Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh unleashed a political storm on Sunday with a claim that an event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru had received "support" from Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Saeed amid an escalating showdown over the crisis at the varsity.
Opposition parties demanded that the home minister provide proof to back up his claim on the event at the JNU campus.
In a shot in the arm for the students demanding the release of its students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was slapped with sedition charge, teachers associations of 40 central universities extended support to the protest by the students and teachers of the prestigious JNU
JNU's teachers' association also openly came out against the administration for mishandling the matter and particularly slammed it for allowing police action before completion of a probe by the university's proctorial committee in connection with the event. The teachers are backing the students.
Amid the protests and mounting outrage over police action in JNU, Rajnath said, "The incident (Afzal event) at the JNU has received support from Hafiz Saeed. This is a truth that the nation needs to understand."
"What has happened is very unfortunate," Singh told reporters in Allahabad referring to an event at JNU campus to commemorate the third death anniversary of Afzal Guru.
Singh's comments about Hafiz's links with the event where anti-India slogans were allegedly raised sparked a political row with opposition parties asking him to provide evidence.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said it is a "very serious charge" to level against the students and that the evidence must be shared with all.
CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the home minister has to come out and share the evidence he has with the country to back up his "serious allegation". CPI leader D Raja also demanded that the evidence be made public.
Rajnath's comments came two days after a series of tweets, purportedly by Saeed, had appeared under a hashtag asking Pakistanis to support the agitation in JNU.
Police are investigating as to whether the twitter handle actually belonged to the LeT founder.
Throwing its weight behind the students and teachers of JNU, President of Federation of Central University Teachers Association Nandita Narain said teachers' associations of 40 central universities including of HyderabadUniversity have extended support to agitation by JNU students and teaching community.
Seven of eight JNU students who were debarred from academic activities earlier this week in connection with the Afzal Guru event have been asked to appear before a high level committe of the varsity probing the matter.
Meanwhile, a video has gone viral on the social media, purportedly showing the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. However the ABVP, the students wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, rubbished the allegations, saying it is a morphed video.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Home Minister has made a serious charge and he should produce evidence.
Police has formed a team to trace 13 students allegedly involved in anti-India sloganeering at the event on February 9. DCP South Delhi, Prem Nath, has also written a letter to the top brass favouring transfer of the case to Delhi Police's Special Cell.
While the students have called for a strike from Monday till Kanhaiya is released, the teachers' association said it is yet to take a call on the issue.
Kanhaiya was arrested on Friday in connection with a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy registered over holding of the event at the varsity during which anti-India slogans were alleged to have been raised.
A shocked mother of Kanhaiya, who hails from Begusarai in Bihar, said "Please do not call my son a terrorist.
"We are constantly watching TV after we got to know that Kanhaiya has been arrested. I hope police does not beat him too much. He has never disrespected his parents, forget the country. Please do not call my son a terrorist. He cannot be one."
Meena Devi, an Anganwadi worker who earns Rs 3,500 per month, said she and her eldest son Manikant are the sole bread-winners for the family as her 65-year-old husband has been bedridden for seven years due to paralysis.
JNU vice chancellor Jagdish Kumar appealed to the students and teachers to let the law take its course and maintain a conducive environment in the university.
The JNU row on Saturday turned into an ideological battle between the BJP and its Left opponents, with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi lending them support and comparing the Modi government with Hitler's regime.
The arrrest of Kumar, a leader of CPI-affiliated student outfit, set the two sides on the warpath, with the government declaring that the varsity cannot be allowed to be a "hub of anti-national" activities.
"The event which took place could be in bad taste but was not seditious. Whatever opposition the students have is against the present government, not against the Constitution. This kind of police action on students on pretext of national security is uncalled for," Narain said.
A protest was also held at Jantar Mantar where people from various spheres expressed solidarity with JNU students. At the JNU campus, families of JNU staff, also joined the teachers and students in forming a human chain.