By Akshay Marathe:
We, the students of Mumbai extend our support to and express solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who are under systematic attack from the Delhi Police and certain sections of the media. We disagree with the slogans raised by a group of people on the JNU campus, during a protest which marked the beginning of this entire episode. We certainly do not identify or sympathise with those who provoke violence against the people of India and the state. However, the manner in which the Government has dealt with this situation is alarming and distressing.
The JNU Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar has been arrested by the police under charges of sedition. From all videos and eye witness accounts that have surfaced after the protest, it is clear that Kanhaiya Kumar was not part of the group chanting the slogans and can be called a bystander or observer at best. A video of his speech has emerged where he makes it clear that he was not supporting that particular group of protestors and in fact, asserts his faith in the Constitution of India.
Keeping this is mind, we must ask: what is the formal pretext under which he has been arrested? We do not believe it is acceptable for a police force to enter a University, which is intended to be a forum for debate and discussion, and arrest a student leader and lock him up in jail even though he has not broken any law. The media has been imploring the Delhi Police Commissioner to release evidence that suggests Kanhaiya Kumar raised slogans along with the group of protestors concerned. The police has so far not released any evidence against Kanhaiya. He has been charged under the Sedition law, which cannot be applied to anyone unless there has been incitement of violence against the state, and Kanhaiya has done anything but that. The arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional arrest of a student from a University seems to be a gross misuse of political power to stifle opinions that differ from those of the ruling establishment.
The larger problem is the way sections of the media and the Government are using this episode to tarnish JNU as a whole with one brush, calling it a ‘den of anti-nationals’. This kind of irresponsible rhetoric that maligns an educational institution of the country, is unfair and appears to serve a political narrative that does not tolerate dissenting voices. The assault of JNU students, staff and journalists by lawyers and BJP MLA O.P. Sharma outside Patiala House Court has only proved how those associated with the University are being victimized by those in the ruling dispensation. The refusal of the police to take action against the culprits of the Patiala House attack, and the determination to keep Kanhaiya behind bars, sends out a disturbing message to students across India : If you do not toe the line of the Government, a pretext will be found to punish you. This environment is not at all conducive for any educational institution.
We appeal to the conscience of the Prime Minister and request him to end this farce being enacted in JNU and release Kanhaiya Kumar. There is a problem with the slogans that were raised by some students of JNU and it needs to be addressed with the sensitivity it deserves and after sufficient thought has gone into it. Knee-jerk reactions like arresting a student leader can never be the solution.
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