A students running to escape detention by police on PU campus on Wednesday.(Anil Dayal/HT)

Timely dropping of the sedition charge against protesting Panjab university students at the behest of Chandigarh’s director general of police Tajender Singh Luthra and some other officials after Tuesday’s violence saved not only the police but also the Narendra Modi-led central government from possible embarrassment.

The Modi government has been accused of stifling dissent and using campuses to back the Hindutva agenda of the ruling BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. The sedition charge would have been an added embarrassment in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana and a union territory administered by the Centre.

On Tuesday, the scale of violence at PU, which is also the alma mater of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, was unprecedented. The university, where Singh was a student as well as a teacher, resembled a war zone, with broken windows, glass shards, stones and flower pots littering the campus.

The university authorities and police were seething with rage over the protest called by the students over what they termed a massive fee hike. In their complaint to the police, PU’s chief security officer Ashwani Kaul accused the students of raising slogans and waging war against the state. Accordingly, the police registered a case of sedition under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which incidentally is the same section under which last year Delhi police had arrested the then president of the student union of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Kanhaiya Kumar, and others, sparking a major controversy.

DGP Luthra, who was in Delhi, spoke with adviser to the administrator Parimal Rai and advised SSP Eish Singhal not to rush into registering case of sedition against students. The PU authorities were approached and asked if they were sure of their complaint and wanted to register case against its students under sections “usually associated with terrorists”.

“Our whole idea was to maintain peace and not to harass anyone unnecessarily,” Luthra told HT. The police had however registered the case and the only way out was to drop the charge. “The first case diary gives us that option to drop or add a charge in the FIR,” said an official, adding that once the university authorities withdrew their charge, the police added in the case diary that sedition charges were being deleted. Accordingly, the police informed the court on Wednesday.

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