Anand Mangnale, a campaign and media consultant by profession, found a link on one right-wing WhatsApp group named ‘Friends of RSS’ and used it to extract information about the vicious plans the goons were making. It directed him to a group titled ‘Unity Against Left’ where all the devising had almost finished.
He immediately took screenshots of the ongoing scheming and shared their details over calls and messages. But as his own number – previously used for testing the Congress party’s crowdfunding platform’s operations – started being singled out, his adventure was erroneously linked to the Indian National Congress (INC) and several false allegations were levelled against him.
What Happened In JNU?
Violence broke out at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the 5th of January as masked goons attacked students, professors, and damaged properties on the campus. Thirty-four students, including Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh, were attacked and their head injuries were grievous enough for them to be admitted to the AIIMS Trauma Centre.
The student union has said that the violence was perpetrated by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student body linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideological parent.
Faces half-covered, the vandals and assaulters whacked students in their hostel rooms as they brandished their weapons of wood and iron. JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh was hit over her eye, with an iron rod. The picture of her severely injured face surfaced online and was shared on every medium.
Anand Mangnale Infiltrates WhatsApp Chats
The attack on the university began at 6 p.m. and an ‘invite link’ to one of the WhatsApp groups that was organising this protest started making the rounds on a few people’s inboxes and social media handles an hour or two later.
A screenshot of the chatroom where Mangnale sent a message asking ‘whether anything was needed to be done at the university’s main gate’, went viral when journalist Barkha Dutt shared his message along with his number.
This message is from a WhatsApp group called ‘Unity Against Left’ – I’ve edited out the group because of privacy laws on showing numbers, but the operative message retained : “main gate par kuch karna hai” against those who “support JNU” #JNUViolence pic.twitter.com/asXyRlfrsK
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) January 5, 2020
The viral tweet was quickly looked into by people and a simple search on Google showed that his number was linked to a Congress crowdfunding campaign a little more than a year ago.
However, when The Logical Indian contacted Anand Mangnale he informed that the number displayed was a ‘test number’ that he had used when he had worked with the Indian National Congress (INC) for their crowdfunding campaign last year.
“It was used for testing and was meant to be removed immediately. The number belonged to me but it was a mistake on their part to not remove it from the website after their test”, he said.
Therefore, the tweet by Barkha Dutt that singled out the number ‘70057 50770‘ was being shared rapidly and people were storming Twitter with allegations against the Congress party for orchestrating the attack on JNU.
Who was behind #JNUViolence ?
Mystery solved by Barkha Dutt@BDUTT Well Done
Cc- @DelhiPolice @LtGovDelhi
For Info-@priyankagandhi @RahulGandhi
The Number shown in her tweet belongs to Crowd funding website of Congress.. Your Party. Now smartly website taken down pic.twitter.com/UIlZTbyVex
— Major Surendra Poonia (@MajorPoonia) January 5, 2020
Just googled the number 70057 50770 and it appears to be of @INCIndia come on pappu dont burn the careers of fellow students just for the sake of political gain.Thankyou @BDUTT for exposing these hate mongers.I want @DelhiPolice to take action against congress. #LeftAttacksJNU pic.twitter.com/QMuAytN5nC
— Thebeeinghuman (@thebeeinghuman) January 6, 2020
Congress caught red handed as rioters no.7005750770 linked to Crowd Funding website of Indian National Congress.Lose election and start riots.@HMOIndia arrest Sonia,Rahul Priyanka.
— Yogesh (@yogashar99) January 6, 2020
But, Why Did Anand Mangnale Join ‘Unity Against Left’
“It was an urgent situation, where this was needed to get whatever information I could & pass on to students to keep them safe. So did it. It might be hasty, but I felt the situation required it”
– Anand Mangnale on Facebook
As per The Logical Indian’s conversation with the person in question, he joined the WhatsApp group in order to uncover the plan of the goons to help students who were in danger.
The invite link that became public soon after the attack took place was found by him on one of the chat groups he was a part of. The link came with the caption: ‘Please join this group for unity against Left terror. Now it is time to beat them, this is our only chance.’
The mobile number ‘70057 50770′ linked to Mangnale has been active in right-wing groups under the name – ‘Anand Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
A lot of members of these groups have assumed for a long time that this number is affiliated to one of their saffron allies, but in reality, it has been one of the alternative numbers that Mangnale has used to keep track of right-wing activities.
“I have been using that number since the past 4-5 months only to keep track of three or four RSS and BJP WhatsApp groups”, he said.
On being asked why did he want to track conversations on right-wing messaging groups he told The Logical Indian that “most lynchings and plans of mob violence are organised through these groups” and his presence on those groups was to circumvent the threat to life that was posed by their violent schemes.
“We know lynchings, violence, riots are coordinated through RW WhatsApp groups. So, instead of just waiting and writing about these things, something needs to be done proactively to stop it, track it. I had joined such groups to keep track. I also independently write stories and these groups give tip-offs that help”, he added.
Using the invite link that he had found, he joined the group called ‘Unity Against Left’ at 8:20 p.m. but “it was too late” as the planned assault on JNU was “almost over by then.”
“The attack on the university started at 7:30 p.m. and I joined the WhatsApp group almost an hour after that with messages such as ‘I am at the main gate’, ‘The VC is our guy’, et cetera. The intention was to uncover any further plans they had and I wanted to expose their activity at that time”, he informed.
“I even began getting personal messages from the group members who believed I was a part of them and started scheming further. It was important to play along to understand if they had more attacks in the pipeline”, he said.
Along with him, several non-right-wingers were able to infiltrate into the social media groups and after a few minutes of plain observations, the new entrants, enraged by the brutal language and appreciation for the ongoing assaults, began verbally dissing and outraging on the messaging platform.
“This caused the admins to realise that non-right-wingers had got into the chatroom and they started removing the new joiners one by one. I was removed by 9 p.m. and the entire WhatsApp group was soon dissolved”, he said.
As the WhatsApp group was being removed from existence, the name of the group was also quickly changed by the admins to make it seem as though the forum was formed by (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) ABVP haters.
Congress & Anand Mangnale Clarify
Many of the new joiners had already taken screenshots of the conversation and started posting the same on social media platforms to exhibit the progressing organisation of the mob attack on students.
Subsequently, journalist Barkha Dutt picked one such screenshot with Anand Mangnale’s number and tweeted the picture singling him out.
As the tweet’s reach increased, journalists and commoners began searching the number in focus and due to its previous association with the Congress party, the narrative that the assault was carried out by the INC was spread.
Congress soon clarified in a tweet that the number belonged to one of the private vendors they had collaborated with for a crowdfunding campaign before the Lok Sabha elections last year and had nothing to do with the political party.
The SM team of INC had hired the services of several private vendors to run the crowd funding campaign, for a limited period before Lok Sabha Elections after which it was discontinued. The number belonged to a vendor and has nothing to do with INC.
— Congress (@INCIndia) January 5, 2020
Anand Mangnale also took to Facebook where he wrote a long explanation about how and why he used that number and asserted that it had no links to any political party. It was posted yesterday on his personal account but it was pulled down by the social media giant last night. He, however, reposted the same content calling out Facebook for its arbitrary action.
As per his judgement from his observations on the groups, RSS workers were present and hand-in-glove with the assaulters.
“This attack can be traced to a few days when our Union Home Minister publicly stated that it was time to ‘punish the Tukde Tukde gang’. When such an insinuation is made, it does not take much time for the foot soldiers to mobilise and wreak havoc”, he said in conclusion.