By Abhishek Jha:
On 13th February, a public meeting organised against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU President, on sedition charges at the Administration Block premises of JNU saw a huge crowd of students that kept swelling until the event began. Students of the institute gathered there were of the opinion that they had not seen as many students come together during their stay on campus.
The meeting began with slogans raised from all student organisations except the ABVP demanding the release of the students, against what is being called a “witch-hunting” of students on campus, the police presence on campus, and specific media outlets’ portrayal of the episode.
Just as the JNUTA Secretary, professor Bikramaditya Choudhary began speaking, the microphones were switched off on the directions of the Chief Security Officer. On being questioned, the officer produced a letter from the Registrar ordering the same citing Supreme Court guidelines. The event, however, continued with the help of a smaller microphone.
Soon after, the meeting saw another disruption with the arrival of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was shown black flags by around 20 people who identified themselves as belonging to the ABVP. Eyewitnesses said they had been waiting outside the Administration Block premises. These protesters, who were raising slogans of “Rahul Gandhi sharam karo, sharam karo” and “Modi, Modi”, however, did not answer this correspondent’s question regarding the reasons for their protest.
The meeting continued despite this minor disturbance, where leaders from several political parties, the professors and alumni of the institute were present and addressed the students. Among those present were CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D. Raja, CPI (ML) leader Kavita Krishnan, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, former Union Minister and Congress leader Anand Sharma, Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken, former AAP member Yogendra Yadav, etc.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury told the students that they were present despite their differences to express solidarity with the students, who he called the soul of the institute. “We will be there to not only show solidarity but also support, even materially,” he said. He added that the battle was not confined to the campus. CPI (ML) leader Kavita Krishnan, who addressed the students later, also praised the students who have been charged with sedition and said that they are now in the company of activists like Teesta Setalvad and Priya Pillai.
CPI leader D. Raja, whose daughter is also among those being sought for arrest by the police according to reports, said that even he was receiving threats on the phone. He questioned the RSS-BJP’s idea of what is anti-constitutional and demanded they go and meet Rohith Vemula’s mother if they want to see “Mother India”. “Rohith Vemula amar rahe!” slogans were raised in support. Several speakers emphasised that the alleged witch-hunting of students was aimed at diverting the students from the issue of Rohith.
“If India is progressing it is because more and more people are raising their voice,” Rahul Gandhi said beginning his speech. “They have a right to wave a black flag in my face,” he said in connection to the slogans raised by ABVP students. “We respect our voice and we respect their voice,” he added. He also drew attention to Rohith’s suicide alleging that “they crushed him” and did not let me voice himself. “We don’t have a problem with the RSS-BJP. If they listened to us, they would agree with us,” he said after saying that Adolf Hitler had called himself “the biggest German nationalist” and ruined Germany. “They are terrified of poor Indian people or weak Indian people raising their voice,” he said before concluding.
Meanwhile, with the meeting still going on, Congress leader Anand Sharma was attacked allegedly by ABVP activists, although he was seen escorted from the venue by a human “corridor”. “There was a bleeding from my left ear following the attack and I also suffered some cuts,” he has said, according to reports.
Talking about the raids earlier, a resident of the institute said that three hostels – Mahi Mandavi, Narmada, Brahmaputra- were the target. “They had a list and they were going to the targeted rooms,” he told YKA. The students alleged that the list had been prepared by the ABVP people and that they were guiding the officers in plain-clothes.
Piyush Raj, former JNUSU Joint Secretary, told YKA that the raids were an attempt to “victimise” the students. On being asked why the students were being targeted, he said that it is due to the voices raised by students regarding the case of Rohith Vemula, the UGC protests, and the policies of the government in general. “If the failure of the government was exposed most by anybody, it was by the JNU students and the government is taking revenge for this,” he added. Referring to a new video showing that those raising the slogans that have raised the storm, that surfaced on Youtube and has since gone viral, he alleged that the “crackdown is planned politics” by the government to put the “JNU students on a back foot” and to prevent them “from exposing the government”. Asked what the future response of the students will be and how they will continue their campaign, he told YKA that almost all the residents of the University had gathered for the meeting and that the targeting will only strengthen their movements.
Meanwhile, seven students were detained and later released, according to reports, at the Parliament Street police station, from the Jashn-e-Rekhta programme that took place at IGNCA, apparently because they looked like JNU students and were allegedly planning to protest. The Delhi Police south district is also seeking to transfer the case of the alleged seditious remarks to the Special Cell and wants the NIA involved, according to reports.
Protests by students at the Ganga Dhaba in JNU and by the residents of Delhi at Jantar Mantar took place on the 14th.
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