Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that by attempting to stifle those voices which are not in line with its views, the government has only succeeded in making them stronger.
"They do not understand that by crushing you they are making you stronger. They are terrified of weak Indian people raising their voice," Gandhi said at the JNU campus in New Delhi. "I tell you,there are more than billion people in country who believe what you believe in and standing right behind you," he said.
The Congress second-in-command visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus to express solidarity with students and teachers who are protesting against the arrest of JNU Students' Union Kanhaiya Kumar on Friday on charges of sedition.
However, the Congress vice president was angrily greeted by members of the BJP students' wing—AVBP—with black flags who vociferously resorted to slogans like Rahul Gandhi wapas jao.
Despite the dramatic protests, the Congress vice president was able to address the students albeit for a very short time.
"What is anti-national? The most anti-national people are the people who are suppressing the voice of this institution. You must question them at every single step," Gandhi said. "A youngster expressed himself and the government says he is an anti-national."
Gandhi also took on the AVBP workers who waved black flags at him while entering the campus.
"People who showed black flag on my face, I feel proud that in my country they have the right to show black flag in front of my face," the Congress vice president said.
Comparing the JNU incident with Rohith Vemula's suicide in the Hyderabad Central University recently, Gandhi said, "I was in Hyderabad a few days back and these same people or their leaders said that Rohith Vemula was an anti-national."
He even took potshots at External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. "Later, a minister turns around and says he was not even a Dalit. Sushma Swarajji nobody askd whether he was Dalit or not. Ques is why wasn't Indian students allowed to say and fight for what he believes?"
On Friday, Gandhi had said Modi government's "bullying" an institution like JNU was "completely condemnable", but at the same time asserted that anti-India sentiment is "unquestionably unacceptable".
"Modi Govt & ABVP bullying an institution like JNU simply because it won't toe their line is completely condemnable.
"While Anti-India sentiment is unquestionably unacceptable, the right to dissent & debate is an essential
ingredient of democracy," the Congress vice president tweeted. Gandhi's remarks had come within hours of the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar in a sedition case over an event at the varsity 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.
Apart from Kumar, seven other students have been detained by the police.
Kumar was remanded to three-day police custody by a local court. He was arrested for sedition and criminal conspiracy after complaints from BJP MP Maheish Girri and ABVP members.
Union ministers Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh have advocated strong action against those involved in the alleged "anti-India" act even as the students continued with their protests on the campus for the third day, saying they are being "witch-hunted".
Home Minister Singh on Saturday asserted that no innocent will be harassed but the guilty "will not be spared" as Left leaders met him questioning the police action against students including arrest of JNUSU leader.
"No question of harassment of students. But the guilty will not be spared," he told reporters on the sidelines of a
function in New Delhi.
CPI MP D Raja on Saturday claimed that he has received calls carrying threats to his daughter, who is a student activist in the university. The CPI leader said late Friday night he got a call from a man who spoke in Hindi and asked him why he was "fighting" with BJP and ABVP. He was also "reminded" that his daughter was a resident of the University and she would be shot down, Raja said.
At a glance
• Rahul Gandhi visits JNU campus, greeted with black flags by AVBP members. Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Ajay Maken are also there.
• CPI leader D Raja and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also present. Both the Left leaders met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh early Saturday.
• Home Minister Minister Singh asserted that no innocent will be harassed but the guilty "will not be spared".
• Ex-servicemen who are alumni of JNU on Satuday threatened to return their degrees, saying they "find it difficult" to be associated with an institution that has become a "hub of anti-national activities"
• Left parties condemn JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar's arrest. Blame Centre saying it is reducing India to an "Emergency State".