Mobs of lawyers heckled journalists and kicked and punched Kanhaiya Kumar when he was brought to court to face sedition charges on Wednesday, prompting the Supreme Court to ask officials to ensure the JNU student leader’s safety.
The Supreme Court asked authorities to evacuate Delhi’s Patiala House court and rushed six top advocates to assess the situation after two groups of lawyers violently clashed, attacking journalists and throwing stones at media vehicles. It also asked for reports on the violence from the Delhi high court registrar general and the city police.
As Kumar stepped out of a police van, a group of lawyers lunged at him, landing kicks and punches, while officers quickly dragged him away. Although some 400 policemen were deployed at the court gates, Kumar was also slapped and abused by the lawyers shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, leaving him seriously injured. A team of doctors was brought to the court to examine him after the hearing.
Later, Metropolitan Magistrate Loveleen sent Kumar to Tihar Jail till March 2. But he was kept in the courtroom till 5pm by when the crowd outside dispersed.
This is the second time in as many days that the same group of lawyers has turned violent and beaten up journalists for “supporting a traitor”.
“We are shocked. There is an atmosphere of terror. Small stones were thrown on us,” the six-member advocates’ panel told the top court.
Witnesses said a group of lawyers led by Vikram Chauhan -- who was also allegedly involved in roughing up students and journalists on Monday -- was shouting slogans inside the court premises when another group of lawyers from Sonipat heckled them, leading to a clash between the two groups.
Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union, is facing charges of sedition for allegedly commemorating on February 9 the execution of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on the university campus and shouting anti-national slogans.
Kumar told the court that he had “full faith” in the country’s constitution and the judiciary.
“If there is evidence against me that I am a traitor, then you please send me to jail. But if there is no evidence against me, there should be no media trial,” he said at the start of the proceedings.
At JNU, students continued a strike in support of Kumar, gathering outside the administrative block and shouting slogans against the police and government. At a short distance, a professor held a lecture in the open, speaking on “what is the nation”. The open-air lecture is part of plans by teachers to hold classes on nationalism at the protest site.
The striking students are scheduled to march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Thursday as the protests expand to other campuses across the country. At the Jadavpur University in Kolkata, posters calling for “Azad Kashmir” and praising Afzal Guru went up on the campus, triggering a counter-protest by the ABVP, a students’ body linked to the RSS.
Wednesday’s Delhi court chaos came despite heavy police presence and a top court order earlier in the day restricting the entry of lawyers, family members and journalists into the courtroom.
“Police was a mute spectator like the other day. I have photos to prove,” said Tariq Anwar, a Firstpost journalist injured in the attack.
But Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi refused to admit police inaction, saying Kumar was escorted by officers to protect him from assault.
“I don’t think you can call that situation has went out of hand, I don’t think he was beaten up.”
Earlier in the day, lawyer Rajeev Yadav and his colleagues disrupted proceedings in the top court, shouting “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, while the judges were hearing a plea on alleged police inaction against a mob of advocates that had attacked journalists on Monday.
“You should maintain some degree of moderation. This extreme stance will not help anyone,” the judges told the lawyer.
Yadav apologised in court after being reprimanded by a judge but told journalists outside he was moved by “patriotic feelings”.
“No I am not ashamed,” he said.