The JNU row refuses to die down. In a sting operation, a leading Indian television channel has unearthed disturbing details of the assault on JNU Student’s Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, while he was being produced in the Patiala House court on charges of sedition earlier last week. In the video footage presented, it is evident that those leading the mob of lawyers owned up to the brazen assault. They admitted that Kanhaiya was beaten up when he was in police custody. The assault on the JNU student took place as the Delhi Police, responsible for protecting the defendant, just sat and watched. In a brazen admission of brute force and utter cowardice, the lawyers involved in the brutal attack admitted that they brought the assault to a close after forcing Kanhaiya to shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (Victory for Mother India). Suffice to say, Mother India would be thinking to herself what sort of victory has been achieved by attacking a defenseless person under trial. Vikram Chauhan, a key organiser of the mob assault, went on to recount how the arrested student had soiled his trousers in terror.
In these very columns, serious questions were raised on why the Delhi Police personnel present inside the court complex did not step in and stop the violence. They insisted that the entire incident was a mere scuffle and they did what was expected of them. However, in the sting operation, Chauhan is clearly heard describing how the police stood around without stepping in to stop the violence. What’s worse, the organisers of the mob attack admitted that they brought many of the attackers from outside with the clear intent of physically assaulting those they deemed “anti-national”. The National Human Rights Commission has backed the sting’s claim and accused the Delhi Police of coercing the student leader into writing a note, in which he allegedly decried the “unconstitutional” activities that took place on the university campus. Suffice to say, the evidence against the mob that lead the assault continues to grow, with the NHRC and the group of Supreme Court-deputed lawyers unequivocally declaring that the assault on Kumar was a planned conspiracy. If a detainee is not safe in a court that is located only a mile from the Prime Minister’s Office, questions must be raised against the State’s ineptness in dealing with the situation. Under these circumstances, it is imperative to ask what sort of rule of law does one wish to uphold, when such rabid elements run wild.
Moreover, the matter is now in court. Let it adjudicate on the matter. Such mobs have no business assaulting the accused. Of course, it goes without saying that there has been little condemnation from the ruling NDA government at the Centre against such brazen acts of violence. Admittedly, physical violence against undertrial prisoners in collusion with state authorities is a common occurrence in this nation of ours. But the attack on Kanhaiya is indeed a new low. Unlike those involved in looting, arson or other acts of violence, Kanhaiya is a scholar at one of India’s most prestigious universities, who has been accused of merely making highly objectionable statements against the territorial integrity of this country. This is not to suggest in any way that those involved in arson or murder should be left at the violent mercy of state authorities. The idea here is to merely present the level of depravity involved in physically assaulting an unarmed undertrial, who is now supposed to be subject to the rule of law. It must also be noted that this newspaper does not support or advocate violent anti-national statements. But to imprison protesting students and then expose them to grievous physical assault for merely voicing (allegedly) these sentiments presents a rather disturbing picture of the Indian republic.
And then to top it off, you have the Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, who on Monday managed to undermine the standard norms of criminal jurisprudence. When asked about the steps Delhi Police will take against five other JNU students, who have been accused of sedition, including Umar Khalid, Bassi reportedly said: “World is full of possibilities and options. They (the students) should join the probe. If they are innocent, they should present evidence of their innocence.” Standard norms of criminal jurisprudence state that a person is innocent, until proven guilty. The onus is on the Delhi Police to prove their guilt and not the other way around.