NEW DELHI: Thousands of students and teachers from different colleges and universities protested against the recent police assault on Jawaharlal Nehru University and the arrest of its student leader with a massive rally in Delhi on Thursday where they demanded his release.

JNU students union chief Kanhaiya Kumar was kicked and beaten by a group of Hindutva lawyers on Wednesday when he appeared at a court. He has been accused of sedition, a charge that carries a life sentence.

Kanhaiya has been a Bihar-based member of the All India Students Federation, a front of the Communist Party of India, and denies charges of shouting anti-India slogans.

The spectacle of his merciless beating by abusive lawyers despite a Supreme Court order to provide him security had a salutary effect.


Three leaders ‘quit student wing of RSS over oppression of community’


Protesting against the government’s “oppression of the student community”, three leaders of ABVP, the students wing of the RSS, announced their resignation from JNU posts.

Pradeep Narwal, Rahul Yadav and Ankit Hans said they resigned from their positions in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP, which had led violent attacks last week over alleged anti-India slogans raised at an on-campus event by Kanhaiya Kumar. Mr Kumar denies the charge.

Mr Kumar was arrested on Saturday and was accused by the police of sedition, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. He was punched and kicked while being taken into a Delhi court on Wednesday; inside, his lawyer claims, he was hit once more by a man who calmly walked away despite the police being present. Mr Kumar, 28, was told that he will spend another 14 days in jail.

“Kanhaiya is accused, try him. If you want to give him lifetime punishment, give (it to) him,” said Mr Narwal, one of the three ABVP leaders who has resigned. He said Mr Kumar’s fate must be decided by court. “Don’t make our culture Talibani,” he said on NDTV. However, top leaders of the ABVP at the same university said they were yet to receive the resignations.

The opposition and large sections of students and teachers at JNU have criticised the arrest of Mr Kumar, who is president of a Leftist students’ union, as a flagrant use of force to crush dissent and free speech.

But the police and government say that Mr Kumar made anti-national remarks, including some in support of Afzal Guru, who was hanged three years ago as a conspirator in the attack on Parliament in 2001.

Agencies add: On Thursday, students in at least 10 Indian cities marched through the streets and denounced Kumar’s arrest.

In New Delhi, thousands of students, professors and journalists gathered in the centre of the city. They carried flowers as a sign of peace, Indian flags and placards saying, “Free Speech under attack” and “Just because I don’t agree, doesn’t mean I am an anti-national.”

Police said the rally was not authorised, but allowed the march to proceed to a central space used frequently for public protests.

In the southern city of Chennai, 40 students were arrested after they clashed with police.

In Kolkata, police were on alert as two groups of students held rival rallies on the Jadavpur University campus. Student groups affiliated with the BJP demanded strict action against Kumar and others who they accused of being anti-India.

The country’s highest court said it was concerned about law and order after Kumar was attacked and journalists and lawyers were heckled in court on Wednesday. Journalists covering the case had stones thrown at them and lawyers who had been sent by the Supreme Court to investigate were heckled, one of whom said there had been an “atmosphere of terror”.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court said it was “concerned about the law and order situation arising out of the violence” at the Patiala House court on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2016

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