Jawaharlal Nehru University: ‘sedition’ case, 2016
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2016-2018: A timeline
The Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition case of February 2016: A Timeline
Feb 9, 2016: Clash over alleged sedition
June 2016: CFSL report authenticates Zee footage
The Times of India, June 12, 2016
Once bitten, cops decide to tread with caution
The raw video footage of the controversial Afzal Guru event on February 9 at JNU, based on which a sedition case was registered against JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, has been found to be “genuine, untampered with and authentic“ by the CBI forensic lab. Police earlier clarified the FIR was registered on the basis of this raw footage obtained from a TV channel on a CD, and not on the basis of the clippings which were subsequently telecast. Hence, police sources said, the case of sedition against the accused has been established and more reports are not required.The doctored videos, if any, have no bearing on this FIR, they said. The report was handed over to Delhi Police on June 8. Cops say 19 people have been identified from the footage, of which Kanhaiya, Umar and Anirban were earlier arrested. Cops are considering if they can arrest the rest. Among the rest are many JNU students and some people of Kashmiri origin. Police will, however, tread with caution.
The raw footage had been obtained from a stringer of Zee News after an investigation was initiated by Delhi Police's special cell. It was sent to the CBI's forensic lab in New Delhi along with the camera, memory card, a CD containing the clips, wires and other equipment that were used by the stringer.
Police officers say the video, along with a dozen others, was sent to the CFSL lab to check its authenticity as part of the investigation.
Special commissioner of police (special cell) Arvind Deep said the report will be used in the investigation. Be sides Umar and Kanhaiya, the video shows a bald masked youth and a woman raising slogans while there is an argument between JNU security personnel and students. The police will ask the JNU administration to identify them as well.
Delhi Police had earlier sent four video clips of the event to the CFSL in Gandhinagar which had reported in May that they were genuine.However, an investigation done by the Delhi government into a set of seven video clippings of the controversial event sent to the Hyderabad-based Truth Labs had found two clips to have been manipulated while the others were genuine .
In the FIR, the police had claimed that in the video, a group of students, led by Umar, are seen raising antiIndia slogans, 21 of which were mentioned in an interim report filed in the case a few days later.
Kanhaiya, Umar and Anirban were arrested in February and later granted bail in the case, which is now being probed by the special cell.
2016-17: ceaseless turmoil
Of the 8,700 students in JNU, just around 10% are committed members of student political groups. Yet it is their voice that is heard and taken to be of the university's student body . In reality, most students will admit to only wanting to study, leave the campus and get on with life.
Feb 9, 2016, Continues To Reverberate On Campus Even As It Battles A Greater Left-Right Divide
2016 began for Jawaharlal Nehru University with the protest against the hanging of Kashmiri freedom protagonist Afzal Guru putting it smack in the middle of a heated national debate on patriotism and nationalism. JNU was dubbed a `hub of treason', and the incident continued to colour every act in the university -of students, teachers and the administration -in the months that followed. A year later, the JNU fraternity is still grappling with questions about its identity .
In its 48 years of existence, JNU has established itself as one of the intellectually most vibrant Indian institutions of higher learning.Even with more protests and little study through the year, the end of 2016 saw JNU winning the presidential award for being the best university in India. Amid such achievements, February 9, 2016, continues to reverberate on the campus, casting its shadow even on incidents like the disappearance of a student.
The events of 2016 are often described by the largely Leftist teacher body and student organisations as the attempt of a Rightist central government to muzzle a Left-leaning university . “The incident was a planned script meant to thwart students and teachers,“ alleged Ayesha Kidwai, president, JNU Teachers' Association. “Expressing dissent is not an offence.“ But far from being a simple ideological confrontation, perhaps Anand Kumar, who has been associated with JNU for 40 years, first as student and later as professor, was more correct in describing the February event as “the rallying point for students, faculty and alumni for a long interrogation about the university's contribution to the nation“.
Avatans Kumar, a former student and now a political commentator based in Chicago, was critical of the government imputing seditious intents on the part of the students and asked, “If in this age, we do not experiment with new thought, when will we?“ More importantly , Kumar put a few things in perspective. “What is happening in JNU in the past one year is the result of the left's desperation,“ he said, pointing out the irrelevancy of leftist ideology in the face of a government that may not be sympathetic to them and in the context of global events, from Poland to Brexit to America.Kumar said that the crisis in JNU can be explained as the effort of the campus ideology to fit into the new narrative.
Leftists struggling to hold ground in JNU could explain the singlemost important development in student politics on the campus in the past year. It is not the Rightist ABVP that has segued into the newly ceded space, but the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association, or BAPSA. Commemorating the name of Dalit and Adivasi icons, the twoyear old BAPSA has actually spread beyond JNU to Gorakhpur University, Lucknow University , even Allahabad University .
“JNU discusses everything from why rotis were not cooked properly in hostels to why Trump won in US ,“ pointed out Dilip Maurya, PhD candidate and former student chairperson of the JNUSU election committee. “This culture is in decline and JNUSU has become weak because one group has been in power for far too long. The reins of pow er have to change at some point of time.“
BAPSA may have a small cadre, but in the student union election last year its candidate, Rahul Sonpimple, an MPhil student, got 1,545 votes to the 1,954 garnered by the combined Left candidacy of Mohit Pandey .ABVP trailed far behind. Sonpimple attributes his party's popularity to being “different from the binary of the Left and the Right“. BAPSA has influenced a new mode in the students' movement in JNU. It is overtly militant and relies on more than just debate and discussion -JNU's distinctive trait -to press its point. It has burnt the V-C in effigy , and on February 9, locked up the classrooms and picketed teachers to prevent lectures.
While welcoming this new ideology, AISA member and former JNUSU vice-president Anant Prakash decried the methods, such as strikes, being used by BAPSA. ABVP's Saurabh Sharma, a former JNUSU joint secretary , too accused BAPSA of “acting like an anarchic organisation“. But there was perhaps tacit in their rhetoric the acknowledgement that JNU student politics is no longer defined as left or right.
JNU rusticates Khalid, fines Kanhaiya
Over two years after the infamous incident where “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised in the campus, the JNU administration has upheld its 2016 decision and served a rustication notice to student Umar Khalid. Several others, including the then JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, have been fined.
Khalid, who is to submit his MPhil thesis this month, may not be allowed to do so if he is rusticated.
In the February 9, 2016 incident, an alleged pro-Afzal Guru event was organised which saw the arrest of three students — Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya — on sedition charges. A three-member highlevel inquiry committee was constituted by the vice-chancellor on February 11, 2016. However, it was expanded to five members on February 23, 2016 after teachers raised questions against it.
The report, which first came out on March 15, pointed out that the booking form for hosting the event at Sabarmati lawns was never submitted to the approving authorities by the students. The committee also blamed JNUSU for not acting responsibly.
The committee had recommended rustication of Khalid, Bhattacharya and two others and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Kumar. A financial penalty was imposed on 13 students for violation of disciplinary norms. However, the students moved the Delhi high court and sat on a hunger strike from April
28. HC provided “conditional relief” to the students and stayed the order. The university administration then began a fresh investigation.
“Khalid has been rusticated for six semesters and fined for Rs 20,000, while Kumar’s fine of Rs 10,000 has been upheld,” sources said.
Despite repeated attempts through calls and SMS, the JNU administration did not respond to TOI’s queries.
Calling the report political motivated, Khalid told TOI that it’s farcical because the same punishment has been meted the third time in the last two years. “We reject this punishment and will explore all options against it,” he added.
HC sets aside JNU’s penalty on Kanhaiya
Terming it “irrational and illegal”, the Delhi high court set aside a recent decision of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to penalise former students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar.
Kumar and several other students were fined by the JNU administration for their alleged involvement in an event on February 9, 2016 commemorating the alleged 2002 Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru when alleged antinational slogans were raised. Many students who had gone to court against the punishment felt that the HC decision was a “confidence booster” for them. Justice Siddharth Mridul observed that the JNU order “suffers from the vice of irrationality, illegality and procedural impropriety” adding that it was “unsustainable on innumerable counts.”
HC’s strong remarks made the university withdraw its order and urge the court to allow it to go through the entire process afresh. The court agreed and remanded the disciplinary proceedings back to the JNU administration. Justice Mridul noted that though the office order only imposes a fine of Rs 10,000 on Kumar, “the action taken against him entails serious civil consequences.”
The administration, which had set up a high-level inquiry committee after the incident, had punished Kumar, Umar Khalid and 13 other students. However, the students approached court and the inquiry was conducted again. On July 5 this year, the committee fined Kumar and other JNU student activists and rusticated Khalid.
Senior advocate Rebecca John on behalf of Kumar sought the quashing of the JNU order that indicted him under Clause 3 of Rules of Discipline and Proper Conduct of Students of JNU. She maintained that there were serious lapses in observing the principles of natural justice and there was violation of the HC’s directions on October 12, 2017.
Kumar, Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, were arrested in February 2016 on charges of sedition in connection with the controversial event and now are out on bail. While posting the matter for next week HC did not pass any order on Khalid and Bhattacharya’s plea, but directed JNU not to take any coercive steps against them till further orders.
Ashutosh Kumar, a former JNUSU president who was also fined by the committee, told TOI, “It was evident that the court will support us as all the charges against us are false. We didn’t organise any event that day nor were part of anything.” NSUI member at JNU, Sunny Dhiman, who was fined Rs 10,000, said, “The court’s statement gives us a lot of confidence that our views will also be heard.” However, JNUSU president Geeta Kumari, who was fined Rs 40,000, said, “The vicechancellor doesn’t care about the courts. Kanhaiya’s case was different as he had gone to court thrice and it was a national issue. Even police couldn’t find anything against him, so the courts took this view.”