New Delhi: The Congress, CPI-M, CPI and JD-U on Saturday came together to participate in a protest meet against the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar in a sedition case. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to crush students’ voices in university campuses by ordering police crackdowns.
Speaking at the protest meet held in the JNU campus here, Gandhi said: “They (government) do not understand that by crushing you (students) they are making you stronger.”
He was referring to Friday’s police action at the JNU campus and the arrest of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar in a sedition case on Friday.
The students’ union declared a strike in the university from Monday onwards.
At the end of the protest, senior Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma was attacked by an assailant allegedly linked to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The protest was held in a volatile atmosphere with the ABVP activists constantly shouting slogans against what they called “anti-India sloganeering” by students at a commemorative function held at the campus to mark the death of Afzal Guru who was hanged in the Parliament attack case.
Gandhi was received by the ABVP activists with black flags and cries of “go back”.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja, senior Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist leader Kavita Krishnan and others also joined the protest attended by a 2,000-strong gathering of students and teachers.
Gandhi drew comparisons with the Hyderabad university controversy involving students linked to ABVP and Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) and consequent suicide of a Dalit student activist, Rohit Vemula, following his suspension from the university.
“I was in Hyderabad a few days back. A youngster there expressed himself and the government says that he is an anti-national. What did he do? Later the minister turns around and says that he was not even a Dalit,” said Gandhi referring to the NDA government’s reaction to the suicide of Vemula of the ASA who was suspended after an ABVP activist accused him of physically assaulting him.
Earlier in the day, Yechury, who was himself a JNUSU leader, met union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and demanded the release of the JNUSU leader.
“We apprised home minister that whatever is happening is worse than that happened during the Emergency. It should be proved that the 20 people, who are being targeted, are at fault,” he told reporters after the meeting.
“Home minister guaranteed us that action won’t be carried out on any innocent person. We demanded him to release the arrested student leader… which he assured us to look into the matter,” Yechuri added.
A delegation comprising Yechury, Raja and Janata Dal-United secretary general K.C. Tyagi also met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and requested him to launch an independent probe to establish the authenticity of the evidence provided in the JNU campus incident.
Kejriwal later ordered a magisterial inquiry.
Kanhaiya Kumar’s parents who live in Bihar also asserted that their son was being victimised for his opposition to Hindutva politics and was not an anti-national.
“My son is not anti-national. There is no question of his following an ideology of anti-nationalism. He is a nationalist like hundreds of thousands of youths of his age,” said Jaishankar Singh, Kumar’s paralysed father.
Kumar’s mother, Meena Devi, said her son is a nationalist, but not a supporter of RSS-BJP’s Hindutva politics.
Bharatiya Janata Party national vice-president Dinesh Sharma however hit out at the CPI-M and Congress.
“Both Congress and CPI-M who are supporting such anti-national elements, should drop India from their party names because they are pursuing anti-national politics. They are as guilty as the protesters,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of retired servicemen of the June 1978 batch of the National Defence Academy, who are recipients of the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees from JNU have written a letter to the varsity vice chancellor and said they are unhappy at the ongoing anti-national activities like celebration of Afzal Guru inside the campus.
“We have told JNU vice chancellor that if such anti-national activity will continue then we are constrained to return our degrees,” said Brig. Rakesh Chhibber (retd.) of the batch.