Hundreds of lawyers marched from the Patiala House Courts Complex to India Gate in the national capital on Friday and demanded action against certain JNU students whom they dubbed “anti-national”.
Led by Vikram Chauhan and Yashpal Singh -- allegedly involved in an attack on journalists inside the court complex on Monday -- the protesting lawyers raised slogans like ‘do not spare traitors’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ and also termed those students as “anti-national”.
Student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest over a rally at which anti-India slogans were shouted has triggered a week of mass protests, in an escalating row over freedom of speech in the country.
In a brazen show of strength, lawyers wearing black courtroom robes marched past the India Gate, waving the tricolour and shouting nationalist slogans in counter-protest.
They defended outbreaks of violence at court hearings earlier in the week that saw lawyers attack 32-year-old Kumar as he entered the court and stones thrown at journalists covering the case.
Chauhan, who has been accused of leading the attack on journalists and students, denied that Kumar was attacked. “If they provoke and challenge our patriotism and attack us, we will definitely respond,” he said.
“We will not tolerate any insult to our motherland. Let police issue summons against us,” another lawyer said.
Lawyers for Kumar had applied for bail at the Supreme Court fearing a repeat of the chaos of earlier in the week.
But on Friday the court kicked the hearing to the lower Delhi high court, where it was then postponed.
“There was an issue with paperwork and the bail application will likely be heard on Monday (by the Delhi high court),” a member of Kumar’s legal team told AFP.
Kumar was arrested on February 12 after a rally at Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University called to mark the 2013 hanging of Kashmiri separatist Mohammed Afzal Guru over a deadly 2001 attack on Parliament.
Former Delhi University lecturer SAR Geelani, who was arrested in connection with another event marking Guru’s death, was ordered to remain behind the bars till March 2, his lawyers told AFP Friday.
He had applied for bail at Patiala House Court in Delhi.
Kumar, in judicial custody since Wednesday, has denied shouting anti-India slogans and so has Geelani.
Some rights campaigners say the Bharatiya Janata Party government is using the sedition law to clamp down on dissent.
Protests against Guru’s execution have regularly been held in Kashmir, where many believe he was not given a fair trial. Guru always denied plotting the attack, which was carried out by Kashmiri militants.