The Delhi high court decision to give interim bail to Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on Wednesday is a welcome development, but his case raises a range of disturbing issues that need resolution.
In a recent interview, Delhi’s former top policeman BS Bassi claimed that the force never worked under political pressure. But there are enough signs that the police in the capital are heavily politicised. Their inept handling of Mr Kumar’s case suggests that they do not operate independently of its political masters. Now that Mr Bassi has retired, will the senior team of the Delhi Police, which was privy to the decisions, stand up and accept that they jumped the gun in the case? If they do, they will mitigate some of the damage they have done themselves
Second, what happens to the lawyers who ganged up to beat up Mr Kumar and journalists at the Patiala House court complex? The lawyers were arrested thanks to immense public pressure but got bail later. The Bar Council of India has set up a panel to look into the matter; hopefully, this does not mean it being put in cold storage. Look at the absurdity of the situation: Mr Kumar was arrested on a serious charge when the facts of the case were weak, but the lawyers were let off with a minor rap when there was enough proof against them.
Third, according to some reports, the videos that showed Mr Kumar raising anti-Indian slogans were doctored. So, what happens now to the media houses that aired these unverified videos? In their court deposition, the police said that they did not have any video but went by what was showed on certain TV channels. Will this attract the attention of the Press Council of India?
Last, but not least, the stand of HRD minister Smriti Irani in this controversy. It is a given that she had to back her party’s position, but her performance in Parliament, marked by aggression and melodrama, bordered on hectoring. Reports on the doctored video have alleged that they were sourced from URL address ‘shilpitiwari.’ Ms Tiwari is a close confidante of the minister and so the public has the right to know about her involvement, if any. Ms Irani’s alleged lack of qualifications for the job caused a huge furore when she was made HRD minister. Now there are bound to be more questions as the minister persists in going beyond her mandate of improving the quality of education. Over the past few months her name has cropped up in major controversies: The leadership of the Film and Television Institute of India, the Hyderabad University suicide, the brutish decision to make flying the national flag compulsory in central universities and the JNU protests. The travails of Mr Kumar, who appears to be a victim in the JNU case, threaten to alienate a generation of students.