The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, snowballed into a major political controversy on Saturday, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visiting the campus in solidarity with the students protesting against the police crackdown.
“People who suppress the voice of this institution are anti-national,” Mr. Gandhi said. He said that while people could disagree with one another, the right to express dissent must be protected.
With students in large numbers attending the public meeting against police action on the campus, the university seems headed towards a deeper impasse. Students are threatening to shut down classes from Monday if Mr. Kumar is not released.
Meanwhile, the Aam Admi Party government ordered a magisterial probe into the police intervention at the JNU.
The decision came after a request to this effect by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI secretary D. Raja and K.C. Tyagi of the Janata Dal (United) during their meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal earlier in the day. Even as the Opposition sought to corner the government over the impasse at the premier institution, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reiterated that while the students would not be harassed, the “guilty would not be spared”.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiran Rijiju said the JNU would not be allowed to become a hub for “anti-national” activities. “These are not small kids that they don’t know what they do. In the name of freedom of expression, you cannot abuse the nation,” he told presspersons.
Mr. Yechury and Mr. Raja met Mr. Singh early on Saturday and demanded the immediate release of Mr. Kumar. Just after this meeting, City Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi met the Home Minister, who asked him about the progress in the case and sought to know where the absconding students were.
Mr. Gandhi was shown black flags by ABVP members on the campus. Many political leaders like Anand Sharma, Ajay Maken and Ashok Tanwar of the Congress, Mr. Yechury and Mr. Raja attended a public meeting.
( With inputs from Jatin Anand & Kritika Sharma Sebastian )
This article has been corrected for a factual error.