police are in-line with facts.
— ANI (@ANI) January 22, 2020
The statement issued by the JNU on Wednesday afternoon stated, “All FIRs and other complaints filed with police are in-line with the actual incidents that took place on January 3 and do not deviate from actual facts. The JNU administration reiterates that a group of masked students came to the CIS Data Centre premises on January 3, 2020 and forcibly evicted the technical staff, switched off the power supply, locked the premises and squatted in front of the main entrance to the CIS Data Centre without providing any access to the centre.”
As per the widely circulated reports, the reply to the RTI filed by Saurav Das, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), said the main server of JNU at the Centre for Information System (CIS) was shut down on January 3 and had gone down the next day “due to power supply disruption”. The response also said a total of 17 fiber optical cables were damaged on January 4 at 1 pm. ‘None’ of the biometric systems were broken or destroyed from December 30, 2019, to January 8, 2020, the RTI reply as per reports.
The reply appears consistent with previous statements made by authorities at the JNU. JNU registrar Pramod Kumar had issued a statement on the 3rd of January saying, “At around 1 pm on January 3, a group of students using masks on their faces forcibly entered the office of the Centre for Information System, switched off the power supply, forcibly evicted all the technical staff, and made the servers dysfunctional.”
Furthermore, with regards to the questions regarding CCTVs, the reply said that the server of CCTVs are located at the Data Center and not the CIS. It further stated that further details regarding CCTVs couldn’t be disclosed due to reasons of security.
The clarification issued by the JNU authorities points towards the same. It said, “As per the complaint filed by administration on January 3, 2020 about incident in CIS Data Centre, JNU has not claimed about the damage to servers on January 3. The RTI answers are correct and specific to the questions asked. The RTI response also clearly states that servers are located at CIS Data Centre, not in CIS office, which seems to be conspicuously ignored while highlighting the matter in the media.”
The clarification stated further, “Damage to the CIS Data Centre server room was caused on January 4 by a group of miscreants who broke open one of the door-windows of the premises and entered the server room. Once inside, they turned off the servers and severely damaged the fire optic cables, power supplies, broke the biometric systems inside the room. The miscreants then started sloganeering and intimidated the technical staff from entering the server room.”
The initial media report that spread the disinformation campaign was published by the Press Trust of India. Soon, it was picked up and reproduced by a plethora of news websites or individual reports were published based on inputs from the PTI. Consequently, it became fodder for political players acting in bad faith which used the report to target the JNU administration.
The headline of the report published by FirstPost on the matter with inputs from the PTI was even more outlandish. It claimed that the RTI reply poked holes in the official version of events as laid down by the JNU administration in previous days.
The Congress party then chose to use one such report by News18 to claim that the JNU administration had lied to the Police and claimed that there was no vandalism at all in the JNU campus.
An RTI report has revealed that the JNU administration lied to
the police, the media & in their FIR.
There was no vandalism of the server room by JNU students on Jan 3 as claimed by JNU VC. https://t.co/ZPgWlkeVUL
— Congress (@INCIndia) January 22, 2020
It’s quite clear that the reply to the RTI spoke of a very specific location but it was twisted completely to portray something entirely different. In recent times, we have seen that RTI has become the favoured tactic of the Left to spread disinformation. Only yesterday, the Leftist crowd had claimed a grand moral victory after a reply to an RTI had revealed that the government had no information concerning the ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’. The Left had touted this to be a great victory when the response by the Ministry of Home Affairs was painfully obvious given the fact that ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ is not an official government term.
Chief Justice Bobde has also, in the past, expressed apprehensions regarding the manner in which RTIs are used. He had expressed concern that people who have nothing to do with a particular issue demand information using the RTI. CJI Bobde also appeared annoyed with the fact that some people go around using the term ‘RTI activist’. The current campaign of disinformation against the JNU administration is a further cause of concern regarding the manner in which RTIs are used.