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Condemnable scenes at Patiala House

The events at Patiala House court complex premises on Monday presented some of the deep ideological fault lines that exist in India. Unfortunately, these fault lines manifested into the kind of physical violence that cannot be condoned in any way. Even those who are anguished by the “anti-India” slogans at JNU and have little sympathy for those arrested in connection with these activities will be hard pressed to justify the violence perpetrated on teachers, unaffiliated activists, JNU students, and journalists. The appalling scenes of violence at Patiala House were perpetrated by viciously misguided individuals, which included 50-100 lawyers (or a mob dressed in lawyer jackets) and Delhi BJP legislator OP Sharma. Violence erupted in the court premises before JNU Student’s Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was produced before a local magistrate on charges of sedition. The scuffle turned violent when the mob of lawyers present inside the court started shouting anti-JNU slogans, demanding that university faculty present inside the court leave. The faculty, however, refused to vacate the court. The lawyers then forcibly tried to evict the faculty present inside. Also, the group of lawyers demanded that journalists should leave the court premises. These misguided individuals seem to have forgotten that journalists were present at the court premises to do their job, which is to report on the events. Without any basis in law, the group of advocates also began to check the identity cards of media persons and asked them to leave the courtroom. Quite naturally, the journalists objected to their demands. In response, these lawyers physically attacked the journalists present, accusing them of sympathising with JNU students and “misreporting” recent events.    

Unlike Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi’s claims, what happened at the court premises was not a “scuffle” over emotive issues. It was a full lynch mob at work, with the police criminally inactive. The BJP also cannot escape blame for Monday’s disgraceful events. Its own legislator OP Sharma was caught on camera assaulting people. Later in the day, the BJP legislator went one step further and said, “I would have shot these people if I had a gun”. When interviewed by an English new channel, Sharma had the temerity to say that people who raise pro-Pakistani slogans will be beaten up. Somewhere along the line, the likes of Sharma need to be given lessons on the Indian Constitution. Instead of arguing their case against the presence of journalists, JNU teachers, activists and unaffiliated sympathisers at the court premises, the mob dressed in lawyer jackets saw it fit to dish out some violent justice of their own and brand them as “anti-nationals”. Instead of condemning these attacks on journalists and “anyone who looks like a person from JNU”, both the BJP and its government at the Centre have more or less remained silent, with the odd defence presented for OP Sharma. Did the Delhi Police, which is under the control Ministry of Home Affairs, act in connivance with the violent mob? The answer to that question still remains in the realm of conjecture. The fact of the matter is that they did nothing to prevent the mob from acting on their own gross sense of “justice”.  This newspaper wholeheartedly condemns the Delhi police’s gross inaction in the matter. What’s worse, no legal action has been taken against those involved in Monday’s assault. Fortunately, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a petition seeking police protection of teachers and journalists who were beaten up in the Patiala Court premises, besides “free and fair access to justice” to JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The court did acknowledge the importance of the issue when it was mentioned how journalists, JNU students and teachers were thrashed under police watch.
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