Almost a week has passed since a ‘cultural’ event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) snowballed into a raging debate over nationalism, sparked by the arrest of JNU student body president Kanhaiya Kumar. The student leader was produced in court on Monday where a mob of lawyers were seen forcibly throwing out university faculty members and students, leading to more violence. Even reporters were thrashed by the lawyers who were heard sloganeering against the university.
Former Delhi University professor SAR Geelani was also booked for sedition for allegedly organising an event at the Press Club of India to mark Afzal Guru’s death anniversary. He was detained by police on Tuesday evening. Geelani had faced trial as Guru’s co-accused in the Parliament attack case but was acquitted by the Delhi high court, a ruling that was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
Here’s a quick look at what went down in the last week.
What is the controversy all about?
On February 9, a group of students organised a ‘cultural evening of protest’ against the ‘judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt’ and ‘in solidarity with struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self determination’ at Sabarmati dhaba on campus. The event was also attended by students from outside the campus. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) held a protest from across the road against the event. The ABVP complained to the administration earlier following which permission for the event was revoked, but organisers went ahead anyway.
Things went out of hand when the two sides clashed towards the end of the event as organisers took out a march from Sabarmati dhaba to Ganga dhaba. Allegations of inflammatory and anti-India slogans being raised surfaced.
ABVP claims that JNU students union members were also part of the crowd which shouted anti-India slogans but other groups maintain that union members and many other students only joined in to control the clash between ABVP and the organisers.
On February 10, ABVP lodged a police complaint regarding the matter. The next day, BJP MP Maheish Giri also lodged an FIR following which a case of sedition was filed against unknown persons.
Who were the organizers?
Ten students, most of them former members of the ultra-left Democratic Students Union (DSU), organized the event. DSU has little or no support on campus over its ideological stand on various issues. Those named in the FIR include Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya from DSU.
Why was permission given for the event?
University administration maintains that organisers said the event was to be a cultural evening of poetry reading. When apprised of the nature of the event, the administration withdrew its permission. However, organisers, backed by many other students, alleged that the university administration withdrew permission due to pressure from ABVP.
What is police doing in the case?
On February 12, police arrested Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president, Kanhaiya Kumar, on charges of sedition. On Monday he was produced in Patiala House court and sentenced to two days of police custody. The FIR has few more names, including former DSU members, former JNUSU office bearers and All India Students Association secretary, Delhi state, Ashutosh Kumar. The Home Ministry said that more people were under the scanner.
What steps has JNU administration taken?
A day after the event was held, vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar ordered a proctorial inquiry into the incident. However, on February 11, he constituted a high-level committee to probe the incident following which eight students were debarred from all academic activities till the inquiry concludes. The university is likely to submit its final report on February 25.
What is happening now?
Students and teachers are on strike demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, accusing the present government of clamping down on dissent. All major student organisations in the university have condemned the alleged anti-India slogans raised at the event. They also alleged that the actions by the BJP government are aimed at silencing JNU students who have been at the forefront of movements like the demand for fellowships in higher education and the Dalit scholar suicide case in Hyderabad.