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BJP IT Cell Members, One Repeat Offender: Accused in IIT-BHU Sexual Assault Case

IIT-BHU sexual assault: The Facebook profiles of all three accused show them posing with senior BJP leaders.

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Video Producer: Divya Uppal

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

(Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault.)

A local BJP councillor's son-in-law, a high school graduate, and a man who was previously booked on charges of molestation in 2022: these are the three persons arrested on 31 December in connection with the alleged sexual assault that occurred on Varanasi's Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-BHU campus.

The accused, namely Kunal Pandey (28), Saksham Patel (21), and Anand alias Abhishek Chauhan (18), also have one thing in common – their alleged affiliation to the Varanasi BJP's IT Cell.

The social media profiles of the three accused, as seen by The Quint, had photos of them with several BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP national president JP Nadda, and Union Minister Smriti Irani, among others.

The arrest comes over two months after a IIT-BHU student filed a complaint at the Lanka Police Station on 2 November, alleging that three men forcibly kissed her, disrobed her, and clicked videos and photos of the act on the campus. The incident triggered widespread protests on the campus, with students demanding action against the perpetrators.

Based on the complaint, an FIR was lodged 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.

Later, Sections 376-D (gang rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), and 509 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication) were added to the FIR.

Police officials told The Quint that during the interrogation, the accused confessed to the crime.

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Kunal Pandey: B.Com Graduate, Son-in-Law of Local BJP Councillor

On his Facebook profile, which has now been locked, Kunal Pandey claimed that he was a coordinator for the BJP IT Cell's Varanasi unit.

A B.Com graduate from Varanasi, Pandey used to work as a contractor, sources told The Quint.

According to a Varanasi BJP leader, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to The Quint, Pandey is the son-in-law of Madan Mohan Tiwari, a local BJP councillor from the city's Brij Enclave in Sundarpur area.

Pandey, who lives just 3 km away from the IIT-BHU campus, was also allegedly preparing to contest the next councillor elections, the above-mentioned source added.

While his Facebook profile and cover picture show Pandey with PM Modi and BJP chief Nadda, the accused has also uploaded several pictures with senior BJP leaders including UP CM Adityanath, Union Minister Mahendra Nath Pandey, UP Deputy CM Brajesh Pathak, and UP Minister Swatantra Dev Singh.

IIT-BHU sexual assault: The Facebook profiles of all three accused show them posing with senior BJP leaders.

Kunal Pandey, an accused in the IIT-BHU sexual assault case, with PM Narendra Modi.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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Saksham Patel: High School Graduate, Ex-Hindu Yuva Vahini Member

Saksham Patel, who claimed to be the coordinator of the BJP IT cell, belongs to Varanasi's Bajardiha area. This is approximately 300 metres from the IIT-BHU campus.

Patel, who has studied till class 12, joined the Hindu Yuva Vahini six years ago, sources told The Quint. His father runs a catering firm, and the family was not financially well off.

According to sources, during his stint as the district media-in-charge of Hindu Yuva Vahini, Patel grew close to senior party leaders.

A Varanasi BJP leader told The Quint that for reasons unknown, Patel was removed from his post. After this, the accused was made the co-convenor of the IT cell, the leader said.

Saksham is also said to be in close proximity with BJP MLAs in Varanasi.

On his Facebook profile, he has a cover picture with JP Nadda.

Post his arrest, Patel's Twitter account was deleted.

IIT-BHU sexual assault: The Facebook profiles of all three accused show them posing with senior BJP leaders.

Saksham Patel with BJP president JP Nadda.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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Anand Chauhan: Failed Class 12, Was Booked For Molestation in 2022

The third accused in the IIT-BHU sexual assault case is 18-year-old Anand alias Abhishek Chauhan. The accused, too, hails from Bajardiha area of Varanasi. Abhishek's father Munna runs a power loom in the area.

Chauhan, too, worked for the BJP IT Cell, but his position remains unclear.

In 2022, a woman from his neighbourhood filed a case against Chauhan for alleged molestation.

According to police, Chauhan was also booked on charges of physical assault, threatening, and rioting in Varanasi, The Indian Express reported.

Chauhan's Facebook profile has a display picture with Yogi Adityanath.

IIT-BHU sexual assault: The Facebook profiles of all three accused show them posing with senior BJP leaders.

Chauhan's Facebook profile has a cover picture of himself posing with Keshav Maurya at an event, and his display picture showed him with Yogi Adityanath.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

However, BJP Varanasi (Mahanagar) president Vidyasagar said the three are no longer members of the BJP IT cell in Varanasi.

"They were office-bearers till November. But in November, the IT cell was dissolved and has not been reconstituted since then," Rai told The Indian Express.

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Accused Nabbed Based On Tip-Off, Interrogation Underway: Cops

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

The police gathered then CCTV footage from around the campus. Sources said that once clear photographs helped zero in on the men, they were shown to the survivor for confirmation.

Soon after the incident, the accused told the police that they had fled the town as the student protests had intensified. However, they returned two weeks later. It was based on a tip-off on 31 December that the three were nabbed, sources said.

During the interrogation, the accused are learnt to have confessed to the 1 November incident.

"The interrogation is underway at present. The phones of the three accused have been sent to the forensic laboratory to retrieve photos, texts and videos," a police source said.
IIT-BHU sexual assault: The Facebook profiles of all three accused show them posing with senior BJP leaders.

During the interrogation, the accused are learnt to have confessed to the 1 November incident.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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

On Tuesday, 2 January, the Uttar Pradesh Congress tried to stage a protest outside PM Modi's constituency office in Varanasi. However, they were stopped by the district police from reaching the office. This led to a clash between the police and Congress workers.

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Topics:  IIT   IIT BHU 

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