As the Centre hardened its position, a Delhi court on Friday remanded Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar in three-day police custody. He was arrested on the charge of sedition, after “anti-India” slogans were allegedly raised at the university during a recent protest meeting in memory of Afzal Guru, hanged in 2013 after his conviction in the Parliament attack case.
A case of sedition against several unknown students was lodged at Vasant Kunj (North) police station on Thursday. It was registered under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons with a common intention). Five more persons are absconding in the case.
The university also initiated action, barring eight students from academic activity pending an enquiry, though they would be allowed to stay as guests in the hostels.
The police struck after the videos of the protest went viral. Home Minister Rajnath Singh talked to Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi on Thursday night and Friday morning.
On Friday, Mr. Singh gave a statement while boarding a flight to Gorakhpur: “If anyone raises anti-India slogans, tries to raise questions on the country’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared.”
The JNUSU president was promptly arrested. Students gathered at the university to protest the arrest. Counter-protests against “anti-national activities” took place outside the university gate. However, a day before the police action, the JNUSU had said it had nothing to do with the protest, organised by a group of students, and disapproved of the slogans raised there.
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani echoed the Home Minister, asserting that “the nation will not tolerate an ‘insult’ to Mother India.”
Sedition case against former professor also
The Delhi Police booked the former lecturer of Delhi University, S.A.R. Geelani, on sedition charges on Friday. A case of sedition, criminal conspiracy and unlawful assembly was registered against Geelani and some unknown persons in connection with an event held at the Press Club here on Wednesday to discuss Afzal Guru on his death anniversary.
Police invoke Saeed
“Abetment of any kind of anti-national activity is a punishable offence,” a part of the Delhi Police’s warning on Twitter read.
A tweet, purportedly posted from the handle @HafeezSaeedJUD, was referred to by the police.
Seemingly posted on Wednesday by the Pakistani terror suspect Hafiz Saeed, the tweet read, “We request our Pakistani Brothers to trend #SupportJNU for our pro-Pakistani JNUites brothers. #PakStandWithJNU” (sic). The Hindu could not independently verify the authenticity of this tweet.
“Given the kind of divided opinion on the JNU episode and the possibility if this tweet being misused, we decide to warn the students,” said a senior police officer.
‘It turned out to be rowdyism’
The event to discuss Afzal Guru at the Press Club was allegedly organised by Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), a Geelani-led organisation.
As per DU associate professor Javed Ali’s statement to a news channel, some professors, including him, were among those invited for the event. “We were told it would only be a discussion. It turned out to be rowdyism,” said Mr. Javed.
Students allege witch-hunt
Agitated over the arrest of JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, teachers and students have called the police action “uncalled-for”.
Students alleged that they were facing a “witch-hunt” and the police were targeting them mindlessly. The students staged a protest outside the office of Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar.
Students started gathering outside the office from afternoon and continued to protest till late in the evening.
“The police is mindlessly patrolling the campus and the students are being witch-hunted and demonised. What is the proof that Kanhaiya was there among those raising anti-India slogans? Has he been spotted in any picture or video? Why are all JNU students being given ‘anti-national’ certificates? We condemn the arrest,” said JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid Shora.
JNU Teachers’ Association issued a statement terming the “excessive police action” as an attack on the varsity. “The JNU teaching community is extremely concerned at the threat to democratic ethos, which has played a critical role in assuring that university serves its social function and secure its position as one of the premier institution of higher education,” it said.
“We strongly believe that the excessive police action was currently uncalled for and it has only aggravated the situation. We also express deep anguish over the university administration's decision to allow them to enter the campus.”