IIT-BHU Sexual Assault: 3 Held, Possible Ties With BJP IT Cell; Probe Underway

As per the survivor, the three accused forcibly kissed her, disrobed her, and clicked videos and photos of the act.

3 min read
Hindi Female

(Trigger warning: Descriptions of sexual assault.)

Nearly two months after a 20-year-old student was allegedly molested and disrobed on the Indian Institute of Technology-BHU (IIT-BHU) campus, the Uttar Pradesh police on Sunday, 31 December 2023 arrested three accused in connection with the incident. In their social media profiles, the three accused claimed to be members of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP’s) IT Cell in Varanasi.

Massive protests had broken out on the IIT-BHU campus when the incident was reported on 1 November 2023.

Varanasi's Lanka police station in-charge Shivakant Mishra said that the accused have been identified as Kunal Pandey, Anand alias Abhishek Chauhan, and Saksham Patel. All three are residents of Varanasi.

A Varanasi Court on Monday, 1 January, sent the trio to judicial custody for 14 days.


Who Are The Accused?

While Kunal Pandey claimed that he was a coordinator for the BJP IT Cell’s Varanasi unit, Saksham Patel said he was a co-coordinator.

In the Facebook pages, as seen by The Quint, the accused have posted several purported photographs with several BJP leaders including PM Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, BJP president JP Nadda, Deputy CM Brijesh Pathak, and other party leaders.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Varanasi BJP leader told The Quint that Pandey is the son-in-law of a local BJP councillor.

Meanwhile, Patel used to be the district media-in-charge of Hindu Yuva Vahini six years ago, before being removed, the BJP leader added. After this, the accused was made the co-convenor of the IT cell, the source said.


How Were The Accused Nabbed?

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Varanasi police officials told The Quint that the movements of the three accused were being traced with the help of an informer, which ultimately led to their arrest.

According to an official, the faces of the trio were unclear in the CCTV footage accessed by the police, since the incident took place in the. night.

However, the police were able to identify the Bullet bike of the accused from a CCTV camera installed at the Singh Dwaar of the main BHU campus on the intervening night of 1-2 November, the police official quoted above said.

The blurred photo of the accused was matched with the victim's statement, they said. Meanwhile, informers were planted around the house of the accused.

"The arrest was then made at 3 am on 31 December," an official told The Quint.


Oppn Parties Hit Out At BJP Over Incident

The arrest of the trio was at the centre of a political firestorm on Monday, 1 January, as the Congress alleged that the BJP "protects and promotes rapists".

Targeting the BJP, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said in a post on X: “This is the new crop of BJP leaders, who have patronage from the senior leadership of the BJP. The so-called search for them was ongoing and they had to be finally arrested after solid evidence and the increasing anger. They are those BJP people who had crossed all limits while molesting a BHU student…”

The BJP, meanwhile, itself from the accused and said the work to arrest them was "done under the zero tolerance policy of BJP."

Responding to Akhilesh’s post, UP BJP spokesperson Aalok Awasthi said,

"Akhilesh ji, the work to arrest these criminals was done under the zero tolerance policy of the BJP. They will get the punishment very soon. This is not the government of Akhilesh Yadav, where instead of getting him arrested, you shared the stage and gave ticket to rapist Gayatri Prajapati and went to the Supreme Court to save him. Do you remember or have you intentionally forgotten?”

What Happened on 1 November?

In her complaint filed at the Lanka police station, the survivor had alleged that the three men forcibly kissed her, disrobed her, and clicked videos and photos of the act.

Based on a complaint filed by the woman student, an FIR was lodged on 2 November 2023 under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and under 66E (capturing, publishing, transmitting private photos without consent) of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

"They parked their motorcycle there and separated my friend and me. They shut my mouth tightly and took me to a corner, kissed me forcibly, took off my clothes, and recorded photos and videos. When I shouted for help, they threatened to kill me. They let me go after 10-15 minutes," she had said.

Later, sections 376-D (gangrape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), and 509 (Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication) of the IPC were added to the FIR.

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Topics:  Crime   Gender   Gangrape accused 

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