India Today and its botched up ‘exclusive’ on Jamia police violence – Alt News investigation

On the intervening night of February 15-16, Jamia Coordination Committee released a 44-second CCTV footage of police excess inside a reading room in Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university. The footage is from December 15, 2019, when policemen with riot gear brutally thrashed unarmed students with lathis. In the course of the fact-check, this footage will be referred to as ‘viral CCTV footage’. It may be noted that a 29-second version of this video was also viral on social media.

Around 5:00 PM on February 16, India Today broadcast an ‘exclusive’ CCTV footage, claiming that it shows moments before the police brutality in the reading room. Anchor Pooja Shali declared this ‘exclusive’ video as “uncut”, “not an edited video” and an “elaborate” clip, as compared to the viral CCTV footage. Shali asked channel correspondent Arvind Ojha: “Please explain us in details, what do we see in the video. Because, the video which was released, shows students, who were sitting and the police starts baton charging on them.”

Ojha responded, “See, let me inform you, the 29-second video, which was made viral, is said to be doctored. Our sources are informing so. But on India Today, we are showing you this first on India Today. The footage from the library which is not only authentic but uncut. This CCTV footage is from December 15 when the violence took place in Jamia. In this, [you] can clearly see that there are some students who were studying in the library. But some boys, who were outsiders with muffled faces are slowly entering the library. One after another several boys enter the library and the biggest point – they have stones in their hands.”

Shali later questioned, “What do we get to know from this. Is it is a video before the lathi-charge or after that? How do these moments come forward?”

“This CCTV footage is exclusive with India Today. We had asked for this from a senior officer with the SIT. Because we were tracking this case continuously,” responded Ojha.

Alt News has already debunked the claim that the student highlighted in India Today’s broadcast was carrying stones in his hands. He was holding a wallet in one of his hands, and a flat object (possibly a phone) in the other. You can read our detailed report here.

Through its ‘exclusive’ report on the Jamia violence, India Today attempted to show that the video of the students barricading the reading room was the precursor to the police lathi-charge in the viral CCTV footage. Was it?

Fact-checking India Today’s broadcast

A comparison of the viral CCTV footage and the India Today video shows glaring differences between the number of students seen in both. A large group of students is distinctly noticeable in the video played by India Today. This should have acted as the first clue that this footage cannot be a precursor to the police lathi-charge seen in the viral CCTV footage.

Alt News has analysed both the videos frame-by-frame and found that they are from two different floors of the M. Phil/Post Graduate reading room.

In the course of this article, we will visually investigate the two videos and establish that India Today’s claim about the footage provided by the SIT being the precursor to the viral CCTV footage is false.

Visual analysis

With a keyword search on YouTube, we found a video report by The Tribune published on December 20, 2019, post the police violence in Jamia. The channel visited both the floors of the reading room. We reached out to The Tribune and procured the raw footage used in their report. [It may be noted that the student featured in the broadcast mistakenly says, “January 15”. However, as the video was uploaded on December 20, 2019, he could not have been referring to an event that was yet to occur.]

In The Tribune footage posted below, one can spot the channel correspondent moving towards the first floor and entering the M. Phil/Post Graduate section.

Alt News contacted Khushboo Khan, Jamia alumnus and journalist with Muslim Mirror, who also visited both the floors of the reading room. This was on February 17, 2020. In the elaborate video posted below, she explains the clear visual difference between the first and the second floors.

The first floor of the M. Phil/Post Graduate reading room

In this section, we will analyse the police lathi-charge inside the first floor of the M. Phil/ Post Graduate reading room.

In the comparison below, we have juxtaposed a screenshot from the viral CCTV footage on the left with a visual from Khan’s video on the right. Two small windows are visible in both the images.

In all the photomontage below, the screenshots on the left are from the viral CCTV footage promoted on social media and by the mainstream media, whereas, the screenshots on the right are from The Tribune footage.

1. The two small windows spotted in Khan’s video are also visible here.

2. Since various rooms in the university can be structured similarly it was important that we find an indisputable visual resemblance – a white paper stuck on a pillar located right in front of a cooler.

3. In the video posted below (taken from The Tribune footage), if one listens to the student’s testimony, he points at a corner and says that most of the students had gathered there to take refuge. We have juxtaposed his testimony with visuals of the viral CCTV footage where one can easily spot students gathering in the same corner on the side of the two small windows.

Through the above visual analysis, it be can be said with certainty that the viral CCTV footage of police brutality is from the first floor of the M.Phil/Post Graduate section.

The second floor of the M.Phil/Post Graduate reading room

In the comparison posted below, we have juxtaposed a screengrab from India Today’s broadcast with a visual from Khan’s video. The objects on the wall near the door match in both the clips.

Moreover, we found a photo of this section uploaded on Getty Images shot two days after the violence. This photo shows the broken door of the second-floor room.

In the comparison posted below, we have juxtaposed the Getty Images photo and a screenshot of the frame from The Tribune’s video when the correspondent enters the second floor. As evident, the location is the same.

Below are the similarities in both the images which we have colour-coded.

1. Red arrow – chair

2. Green rectangle – white shoe

3. Yellow circle – a piece of wood

Alt News also accessed the complete raw footage of the second-floor reading room from sources in Jamia. We have juxtaposed a screenshot from the raw footage (after the CCTV camera was vandalised by the police) and another Getty Images photo clicked on December 17, 2019. A piece of wood, a bag placed on the desk, and some papers can be matched in both the images.

Thus, Alt News has visually corroborated with multiple pieces of evidence that India Today broadcast the CCTV footage from the second floor of the M.Phil/Post Graduate section.

No other way except the main staircase to move between the two floors

It may be noted that a small staircase is visible in the corners of the two floors but it’s locked since the time of violence. The only way in (or out) was the door on each of the floors. This was corroborated by multiple sources from Jamia.

Sequence of events that India Today got wrong

The door on the first floor is intact, whereas the one on the second floor was broken by the police because the students had blocked it with desks and chairs. India Today referred to the viral CCTV footage from the first floor and played a video of students blocking the door of the second-floor room. The broadcast attempted to dilute the police brutality by portraying that miscreants had gathered in the reading room and the police followed them.

Not only did Alt News find that the student highlighted in the broadcast was not carrying stones, but India Today played a clipped video of the entire CCTV footage from the second floor and linked it with the police violence in the first floor.

The channel only showed students blocking the door but not what followed. Here is the sequence of events – the students entered the room, blocked the door, the police broke open the door and subsequently charged the students with lathis, a cop finally damaged the CCTV camera.

Delhi Police beats up Jamia students

In a third video, one which seems to be the continuation of the video released by Delhi Police, police officials are seen entering into the Jamia Millia Islamia Reading Room for PG students on December 15, where students can be seen barricading themselves. What follows is horrific visuals of police beating students, as many of them approach with palms folded. The video shows students piling up against each other, to escape being hit. In the background, a student is seen receiving blows to his head. The video ends with a police official attempting to break the CCTV camera which is recording this video.

The Delhi Police denies having entered Jamia Millia Islamia on December 15.

Credit: Maktoob

#CitizenshipAmendmentAct #jamiauniversity #jamiamilliaislamia #students #attacked #police #delhipolice #video #release #jamiaviolence #jamialibrary #library

Posted by Firstpost on Monday, 17 February 2020

Other media outlets followed suit

Subsequently, many other news organisations carried the clip and claimed that the footage was of the same room but taken from a different CCTV camera. NDTV, Mirror Now, Republic, Times Now, and News 18 were among the English news channel. Some of the Hindi channels were Zee News, Aaj Tak, Republic Bharat, and News Nation.

Right-wing websites OpIndia and Swarajya too carried similar reports.

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