The incident inadvertently brought back memories of the Emergency period not just because this is the first time since the Emergency that a JNUSU president has been arrested but also because of the charge of “anti-national” activities used to justify the barbaric and brutal police action.
As politics spilled over the streets of the national Capital, several leaders attacked the government and condemned the incident in strongest possible words.
“This is reminiscent of the dark days of the Emergency when the state had swooped down on the campus and had arrested many on false and trumped up charges,” said a statement signed among others by D P Tripathi of the NCP, who as the then JNUSU president had been arrested during the Emergency.
Tripathi added that the police action was unconstitutional. “The students were just expressing their opinion. Expression of opinion is not sedition,” he said.
C P Bhambri, a former teacher at JNU, said never before had a Home Minister interfered in the affairs of a university on some specific issue. The students, agitating for the release of Kanhaiya, who was slapped with sedition charge over an event on the campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, have threatened to go on strike from Monday if he was not freed. Kanhaiya was arrested on Friday in connection with the case, which sparked massive outrage among students and drew criticism from several political parties.
According to reports, the seven students, who were trying to protest at Indira Gandhi Kala Kendra, have been taken to Parliament Street police station for questioning in connection with the case.
Rahul Gandhi, who visited the campus in solidarity with the Left leaders, said while addressing the students there: “Most anti-national people are those who are suppressing the voice of students in this institution”.
He added: “People who suppress the voice of this institute are anti-national. They are trying to crush the voice of the youth. I was in Hyderabad a few days back and these same people or their leaders said that Rohith Vemula was anti-national.
“There was a person in Germany named Hitler who had destroyed millions and millions of people. If only that man had listened to other people, may be that country would not have gone through that much of pain,” he said among loud cheers by the students.
Besides Rahul Gandhi, several leaders of the Congress and Left parties, including deputy Leader of Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma and CPI leader D Raja, also gathered on the campus.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has ordered a magisterial probe on Saturday evening. He said: “There are claims that JNU student leaders shouted anti-India slogans and counter claims that ABVP activists did it. To find truth, Delhi government is directing District Magistrate to conduct an inquiry.”
Expressing their dissent over the on-going row at the JNU, earlier on Saturday, a delegation of Left parties met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and asked him to release Kanhaiya Kumar.
Earlier in the day, a batch of ex-servicemen, alumni of the university, threatened to return their degrees as they found it “difficult” to be associated with an institution that has become a “hub of anti-national activities”.
Meanwhile, the HRD ministry has sought a status report from the university on the issue. However, the varsity administration maintained that it has not received any such communication so far.