Five Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students, who are facing charges of sedition for allegedly raising anti-India slogans during an event on the campus, said on Monday they feared a “witch hunt” against them.
Umar Khalid, Anant Prakash Narayan, Ashutosh Kumar, Rama Naga and Anirban Bhattacharya, who returned to JNU on Sunday night after two weeks, said they wanted to be part of the “struggle” against the effort to brand the university anti-national.
“They are scared of us. Afraid of us because we can think. To think is anti-national in today’s time. In fact, the easiest thing to do is to be an anti-national,” Khalid said.
Watch | Umar Khalid’s full speech after returning to JNU campus
He was referring to the event where JNU students allegedly marked the anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was convicted of an attack on Parliament in 2001, by shouting slogans police consider to be anti-national.
Kanhaiya Kumar, the head of the university’s students’ union, has been charged with sedition and is in jail for the event.
“We were in and around the campus. We did not leave Delhi. If they can beat Kanhaiya, the teachers and journalists inside the court room, imagine what all they can do. There is an atmosphere of fear and mob-lynching is happening,” Rama Naga, JNUSU general secretary and one of the five students charged with sedition, told HT.
Reporters, who were able to talk to Khalid earlier in the day, were are not allowed anywhere near him after a few television journalists tried to interview him. At least 25 private security personnel have formed a human chain around the place where the five students are sitting.
Hundreds of students camped all night near the vice-chancellor’s office after Khalid and others resurfaced in the campus.
While Khalid and the four other students sat near Administration Block or Ad Block, the site where students have been protesting the alleged targeting of JNU and the University of Hyderabad’s Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula’s suicide, others camped nearby for a night long vigil.
Despite the chilly weather, students spent the entire night at the Ad Block, amid a lurking fear that police might arrest the five. Bonfires were lit and students sang songs against oppression and heard them out.
“Classes have resumed today and we did attend a few of them, a number of students are still at the Ad Block where the five students are sitting,” Jyoti, an MPhil student, said.
The university’s teachers’ association has demanded that all charges against the students be dropped and police barred from entering the campus.
“Steps should be taken by the university to get all charges like criminal conspiracy, sedition dropped. We also demand that police should not be allowed to enter the campus,” Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) president Ajay Patnaik said.
The government, meanwhile, has said it is ready to discuss the JNU issue in Parliament with parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu saying that the different views need to be debated.
“We want a detailed discussion on JNU. People should know what really happened there, the cause and the consequence of the act,” Naidu was quoted as saying by ANI after an all-party meeting.
(with inputs from Neelam Pandey)