The 10 students have been accused of organizing an event on the college campus against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru in 2016
The Delhi Police has filed a 12,000-page charge sheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in a sedition case that was lodged in 2016.
Delhi Police claimed they have evidence to proceed against 10 former students of JNU, including Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and seven students from Jammu and Kashmir – Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rassol, Bashir Bhat and Basharat.
To charges of sedition being framed against him, Kanhaiya Kumar told CNN News 18, “I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and congratulate this government for filing the charge sheet after three years."
“Framing sedition charges against me is not fair. Basic facts are hidden in the case and everything is politically motivated. Parties are getting desperate ahead of polls,” he added.
The 10 students have been accused of organizing an event on the college campus against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru on February 9, 2016.
The police have said there is no direct evidence of the involvement of the other 36 accused, including Shehla Rashid and CPI leader D Raja’s daughter Aprajita, adding that they can be summoned later for questioning.
Let’s rejig our memories on what the case was and what the people associated with the case have to say on the matter:
What is the JNU sedition case?
On February 9, 2016, a group of students, at the behest of the then JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, had organized an event on the college campus to commemorate Afzal Guru’s third death anniversary. The 2001 Parliament attack convict was hanged to death in 2013.
The organisers had put up posters across the campus inviting students to gather against the “judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat” and in solidarity with the “struggle” of Kashmiri migrants at the Sabarmati dhaba on the campus. The event was purported to showcase the protest through poetry, art and music.
The event stirred a row with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) staging a counter-protest demanding the expulsion of students and the varsity ordering a disciplinary inquiry into the matter, saying the event was conducted despite the administration denying permission.
The slogans and their ramifications
The ABVP members had accused students at the event of chanting anti-national slogans. Students were seen chanting slogans like “Kashmir ki azadi tak Bharat ki azadi tak, jang rahegi jari” in a purported video that was doing the rounds.
Although event organisers denied these allegations, BJP MP Maheish Girri filed a complaint against unknown persons with Delhi Police for chanting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans.
As a result, a case was registered on February 11, 2016, under IPC Sections 124 A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) against unknown persons. The students were also barred from academics although they were allowed to stay in the hostels.
What is sedition?
According to Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government of India, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment of three years which may extend to life and pecuniary fine.
Sedition was not a part of the original IPC enacted in 1860 and was introduced in 1870. Since then, the law has been applied several times and undergone several interpretations.
Kanhaiya Kumar arrested
Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on February 12 on charges of sedition and remanded in police custody for three days by the Delhi High Court. The arrest sparked passive outrage among JNU students.
The snowball effect
On February 15, ahead of Kanhaiya Kumar’s hearing in Patiala House Court, a mob dressed in lawyers' robes thrashed supporters of the students and mediapersons outside the court.
Meanwhile, Kanhaiya filed a bail application in the Supreme Court, which was transferred to the Delhi High Court. The top court emphasized that order be maintained outside the court premises. However, in gross defiance of the apex court’s order, miscreants attacked Kanhaiya Kumar minutes before his hearing on February 18, hurling abuses and throwing flower pots at him and a team of six senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal.
On March 2, 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar was granted interim bail for six months by the Delhi High Court, which ordered his release immediately. He was held in Tihar Jail in New Delhi for around five days. On August 26, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were finally released on regular bail.
After his release, Kanhaiya addressed a group of students with a fiery speech in which he said, “[We want] Azaadi in India, not Azaadi from India.”
What did political leaders have to say over the issue?
At that time, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had released a statement saying, “If anyone raises anti-India slogans, tries to raise questions on the country’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared,” which ultimately led to Delhi Police arresting the students.
On the other hand, the then Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had castigated the ruling BJP for “suppressing the voice of the institution” and crushing the students.Meanwhile Left leaders, including Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, along with Congress leaders Ajay Maken and Anand Sharma, had visited the campus to express solidarity with the students, terming the developments at JNU a “political conspiracy” to terrorise the students.