Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested in a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy for holding an 'anti-national' event inside the university premises, was on Friday remanded to three-day police custody by a Delhi court even as Opposition parties lashed out at the Modi government. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused the Narendra Modi government of "bullying" JNU because it will not toe the BJP line. In the same city, on the same day, Nobel winner Amartya Sen drove home an unambiguous message on the right to dissent: "India has been much too tolerant on intolerance".
The arrest follows a JNU rally against the 2013 hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru at which anti-India slogans were allegedly used. University teachers have criticised the arrest as "excessive police action". Afzal Guru was convicted over a 2001 plot to attack India's parliament. He had always denied plotting the attack, which was carried out by Kashmiri militants and killed 14 people.
Kanhaiya was produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen where the police sought his custodial interrogation for five days to ascertain the alleged links of the accused persons, including those who are allegedly absconding, with terrorist groups.
The police struck after videos of the protest went viral, reports The Hindu.
The police told the court that Kanhaiya was also required to be interrogated for the purpose of identification of other accused who were seen shouting “anti-national” slogans during the event organised in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Campus on February 9.
The police also placed on record a CD of the event which the judge played inside the court room on a computer.
Kanhaiya told the court that he was neither shouting any slogan nor saying anything against integrity of the country and said he had rushed to the spot only to prevent a clash between ABVP workers and students organising the event. BBC News touches a note on the spike in 'sedition' cases.
Kanhaiya claimed in the court that this was a politically-motivated case and he was being framed by the police as he had defeated the ABVP candidate in the presidential elections of the JNU students’ union (JNUSU).
He told the court that he did not endorse the slogans against India in any manner and has full faith in the Constitution of the country.
“I dissociate myself from the slogans which were shouted in the event. I have full faith in the Constitution of the country and I always say that Kashmir is an integral part of India,” Kanhaiya told the court.
After the CD was played inside the court room, the judge asked Kanhaiya about the identity of the persons who were seen shouting slogans in favour of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged after being awarded death penalty by the court, and Pakistan.
Responding to the court’s query, the accused said he did not know all of them as they were outsiders but he can identify all the students who are from JNU.
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.
No one supports anti-national forces. But targetting innocent students using that as an excuse will prove v costly to Modi govt
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 12, 2016
— Neelabh Banerjee (@NeelabhToons) February 12, 2016
While Anti-India sentiment is unquestionably unacceptable, the right to dissent & debate is an essential ingredient of democracy (1/2)
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) February 12, 2016
Modi Govt & ABVP bullying an institution like JNU simply because it won't toe their line is completely condemnable (2/2)
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) February 12, 2016
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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2016 13:44:30 IST