The storm at the Jawaharlal University intensified overnight with protesters dubbing the arrest of students’ union leader Kanyaiya Kumar as an act of vendetta by the Centre while Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP-led government of bullying the prestigious institution.
Kumar, the president of the JNU Students’ Union, was arrested on Friday on charges of sedition after a controversial event to protest the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru three years ago. The protesters also allegedly shouted anti-India slogans during the event.
Kumar told the court that his arrest was political as he had defeated the candidate of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the university elections.
“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. He was remanded in police custody for three days by the court.
Watch | “They have no evidence against me’: JNUSU president Kanhaiya
In a strongly-worded statement on Friday night, the JNUSU too described the arrest as shocking and his arrest on charges of sedition was “beyond the grounds of credibility”.
“The only previous occasion when the president of the JNUSU had been arrested was during the Emergency of 1975-77, and the present situation on the campus brings back memories of the Emergency days,” the statement said.
The JNU administration, however, distanced itself from the row with vice-chancellor Jagadesh Kumar saying the incident was a result of “fringe elements” misusing their freedom.
In a series of tweets, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said Modi government was “bullying” an institution like JNU but asserted that anti-India sentiment is “unquestionably unacceptable”.
Earlier in the day, Union ministers Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh advocated strong action against those involved in the alleged “anti-India” act.
Singh said he instructed police to take strict action against students who organised the event. “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.
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.
Police lodged an FIR on Thursday 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.
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.