The government said on Friday it would take strong action against Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University students accused of shouting anti-India slogans as police arrested the student union president and lodged sedition cases.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said he instructed police to take strict action against students who organised a controversial event in JNU to protest against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru three years ago, and allegedly shouted anti-India slogans.
“If anyone raises anti-India slogans and tries to raise questions on the nation’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared,” Singh said.
Police arrested JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was remanded to three days of police custody by a Delhi court. Students protested against the court allowing Kanhaiya’s custodial interrogation.
The JNU administration distanced itself from the row, with vice-chancellor Jagadesh Kumar saying the incident was a result of “fringe elements” misusing their freedom.
Human resource development minister Smriti Irani said the nation couldn’t tolerate “any insult to Mother India”, as police filed a second sedition case against the organisers of a similar event at Delhi’s Press Club of India on Wednesday.
In the second case, Delhi University professor SAR Geelani was booked by police on Friday under charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans and hailing executed Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru as a martyr.
Along with Geelani, professor Ali Javed was named as the organiser of a political meeting at the Press Club of India where the alleged incident took place. Javed was released late Friday evening after being questioned at the Parliament Street police station and told to present himself for questioning on Saturday. Police said after Javed’s interrogation, Geelani would be summoned to join the investigation.
Meanwhile on Friday, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers clashed with police and protested against the JNU students, many of whom demonstrated outside the VC’s house.
On Thursday, police lodged an FIR and examined video footage from the event titled, “A country without a post office” – where the sloganeering allegedly happened – after the ABVP and east Delhi BJP MP Maheish Girri filed a complaint.
The Left criticised the government for arresting the students and likened the developments to “situations during Emergency”.
“By targeting general students, they (ABVP) are creating a sense of terror in the campus. Delhi Police should not act in connivance with the ABVP, targeting the entire Left,” CPI national secretary D Raja said.
Raja met the university VC, after which he told students to stay united and said, “Universities have become battlegrounds for ideas and ideologies. Don’t be scared.”
The university received at least six letters from MPs seeking action against those responsible for the incident.
Though the FIR was filed against unknown people, official sources in the university said they received a list of 20 names from the police, including some female students.
A preliminary inquiry conducted by a high-powered inquiry committee constituted on Thursday in JNU found eight students of the university were involved. They have been barred from academic activities till the inquiry is pending.
“I dissociate myself from the slogans which were shouted in the event. I have full faith in the Constitution of the country and I always say that Kashmir is an integral part of India,” Kanhaiya told the court, alleging that it was a politically motivated case and he was being framed as he had defeated the ABVP candidate in the union election.
As a CD of the event was played inside the courtroom, the judge asked Kanhaiya to identity the people seen shouting slogans supporting Guru and Pakistan, to which he responded by saying he could only identify students from JNU but most protesters had come from outside.
Some students said girls’ hostels were searched by police.
“Those who raised slogans are not from the campus. A group of unknown people had come to the campus and raised those slogans. JNUSU office-bearers and other Left parties have already said they do not agree with such slogans,” said a PhD student who did not wish to be named.