Photo Credit: V Arun Kumar/Facebook
Teachers and students on Saturday condemned the arrest of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition.
“As teachers, we will not be intimidated by this attack on our academic freedom,” Ayesha Kidwai, a professor at Jawharlal Nehru University, wrote on her Facebook page on Friday. “(We) will continue to teach and study with the critical, probing, questioning eye that our various disciplines hold in the highest regard.”
“The orchestrated media campaign against JNU, the top-ranked university in the country,” she added, “is very distressing.”
Another group of JNU teachers also issued a statement condemning the police action, saying it reminded them of the Emergency. “The only previous occasion when the President of the JNUSU had been arrested was during the Emergency of 1975-77,” the statement said. “The present situation on the campus brings back memories of the Emergency days.”
It added: “We urge the Union government to take immediate steps to prevent the intimidation of students and to ensure that the normal functioning of the University is not disrupted in any way.”
Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for the arrests.
The Delhi Police arrested Kumar after reports that students had chanted “divisive” slogans at an event on Tuesday organised to discuss the execution of Parliament attack-accused Afzal Guru, and the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
The police also raided a number of hostels at the JNU campus to find the students who were seen chanting “seditious” slogans in footage of Tuesday’s event.
Seven more students were detained on Saturday in connection with the case.
Vice chancellor criticised
This is not the first time JNU students have faced police action for protesting, but the charges of sedition Kumar was slapped with have led to a strong reaction from students and teachers alike.
Shortly after the arrest, students gathered outside the administration block at JNU to protest against the police action and asked the university to take responsibility for providing them with the freedom to express themselves. The students criticised JNU vice chancellor Jagadeesh Kumar for giving a “free hand to the police”.
Late on Friday, more than 200 students held a protest march called by the university’s teachers’ association. Slogans were raised against a “witch hunt in JNU” and students questioned the legitimacy of police action.
“How can they arrest him if he wasn’t even the one raising those slogans?” asked a senior leader of the All India Students Association on condition of anonymity. “We were surprised to see those separatist slogans being raised on the campus. We don’t have anything to do with that and JNUSU has already condemned the slogans but it stands behind the union’s president.”
Students have called a meeting at JNU on Saturday to discuss their next course of action.
A few pictures of Friday’s protests have surfaced on social media: