PUDR strongly condemns the Delhi Police for arresting the JNU students’ union president, Kanhaiya Kumar today, 12th February, on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for holding a protest demonstration on February 9th against the judicial hanging of Afzal Guru, three years ago.
The events between 9th and 12th February demonstrate how the administration (including the University authorities) have caved in to the demands of the ABVP, the BJP led students party which has only 1 seat in the JNU students’ union. On 9th the ABVP protested against the event and termed it ‘anti-national’ as pro-Kashmiri slogans were allegedly raised during the demonstration.
The ABVP subsequently organized protest demonstrations against what it termed as ‘anti-nationalism’ both in JNU and in Delhi University. Significantly, the BJP leader from East Delhi, Maheish Girri, filed complaints with the police along with the ABVP on Thursday, 11th February, that led to Kanhaiya Kumar being arrested this morning. The NDTF, the teachers’ wing of the BJP in Delhi University also gave a call in tandem with the ABVP against “Anti India and pro Pakistan/ pro Jehadi/ pro -Naxal activities” in JNU. In another incident, S.A.R Geelani, lecturer -Delhi University, was booked for sedition for a speech delivered at the Press Club during the course of a similar event.
The arrests it may be noted have been expedited by the explicit sanction given to the Delhi Police by the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh to take strong action against the organizers and participants of both these events. Judging by the speed of the police actions against Kanhaiya Kumar and SAR Geelani, PUDR wishes to strongly underscore the following points:
1. Afzal Guru was secretly hanged in February 2013. Terming a protest demonstration which takes place three years after as anti-national is not only vindictive but also proof of the growing fascist definitions of nationalism propagated by the BJP through its students’ and teachers’ wings.
2. The JNU authorities’ assertion that it believes in debate and dissent is ridiculous as it could have easily contained the altercation internally. After the altercation, it has deliberately chosen to make the technical point of permission into a political matter.
3. The comments by the Union Home Minister underline the fact that the Central Government’s partisan interest in upholding the ABVP’s viewpoint. In the Rohith Vemula case, students have repeatedly demanded action against the Vice Chancellor and the Union HRD Minister. Why did it not agree then? It is significant to remember that in the Hyderabad incident, the matter was first politicized by its MP, Bandaru Dattatreya, when approached by ABVP Hyderabad University unit president Susheel Kumar in August 2015, who levelled similar allegations of “extremist and anti-national” activities against students belonging to the Ambedkar Student’s Association.
4. The promptness shown by the police in using the sedition clause in the JNU case is proof of its partisan nature. While the colonial nature of the sedition clause of the IPC is obsolete and should be struck down, its continuous use against critics of the government, is an alarming instance of the coercive nature of the state machinery. The fact that the FIR is registered against ‘unknown persons’ leaves scope for further arrests in the coming days.
5. Since the BJP and the ABVP have assumed that they alone are the custodians of nationalism, how do they defend the essence of Art. 19 of the Constitution, that deals with freedom of speech and association? This is a serious question and one which demands a debate: the definition of dissent and its role in democracy.
In the light of the above PUDR demands:
a. Immediate Release of the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar
b. Quashing of FIR and withdrawal of Sedition charges against unknown persons and S. A. R Geelani
Moushumi Basu, Deepika Tandon
12th February 2016