Clamour to drop sedition charges

Updated - October 18, 2016 03:12 pm IST

Published - February 15, 2016 12:00 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Apart from protests on the JNU campus, activists and students came together at the Jantar Mantar on Sunday to express solidarity with the varsity.Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Apart from protests on the JNU campus, activists and students came together at the Jantar Mantar on Sunday to express solidarity with the varsity.Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Cutting across ideologies, hundreds of students, teachers and alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University formed a human chain and raised slogans on Sunday, demanding that sedition charges against students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar be dropped.

Simultaneous protests were also held by Delhiites, especially students of different universities, at Jantar Mantar.

Kanhaiya was arrested earlier this week in a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy that was filed over an event organised at the varsity around Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging.

Anti-India slogans were allegedly raised during this event.

The students were also joined by the families of staff members residing on the campus. “The arrest of the JNUSU president, the suspension of eight students and detention of seven students is the latest in the series of witch-hunt against students in universities across the country,” said Rachita Tyagi, a student at the university.

Around 1,500 people formed a human chain in the campus, many of whom felt that the whole episode, which began with the pro-Afzal Guru event, tagging them as anti-nationals and then arresting students was part of a staged process of the right-wingers to uproot institutes of academic excellence in the country. “The JNU community is resisting this daylight onslaught on its democratic rights and the attempt to silence them through extreme measures by the administration backed by the MHRD,” said a student who participated in the protests.

Another student, Maya John said, “Whatever Kanhaiya said, his speech is for everyone to see. How can the footage with the police be different from that with the university? Isn’t it already fishy? Just because they needed someone to target, they picked up Kanhaiya as he is the president.”

Earlier in the day, members of the ABVP had staged a protest on the campus and said that those supporting Kanhaiya were also contributing to “anti-national” activities.

At the Jantar Mantar, meanwhile, several activists were joined by people from different walks of life to express solidarity with the agitating students and teachers of JNU. While the protest there saw a sizeable number of supporters from the Left, social activist Kavita Krishnan also joined in to show her support. She later took to Twitter where she said: “In 2012, Sanghi outfit ‘flew Pakistan flag to create tension’. Did they raise ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ to defame#JNU?”

Afzal Guru’s lawyer N D Pancholi said, “Slapping sedition charges on students is condemnable and the government is using it to gag voices of criticism. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and even the Supreme Court said people can discuss or debate its judgments. Even Jawaharlal Nehru had admitted that sedition law should be repealed as it was introduced by British rulers to establish their state,” he said.

(This copy has been edited for a factual error post publication)

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