In a move that is believed to be politically motivated, student body leaders of Jawaharlal Nehru University have been charged with sedition for leading a procession and allegedly raising anti-India slogans on the varsity campus in February 2016.
The Delhi police on Monday filed a 1200-page charge sheet naming former JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, and others. Their
Among those named but not charged is JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid, who was not present on campus during the event. Others charged in the case are Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayees Rasool, Bashir Bhat, Aparajita Raja
The sedition case was lodged against the left-wing student politicians in 2016 following complaints by BJP MP
The presence of Kashmiris, especially those who were not students of or affiliated to JNU, added new dimensions to the case. Of the seven Kashmiris, only Khalid Bashir Bhat and Mujeeb Hussain were studying at JNU at that time. Aqueeb Hussain is now a dentist, Muneeb Hussain was a student of Aligarh Muslim University at the time, while Umair Gul and Basharat Ali were studying at Jamia Milia Islamia. Rayees Rasool is a freelance journalist.
A senior special cell officer told Hindustan Times on Monday that all the accused have been named in the charge-sheet on the basis of video evidence and eye-witness statements. The officer added that a CD handed over by Zee News, which shows the students shouting slogans, is vital evidence in the case. Police have attached a report from the forensic science laboratory, which has reportedly ruled out any tampering of the footage. The news channel had run a story about the sloganeering at JNU campus on the basis of a video captured by their cameraperson.
In March 2016, however, a magistrate report based on a probe into the event ruled that anti-India slogans were not raised and the video, which formed the basis of the first information report, was doctored to this effect.
Statements from around 90 witnesses, 10 cellphone video clips, posters from the protest, social media posts and call details records of students, organisers and participants have been taken into account to establish the sedition charges, according to lates reports, including testimonies from students, JNU’s chief security officer, security guards and police officers who had been deployed in plain clothes on the day of the event.
The officer added that JNU’s internal inquiry reports, documents of suspension of some students, and the fine levelled against them have also been used as evidence.
Police reportedly have enough evidence to prove that Umar Khalid had raised anti-national slogans and that he was a key
Questioning the timing of the charge-sheet, several of the accused have responded to the move, denying all allegations and calling it a politically motivated witch-hunt. In a joint statement, Khalid and Bhattacharya said that a “chargesheet should ideally be filed within 90 days after the FIR and not 90 days before the next election”.
“But we are happy that the charge-sheet is finally filed. We demand a speedy trial now so that the truth comes out. I trust the judiciary of my country,” Kumar said. Raja who is Rajya Sabha CPI MP D. Raja’s daughter called this charge-sheet an assault on students’ activism.
Why it matters
The apex court on several occasions has ruled out strongly worded comments (lacking intent to incite violence) or pro-Khalistan slogans from the purview of sedition. Last year, while hearing similar charges
Criticising the government does not amount to sedition and people have a right to express dissent and
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.