JNU students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested today in a sedition case over an event at the varsity’s campus against hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, sparking massive outrage among students and criticism from non-BJP parties which dubbed it as an “emergency-like” situation.
While Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh advocated strong action against those who were involved in the alleged “anti-India” act, the students continued with their protests on the campus for the third day today, saying they are being “witch-hunted”. The students said their parents are asking them to quit the university in view of the “vitiating atmosphere” at Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU).
The arrest of Kanhaiya, a day after police filed a sedition and criminal conspiracy case on complaints from BJP MP Maheish Girri and ABVP members, was later remanded in three-day police custody by a local court.
After the arrest, the varsity students and teachers protested outside the Vice Chancellor’s office demanding the administration’s intervention into the manner in which students are being compared to “terrorists” and picked up from campus by policemen in plain clothes.
Equating the events with an “emergency-like situation”, CPI-M Sitaram Yechury said, “The question is that do you know who raised the slogans? Take action according to law against them. When you don’t know then how are you arresting all the student leaders?
“…Male police are going and raiding girls’ hostels. Only during the emergency we saw this happen. That is the sort of Emergency State they are reducing our country to again. This time it is the BJP,” he said.
Questioning the filing of sedition case, Congress leader Kapil Sibal asserted that it was a very serious charge and the BJP government should think before taking action under it.
On its part, the JNU administration said the university holds the right to free debate but condemns its use as a platform for activities that violate the Constitution and the laws of the land.
“While the JNU community upholds the right to free debate on campus, the university strongly condemns its use as a platform for activities that violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. However, there could be aberrations where fringe sections misuse the freedom provided,” the newly appointed Vice Chancellor Jagdeesh Kumar said.
The Vice Chancellor also appealed the students to go beyond this incident and help the campus return to “normalcy”.
“While the problem would be appropriately addressed in this case, the university would also take steps to protect the academic atmosphere and the environment for vibrant discussion that JNU has always provided and stands for,” he said.
The varsity administration had also barred the entry into campus for outsiders today.
The JNU Teachers Association also condemned the arrest of Kanahaiya as an action “uncalled for”.
“This could be a disciplinary issue but how can it be a case of sedition? The action against the students is uncalled for. The way students are being randomly picked up from the campus is very unfortunate at a university which is widely known for its democratic ethos,” said Vikramaditya, Secretary, JNUTA.
Meanwhile, ABVP members staged a protest march at India Gate here demanding expulsion of the accused students from the university, following which 90 of them were detained and taken to Parliament street police station.
CPI Secretary D Raja visited the campus and met the Vice Chancellor and Registrar demanding that the university ensures that student’s interest is protected.
The controversy had erupted earlier this week when few students had pasted posters across the campus inviting people to gather for a protest march against “judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt” and in solidarity with “struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self determination” at varsity’s Sabarmati dhaba.
Members of the ABVP objected to the event and wrote to the Vice Chancellor that such kind of marches should not be held on campus of an educational institution, prompting the university administration to order cancellation of the march as they “feared” that it might “disrupt” peace on campus.
But the organisers went ahead with the programme despite the cancellation of the permission and held a cultural programme, art and photo exhibition on the issue rather than a protest.