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JNU Tapes: Tracking digital footprints of assailants involved in JNU violence

India Today logo India Today 11-01-2020 Ankit Kumar

No matter they disowned each other after #JNUConfessionTapes went on national air, India Today has excavated yet another video of Akshat Awasthi marching at an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) protest broadcast online by its official representative less than two months ago.

a blurry image of a girl: JNU Tapes: Tracking digital footprints of assailants involved in JNU violence JNU Tapes: Tracking digital footprints of assailants involved in JNU violence

A first-year French degree student, Akshat Awasthi was caught on camera confessing to his involvement in the January 5 rampage at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The ABVP and the attacker denied they were linked to each other after the undercover investigation aired Friday.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shazia Ilmi challenged India Today's report. She cited a picture depicting the assailant at an anti-government protest.

According to Ilmi, no ABVP activist would hold a demonstration against the BJP government. "Why would Akshat be part of a protest which is against the Human Resource Development [HRD] minister?" Shazia Ilmi asked.

But the network's open-source investigation instantly dug out another Akshat Awasthi video that showed him marching at an ABVP rally against the central HRD ministry.

The footage excavated from available online sources depicted scores of slogan-shouting protesters holding ABVP placards on November 21 to oppose the JNU's proposed hostel fee hike.

They were led by Manish Jangid, the ABVP's presidential candidate in the JNU student union elections. The video was live-streamed on Jangid's Facebook page.

The ABVP leader acknowledged the video's authenticity, but maintained that the November 21 protest was open to everyone.

Jangid denied Akshat Awasthi was associated with the ABVP.

But still pictures from the same demonstration show Awasthi in the front rows of the ABVP-organised march. "ABVP moves to MHRD [Ministry of Human Resource Development] to protest against massive fee hike in JNU," read the caption of the video Jangid posted on November 21.

India Today's open-source investigation also scouted out various social media platforms for more leads on masked attacker seen in viral videos from January 5.

Online data led the OSINT team to a social-media profile in the name of Komal Sharma. Her Facebook profile, now unavailable but retrieved by the OSINT team from archives, identifies her as "Komal Sharma ABVP".

In his confessions, Akshat Awasthi, the JNU assailant, also identified the masked woman as Komal Sharma. He told India Today's investigative reporters that he had helped her get out of the violent scene as trouble escalated at the JNU's Sabarmati hostel on January 5.

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