New Delhi: A university students union president was arrested on Friday in a sedition case over an event at the varsity’s campus against hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, sparking 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 Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
The arrest of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, a day after police filed a sedition and criminal conspiracy case on complaints from BJP MP Maheish Girri and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members, was later remanded in three-day police custody by a court.
After the arrest, varsity students and teachers protested outside the Vice Chancellor’s office seeing 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 government should think before taking action.
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.
The Vice Chancellor also appealed the students to go beyond this incident and help the campus return to “normalcy”.
"While the problem would be appropriately addressed in this case, the university would also take steps to protect the academic atmosphere and the environment for vibrant discussion
that JNU has always provided and stands for," he said.
The varsity administration had also barred the entry into campus for outsiders on Friday.
The JNU Teachers Association also condemned the arrest of Kanahaiya as an action "uncalled for".