By Our Representative
Did students attached with the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) shout “Pakistan zindabad” slogans during a demonstration at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)? This is what well-known feminist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan has sought to suggest, even as releasing a video through twitter allegedly showing their faces, asking people to circulate it “widely.”
A similar allegation has been made by senior Aam Admi Party leader Ashish Khetan, who is known to be close to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Khetan, who has been a well-known investigative journalist, has insisted in a tweet, that evidence is “merging that the JNU incident was a fabrication by ABVP”, seeking “independent probe… to unmask the real culprits.”
These facts have come light amidst unprecedented protests across India by civil society organizations, teachers’ associations, academics and students’ associations against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University students union(JNU) on sedition charges.
Kumar was arrested on February 12 in connection with a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy over holding an event at JNU against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. During the event, anti-India slogans were allegedly raised, while denouncing the hanging of Guru.
The case was registered under Section of 124 A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC against unknown persons at Vasant Kunj (North) Police station following complaints by BJP MP Maheish Girri and ABVP.
JNUSU president’s video
Kumar’s arrest comes amidst a 21-minute video going viral, in which he is shown giving his speech on the JNU campus saying that “unidentified” persons had entered into the campus to shout “Pakistan zindabad” slogans, insisting, “We swear by the Constitution, given to us by DR BR Ambedkar”, and “we oppose all forms of violence.”
Kumar belongs to the All-India Students’ Federation (AISF), the student wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), whose political stance is “well known”, say prominent academics in a statement, adding, “To accuse of sedition is beyond the bound of credibility.”
Calling the arrest of Kumar as “intimidation of worst type”, the academics, KM Panicker, Zoya Hasan, Utsa Pattnaik, Prabhat Patnaik, CP Bhambri, Anjan Mukherjee, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee – all former deans of the JNU – have said that the only other time when the JNU students’ union president was arrested was during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975.
Top social activist Medha Patkar-led National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which acts as an apex body of several top civil society organizations, meanwhile, in a statement has termed the arrest as “Delhi police high handedness”, adding, “It is acting as a political tool rather than being the enforcer of the law and order situation in the state.”
The NAPM says, “The political dissent of the students with the ruling establishment as evident on several occasions now, #OccupyUGC, #RhoithVemula Suicide and others is being used to criminalise them and term the whole campus as a den of Pakistani sympathisers, terrorists and Naxalites”, which is “completely malicious and fictitious.”
The All-India Federation for Right to Education (AIFRTE) said, the new JNU vice-chancellor Jagdesh Kumar’s decision to allow police to enter and comb JNU hostels for so-called ‘anti-national’ students was done without even informing the deans.
It recalls, the Deans of the Schools of Social Sciences, International Studies, Languages and Arts and Aesthetics have stated that the decision to give “blanket permission” to police amounts to a “major change in the policy adopted by successive Vice-Chancellors ever since JNU was established.”
The JNU Teachers’ Association, similarly, has stated that the “university has its own internal mechanisms for resolving any controversies that may arise within the university community.