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Sedition case: JNU student body head arrested; Left parties say Emergency is back

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 12, 2016 20:27 IST

The Jawaharlal Nehru University students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar was on Friday remanded for custodial interrogation for three days by a court in a sedition case, with the police saying that his and five other absconding accused's alleged links with terrorist groups are being probed.

The police claimed that anti-India slogans were shouted by the accused during the campus event organised on February 9 to commemorate hanging of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru and Kanhaiya was required to be interrogated to ascertain the identity of other persons.

The police told the court that slogans were raised against the Indian Army and in favour of Pakistan, Guru and Maqbool Bhat, who was hanged in 1984 in a murder case.

During the hearing, the police played the video footage of the event before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen on a computer and asked Kanhaiya "which 'Azaadi' (freedom) are they seeking?"

The court asked this when several persons were seen in the video footage shouting slogans demanding freedom of Kashmir from India.

To this, Kanhaiya said he did not know each one of them as some of them were outsiders and not from JNU.

While watching the footage, the court at one point observed "It appears they are sad with the fact that they are in India."

During the hearing, the police claimed in court that five other co-accused -- Omar Khalid, Anant Prakash, Rama Naga, Ashutosh and Anirban - are absconding from JNU campus.

It said that eye witness, Sandeep Kumar, who is a security guard in JNU, has said he had seen Kanhaiya shouting anti-India slogan during the event.

Kanhaiya, who himself argued during the hearing, told the magistrate that he was nowhere involved in any anti-India sloganeering and had rushed to the spot only to intervene in the clash between ABVP workers and the persons organising the event.

"I was not the organiser of event, nor was I there. I went there because I am the President of JNU students union and there was a clash. This is a media trial. I have full faith in the judiciary," Kanhaiya, who was seen having tears in his eyes, said during the hearing.

He claimed that this was a political case and he was being framed by the police just because he had defeated the ABVP candidate in the presidential poll of JNU students union.

"I disassociate myself with the sloganeering. I have full faith in the Constitution of India and I have always said that Kashmir is an integral part of India," he told the court.

During the hearing, the police told the court that Kanhaiya was required to be quizzed to ascertain the identity and whereabouts of the absconding accused.

The accused told the magistrate that he would help the police in ascertaining the identity of the students who were seen shouting slogans in the video footage.

He said JNU authority had denied the permission to hold the event but the organisers changed it into a Nukkad Sabha (street corner meeting) where they shouted anti-India slogans.

Initially, Kanhaiya told the court that he was not there in the video footage but the police said he was there.

To this, the court said, "What is the video footage? Show me."

The footage was then played in the courtroom's computer and the judge spotted Kanhaiya in the video.

However, the accused clarified that he was seen in the footage only while trying to prevent the clash.

The police claimed in the court that almost everybody has said during the probe the accused was shouting anti-India slogan.

When the accused told the court that some of them were outsiders, the judge said, "Can any outsider enter the JNU campus?"

To this, the accused said, "Yes. There is no security and outsiders come inside the premises."

The police, however, said, "No one can enter the premises without their (students) permission. Even police can't enter."

Referring to recent suicide by Rohith Vemula, a student of University of Hyderabad, Kanhaiya told the court that Human Resource and Development ministry had acted arbitrarily in the matter and "it a high time that democracy is saved."

The police alleged that he was inciting, being part of the mob shouting anti-India slogan.

A case was registered on Thursday under Sections of 124 A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC against unknown persons at Vasant Kunj (North) Police station following complaints by BJP MP Maheish Girri and the ABVP.

A group of students had on February 9 held an event in the campus and allegedly shouted slogans against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013.

The event occurred despite the varsity administration having cancelled the permission following a complaint by ABVP members, who had termed the activity as "anti-national".

Meanwhile, Kanhaiya's arrest sparked massive outrage among students and criticism from non-BJP parties which dubbed it as an "emergency-like" situation.

While Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh advocated strong action against those who were involved in the alleged "anti-India" act, the students continued with their protests on the campus for the third day on Friday, saying they are being "witch-hunted". The students said their parents are asking them to quit the university in view of the "vitiating atmosphere" at JNU.

After the arrest, the varsity students and teachers protested outside the Vice Chancellor's office demanding the administration's intervention into the manner in which students are being compared to "terrorists" and picked up from campus by policemen in plain clothes.

Equating the events with an "emergency-like situation", CPI-M Sitaram Yechury said, "The question is that do you know who raised the slogans? Take action according to law against them. When you don't know then how are you arresting all the student leaders?

"...Male police are going and raiding girls' hostels. Only during the emergency we saw this happen. That is the sort of Emergency State they are reducing our country to again. This time it is the BJP," he said.

Questioning the filing of sedition case, Congress leader Kapil Sibal asserted that it was a very serious charge and the BJP government should think before taking action under it.

On its part, the JNU administration said the university holds the right to free debate but condemns its use as a platform for activities that violate the Constitution and the laws of the land.

"While the JNU community upholds the right to free debate on campus, the university strongly condemns its use as a platform for activities that violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. However, there could be aberrations where fringe sections misuse the freedom provided," the newly appointed Vice Chancellor Jagdeesh Kumar said.

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