NEW DELHI: Kanhaiya Kumar, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) president who was arrested on sedition charges last week for organising an event on Afzal Guru, is being imprisoned in the same cell the Kashmiri activist was held in before he was hanged, Times of India reported.
Kumar, who is being kept in cell number three at Tihar jail where Guru was also jailed, is currently under 24-hour suicide watch and is being held in isolation for two weeks.
"One of the cells close to the jail entrance has been vacated and reserved for him. He will be kept under multi-layered security and only Delhi Prison officials or staff will be allowed near his cell. His food will be checked as a precautionary measure," an official said.
A 12-member quick reaction team is to be deployed to his cell for 24-hour watch, and he is being jailed in ward number four, which is near the hospital, in case of an emergency. He will also be checked for suicidal tendencies.
Security outside the jail has been intensified and Kumar was surrounded by 50 policemen when he was brought to jail. He was attacked by Indian zealots when he was presented in court yesterday, where he had to be confined for up to three hours because of the crowds outside.
The 32-year-old student union leader’s arrest has sparked a major row over freedom of expression in India, where some rights campaigners say the Hindu nationalist government is using the British-era sedition law to clamp down on dissent.
Sedition carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment although convictions are rare.
Kumar denies he was among those chanting anti-India slogans at last Tuesday’s rally to mark the 2013 hanging of Kashmiri activist Afzal Guru over a deadly 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
The student leader was sent to judicial custody until March 2.
Amnesty International called for the immediate release of Kumar and S.A.R Geelani, a former Delhi University lecturer arrested on Tuesday on the same charge in connection with another event marking Guru’s death.
“The sedition law was used by the British to curb free expression during India’s independence struggle,” said Tara Rao, programmes director at Amnesty International India.
“It’s unfortunate that the government is using it now to silence and harass those with divergent opinions.”