Arrested by the Delhi police on charges of sedition, Kanhaiya Kumar, the leader of the students union was released on interim bail. There have been celebrations in the JNU ever since. Almost all news channels are beaming interviews with ‘Kanhaiya’. Some, it has been alleged project this student leaders as a ‘political hero’. JNU becomes in the meanwhile, an epicenter of an earthquake sending periodic shockwaves through the nation.
Until a few days back hardly a few were aware of the existence of this university called the JNU situated in New Delhi. But now the question doing the rounds on social and other media is, ‘is this university actually a part of India?’ There is uproar in the Parliament over the JNU issue. Debates between the government and the opposition are not uncommon occurrence in a democracy like ours. However the kind of intense fury that the JNU issue sparked off, was witnessed for the first time by many. Thus the JNU row now brings on the anvil, the issues of antinational slogans and activity, of national security and those of freedom of speech.
The nationwide stir began with a programme organized in the JNU on the 9th of February. In 2001 there was a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. It was proved that ‘Afzal Guru’ was the man behind this attack. The Supreme Court gave him the death sentence and in 2012 he was hanged. In protest against his hanging a programme to mark the Afzal Guru martyrdom day was organized in the JNU on the 9th of February.
The poster of this program is inflammatory. The program appealed to draw inspiration from the sacrifice of Afzal Guru and of Makbul Bhat who was sentenced to death for terrorist activity. That this program was antinational and not cultural, was pointed out by some to the JNU administration following which the program was denied permission. And yet the program did take place. The slogans heard during the evening were, ‘Afzal, shame on us! Your killers still live on’; ‘How many Afzals will you kill? In every home there will be one’; ‘Until Bharat is destroyed, We will fight’; ‘Kashmir demands freedom’ and ‘Pakistan zindabad’. Of the seven videos that covered the evening, 2 it is claimed, have been doctored. The remaining five however, do indicate very clearly what exactly happened on that day.
Ms Smriti Irani, the union minister for HRD presented before the House of Parliament, evidence pointing to the anti national slogans at the JNU campus. The defense against this ranges from total denial of any such slogans to claims that the persons raising slogans were outsiders. The Democratic Students Union (DSU) and the All India Student Association (AISA) had jointly organized the program in question. Kanhaiya Kumar is the President of the AISA elected from the JNU. As for whether he actually raised these slogans or not, there is conflicting information. However the fact remains and beyond doubt that the slogans were indeed raised in his presence. He ought to have prevented those who were doing so. The verdict of the court granting him interim bail too has made a remark that this was not responsible conduct on his part as a student leader.
The Delhi Police machinery was set in motion to arrest Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya under charges of sedition. Kanhaiya was arrested but Umar Khalid along with 9 others, went missing for a few days. Umar Khalid and his colleagues then re-surfaced in the JNU. But the Delhi Police did not enter the premises of the JNU to arrest them. Is the JNU a part of India or of some other country? ‘Why should the Police need the permission of the university administration to arrest the students?’ was question seething in the minds of the people. A few on the other hand argued that the autonomy of the university is a significant issue.
While on the way to the court, Kanhaiya was beaten up by some lawyers rendering sensitive, the question of his security. However, out now on bail, Kanhaiya has begun to talk of turning around the politics of this country. Kanhaiya makes clear that his fight is directed not against the country but against the system and the government. Nevertheless allegations that the JNU has become a sanctuary of antinational activity, are gaining increasing strength in the minds of the people. Not only that, it has now come to light that students here, have been since long, indulging in antinational activity and organizing programs with content that offends religious sentiments and is therefore objectionable. The question we are now faced with is, does the JNU really engage in authentic educational activity or is it an epicenter of seditious, antinational and anti-religious activity?