By Shishir Tripathi
New Delhi: Around 300 students have gathered at the administration block of JNU. According to sources in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA), the five accused students – Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ashutosh Kumar, Anant Prakash Narayan, Riyazul Haq and Rama Naga – who appeared Sunday night in the campus, are most likely to surrender. Two days prior, the Delhi police had issued a lookout notice against the five absconders.
Students and teachers supporting these five accused are trying to mobilize as much support as possible. Ajay Patnaik, president, JNUTA, said that he has put four demands before the vice-chancellor. They include – first, that at no cost the police would be allowed to enter the campus, second that grave charges like sedition and criminal conspiracy should be dropped against the students, third that the university’s internal mechanism should be activated, and an internal inquiry committee should be reconstituted to probe the allegations. And fourth that it should be ensured by the administration that the atmosphere is conducive in a manner that students can freely tell what actually had happened.
However, with the police outside the campus, the atmosphere would certainly not be conducive. Shehla Rashid, vice president, Jawaharlal University Students’ Union (JNUSU), who has submitted a memorandum with the vice-chancellor demanding that he should act like the vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University who did not allow the police enter the campus. She further added that due to various biased coverage by the media, there are some totally absurd allegations against the students and that sedition and other serious charges should be dropped against them. Meanwhile, Umar Khalid and other four accused have been put under tight security, with security guards forming a human chain, not allowing anyone to interact with them.
Though there are a substantial number of students present in support of the five students, the numbers are comparatively quite less to when Kanhaiya was arrested.
Asif, a final year PhD student, says that the vice-chancellor is trying to shrug off responsibility. “Though the students came here last night but the reason for the delay in further course of action has been because of the vice-chancellor, who has left the decision making to JNUSU. Ideally, he should take responsibility as he is the guardian of all students here, but he is rather trying not to intervene in the current situation.”
Ashutosh Kumar, one of the five accused, while speaking of his innocence said, “The way we were branded anti-national and the kind of media trial that had started, there was no option for us than to leave this space. What happened in Patiala house with Kanhaiya had created an atmosphere of great fear and there was no guarantee of a security. When we saw an alternative voice emerging that kind of supported us, we thought of returning.”
Speaking to Firstpost, two of the accused students, Anant Prakash Narayan and Rama Naga said that they had in fact been in the campus for the past ten days as the controversy raged on. One of the students said, "We have come out in the open as we felt that now there is a more favourable atmosphere. The fact is that we did not raise the slogans as alleged by the police. The videos on which the allegations are based are doctored."
Speaking about the possible reasons behind the action against them, Anant Prakash Narayan said, "I am sure that the V-C and the Registrar have taken this action as they feel suffocated because the atmosphere in the campus does not support their ideology."
An important question, however, is that where were these five students for ten days. If some of the students, close to these five accused, are to be believed, they (accused) were in Delhi and most probably in the campus itself. Some students even had a view that they were inside the campus and were waiting for the right time for things to turn in their favour and appear again.