After students, political parties jostle over JNU before Bengal polls

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2016 14:01 IST
Students of Jadavpur University participate in a rally against the arrest of JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. (PTI Photo)

As students in West Bengal staged a protest in solidarity with the students of JNU on Tuesday, various political parties also indulged in a war of words just before the crucial assembly elections.

They have been demanding the release of Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar who was arrested last week on sedition charges after a group of youngsters organised an event in protest of the execution of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

A day after the students’ rally where they shouted pro-Afzal Guru and pro-Azad Kashmir slogans, state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is scheduled to hit the streets in Kolkata demanding the arrest of the students who raised the ‘anti-national’ slogans.

“Such slogans are anti-national. This is anti-India thought. We demand the arrest of those anti-nationals,” Sidharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary, said.

“There is a war between nationalist people and anti-national people now, even in Bengal,” Rahul Sinha, BJP general secretary and former state president, added.

On their part, Congress and CPI(M) have attacked ruling Trinamool Congress over its silence on the issue and alleged that there is a tacit understanding with the BJP.

“Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi are hand in hand. Therefore, it is obvious that Trinamool Congress will not raise its voice in the issue. There are laws. The central government and the state government should find out what happened,” Md Selim, CPI(M) politburo member, said.

“Why Mamata Banerjee is silent over the issue. This is because she fears that by protesting Narendra Modi or BJP may be angry. She does not want to do that,” Pradip Bhattacharya, former state president of Congress, said.

Left Front-backed student bodies are also scheduled to hold a rally in Kolkata on Wednesday to protest against police highhandedness in JNU. A series of press conference are also scheduled to be held by different groups of students who are for and against chanting slogans in the name of Afzal Guru or Azad Kashmir.

However, Jadavpur University -- which is in the eye of the storm after Tuesday evening’s rally -- seemed divided on the issue.

“We protested and will protest against police brutality and the arrest of the student leader in JNU. However, by evoking nationalism, a section of the media is portraying it as a pro-Afzal Guru rally which is wrong,” rally organisers Saikat Sit and Shounak Mukhopadhyay said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

Some other groups found nothing wrong with the slogans.

“Talking about Azad Kashmir is not wrong or anti-national. We uphold the people’s right to democratically condemn the government’s policy in Kashmir. Kashmiri people will decide,” Soumya Mondol of United Student’s Democratic Front, an ultra Left student outfit in JU, said.

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