On February 16, CCTV footage from inside the Jamia Millia Islamia University surfaced online. Twenty eight seconds long, it showed the Delhi police personnel entering the university’s library and lathicharging students. The footage carried the timestamp of December 15, 2019, the day the Delhi police and paramilitary forces cracked down on protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register for Citizens inside and outside the university.
The forces used teargas and force to clamp down on the protests, some of which had descended into stonepelting and the destruction of buses in New Friends Colony, Jamia Nagar, and Sarai Julena.
The CCTV video was posted by the Jamia Coordination Committee, and it was shared fervently on social media, inviting criticism for the excessive use of force on the campus.
Multiple users expressed doubts about the footage, claiming the persons in the video were probably protesters who hid inside the library to escape the forces. The apparent giveaway for this was a student with a covered face and a closed book.
In its 5 pm broadcast, India Today claimed it had accessed “uncut footage of the Jamia library violence”: an “elaborate video, not an edited one” of what transpired inside the library.
India Today anchor Pooja Shali also tweeted that the TV channel “has accessed uncut footage of Jamia Library violence which took place on December 15. Not the edited video being circulated.”
She later deleted the tweet.
Shali’s segment, which also featured India Today correspondent Arvind Ojha, raises multiple questions about how the TV news channel broadcast its own “uncut footage”.
Here are some questions on the coverage the channel must answer.
1) On what basis did the channel claim the video shared by the Jamia Coordination Committee was “edited” and “doctored”?
The video does have a three-second cut, but that does not change much. In these seconds — between timestamps 18:08:37 and 18:08:40 — one student covers his face and opens a book as he watches the police heading towards him. To call it “edited” and “doctored” implies that what it shows is deceitful. But a one-minute version of this video does not reveal another story.
Unless, of course, India Today knows something most of us don’t. If their evidence for this claim is that the Delhi police has called it doctored, as Ojha said on air, then it does not add up to anything substantive.
2) What did the channel mean when it called its accessed video “uncut”, “elaborate” and “authentic”?
The India Today broadcast shows their video has two conspicuous cuts. So it is definitely not “uncut”. It is not more than 30-40 seconds – it was run cyclically on the segment – which means it’s not “elaborate” either. As far as “authentic” goes, what is the yardstick? If it is about cuts and the length, then the video is no better than the one put out by the JCC.
We have been told India Today has a Data Intelligence Unit (DIU), an Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) and a Special Investigative Team (SIT). It wouldn’t hurt to also convene a Video Research and Analysis Wing (V-RAW).
3) On what basis did the channel claim the “rioters” were carrying “stones”?
It was embarrassing to watch Ojha first call the people entering the library “rioters” and then have Shali cover up the sloppiness by adding “we’re not going to jump to conclusions” and “we are not going to tag them all”. She then Ojha whether he can substantiate how these people were rioters. He says his assertion is based on what “sources” in the Delhi police have told him.
The question is: did the channel try to independently verify whether these persons, who could well be students, were really “rioters”?
It probably did not, for India Today changed the headline of Ojha’s report as soon as it realised this. “Rioters” was shifted within quote marks.
One person in the video is seen entering the room with objects in his hands. Ojha tells the viewers these were stones. In his , he claims “some persons” and “men” (meaning more than one) carried stones. But it only focussed on one individual.
How did the TV channel decipher these were stones? An by AltNews has found the person was not carrying stones but a wallet, and possibly a phone. Jamia students had a similar claim.
Why couldn't India Today do a similar investigation, or check with any eyewitness?
‘Rioter in library with stones’.
4) What is the timestamp of the video broadcast by India Today?
Since the India Today video does not have a timestamp, the channel didn’t lay out a chronology of events, that is, which incident in the two videos occurred first? It is not clear whether the channel’s video is from the same room as the JCC video. Shali does put this question to Ojha. He doesn’t answer.
5) Did Ojha doublecheck the claims made by the Delhi police “sources” with the university’s officials or the students?
Ojha’s on-air answers are replete with claims that come from “sources”, “Delhi police” or “Crime Branch”. We do not hear much about the students, university administration or even “sources” in the administration. The editors at India Today who cleared Ojha’s story are sensible enough to know the Delhi police have not been the most reliable since the protests started. The India Today reporter who was outside Jawaharlal Nehru University on January 5 even as the police watched can tell them more about this.
When Ojha meets his “Crime Branch” source next, he should ask them why the police did not give him access to the where personnel can be seen destroying the CCTV camera.
6) Did India Today do its own investigation into the Delhi police’s claims about the video?
Did India Today reach out to persons who can be seen in the video being assaulted by the armed forces? If not, why?
7) How did Ojha confirm that some people entered the library and pretended to study?
At one in the segment, Ojha says the people who entered the library with covered faces proceeded to sit and opened their books. This notion seems lifted from online doubters and cannot be seen in the video. So how did Ojha arrive at this claim?
8) Why did the segment not question the Delhi police’s claim that they did not enter the library?
Lastly, the video shared by the JCC debunks the Delhi police’s claim that they on December 15. The cops basically lied to the public on this count. Why did Shali and Ojha not take this up this question? As journalists, this should have been the very first subject to breach.
When Pooja Shali tweeted about India Today’s exclusive access to the “uncut”, “elaborate” footage of the crackdown inside Jamia Millia Islamia, it gave the impression that the TV channel’s investigation would settle the doubts about the video. But it only added to the confusion. The claims made by Ojha — despite Shali’s efforts to clarify them — were unsubstantiated. By the end of the half an hour segment, a viewer was fed the Delhi police’s version of the events at the Jamia library, and not the journalist’s.
UPDATE: This report has been updated to include the findings of the AltNews investigation.