The crisis surrounding Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is not going to recede any time soon. Apart from an urgent Supreme Court hearing on the scuffle between lawyers, students, mediapersons and one BJP MLA, which happened at the Patiala House Courts complex on Monday, Jadavpur University students and students from Aligarh Muslim University have joined the JNU students in raising slogans criticising the government.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to give an urgent hearing on Wednesday to a plea seeking action against those involved when lawyers attacked journalists and students while a Delhi BJP MLA assaulted a CPI(M) member at the Patiala House Courts complex in the heart of the National Capital.
Union minister Kiren Rijiju set off another storm hours before the hearing, asking what the fuss was all about: "Was there a murder?" he asked.
The petition filed by ND Jaiprakash, an alumnus of JNU, who was hurt in the violence on Monday, sought action against the people involved in the violence and over the "inaction" on the part of the Delhi Police.
The petition, which was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur by senior advocate Indira Jaising, also demanded that the security measures in the court complex should be such that no person becomes a victim of violence.
The petition said the violence witnessed in the court not only endangered the life of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar — arrested in a case of sedition — but also prevented journalists from carrying out their work of reporting court proceedings. It said the Kanhaiya will be produced in court again on expiry of his police remand.
Meanwhile, slogans eulogising parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru and demands for "azadi" echoed in Jadavpur University in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Slogans like "Afzal bole azadi, jab tum na doge azadi, toh chheen lenge azadi, arey chheen ke lenge azadi" were heard during a torchlight procession brought out at Jadavpur University in protest against the "atrocities" perpetrated on JNU students by the Narendra Modi government.
The row over JNU started on 9 February when the students' union leader Kanhaiya Kumar addressed a gathering in the college campus and protested against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
"What we mean to say is that we don’t need a patriotism certificate from the RSS. We don’t need a nationalist certificate from the RSS. We belong to this country and we love the soil. We fight for the 80 percent of the poor population in the country. This is patriotism for us. We have full faith in Babasaheb, we have full faith in our country’s constitution and we want to strongly say that if anyone points fingers on the constitution of this country, be it Sanghi or anyone else, we will not tolerate that finger."
Kanhaiya Kumar is the first All-India Students Federation member to become JNUSU president. The student was charged with sedition and was immediately taken into custody.
Vice-Chancellor Jadesh Kumar appealed to the students to not resort to strikes and protests so that academic functioning of the university is not hampered. “We also stand for free expression of ideas but I believe there is no need for strikes as the problem can be solved amicably. We are reaching out to the entire JNU community to see how the problem can be addressed but academic functioning of the university is of prime importance and should not be hampered,” he told reporters.
While the teachers association of the university have raised questions over the VC allowing a police crackdown on campus, Kumar said he was bound with the “law of land”. “I never invited the police to enter the campus and pick our students. We only provided whatever cooperation was needed as per the law of land. We were bound to do so,” he added.
An united Opposition vehemently protested against Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's diktat against the agitating students of JNU. Former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat on Monday took potshots at Rajnath Singh for saying that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed backed the Afzal Guru event at the JNU campus in New Delhi.
"The home minister relies on a fake Twitter handle for information," Karat, who visited the campus on Monday, told the media.
That set the ball rolling. Soon, former Delhi University professor SAR Geelani was charged with sedition and and questioned for several hours. Geelani was arrested as early as 3 am on Tuesday.
At an event in Press Club on 10 February, in which Geelani was present on the dais along with three other speakers, a group allegedly had shouted slogans hailing Afzal Guru. Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the police registered a case against Geelani and other unnamed persons on 12 February.
Police had claimed that Geelani was booked as he is presumed to be the "main organiser" of the event.
The growing political tension over these alleged anti-India protests at the JNU campus which spilled over to a Delhi court where a mob of lawyers thrashed reporters and mediapersons before the hearing of Kanhaiya's sedition case. This happened even as the police present at the spot remained mute spectators, according to an NDTV report.
The escalating stand-off over the arrest of Kanhaiya saw the students going on strike until he is released. Reports on Monday afternoon said that teachers of the university have decided to join the agitating students over the ongoing row as well.
"A group of people in the garb of lawyers, but were sympathisers of the BJP, thrashed JNU students who were produced in court today… The lawyers indulged in rowdyism. Outside the court, BJP MLA OP Sharma and a group of hooligans attacked students and journalists. The phones of journalists were snatched away. These people were aware that they were journalists… This hooliganism unleashed by the BJP… they may be shouting patriotic slogans… but that is totally to misguide the people. The hooligans were led by a BJP MLA," Congress spokesperson PC Chacko is quoted in The Indian Express.
The BJP's Delhi legislator OP Sharma allegedly attacked a CPI(M) activist and JNU students at the Patiala House Court on Monday. The party backed Sharma, saying he was opposing anti-India slogans and was hit on the head first, to which he reacted.
"Main goli bhi maar deta agar bandook hoti. Koi hamari Ma ko gaali dega to kya usey maaroge nahin (I would have opened fire if I had a gun. If someone abuses our mother, won’t I beat him up)."
This is what Sharma said when he was asked by reporters why did he thrash a CPM activist in the court premise on Monday. Sharma, who boasts of a close association with union finance minister Arun Jaitley, is ill-reputed for his foul language and violent behaviour.
Activists and senior politicians termed the scuffle at the court as a black day in India's democracy.
As a result of Monday's attacks on students and media, eminent mediapersons on Tuesday decided to protest against Monday's assault. Senior TV journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, NDTV's Barkha Dutt, Sonal Mehrotra and Nidhi Razdan were among the few who led the march on Tuesday.