Simply a hysterical farce: The 2016 JNU sedition row lingers lacking real evidence

Even after 900 days, there have only been arrests in the case, but no charges.

 |  6-minute read |   13-09-2018
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Over 900 days have passed since the demonstrations in JNU in February 2016. Senior officials insist that the FIR for sedition which was to go to trial has yet to move because the police has not filed a chargesheet. There was reported sloppiness in this period by the police – including then Commissioner of Police BS Bassi – who escorted Kanhaiya Kumar to the Patiala House courts, where, on the way right-wing lawyers and others assaulted him.

When the students who were there accused the Delhi police and lawyers of injuring Kanhaiya, Police Commissioner BS Bassi denied that the student leader was hurt in any way. Kanhaiya was examined by the doctors of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. The doctors clearly stated that Kanhaiya had suffered injuries in the course of being attacked by the lawyers.

Bassi also claimed that within few days of the demonstrations, Kanhaiya “had indeed raised anti-national slogans on campus.”

No such evidence has emerged after 900 days. Why not?

kanhaiya-kumar1-copy_091218054439.jpgStudent leader Kanhaiya Kumar was brutally attacked by lawyers on the way to the Patiala House Court. (Photo: Screengrab)

Rajshekhar Jha, a journalist for The Times of India, who has followed this story, has repeated the police allegation that “eventually nine Kashmiri students could be chargesheeted.” For the police, 900 days is a very long time. A police officer once involved in the investigation defended the inordinate delay thus, “Charging Kashmiri youths for sedition could have political ramifications and impacted the efforts being made to restore peace in the area.”

So, according to the police, JNU students are vulnerable to sedition charges even after 900 days without a charge — but Kashmiri students cannot be charged as that might disturb peace in Kashmir.

Equally shocking is the Delhi police claim that they have “evidence” against three arrested students: Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, apart from youths from Kashmir. There is no clarity whether the crime is sloganeering, being part of a conspiracy or abetting a crime.

This will be clear when a final report is submitted to the court. It is shocking how little evidence the Delhi police could adduce in over 900 days. Any capable policeman would be shocked by the lack of evidence and the dilly-dallying by the police. It appears startling that senior policemen including former Commissioner BS Bassi could be apparently so desultory about meting out justice over 900 days, in which both clear and surreptitious attempts are made to defame students and the university in general.

Despite the listless functioning of the police, their evidence is lacking. The nine Kashmiri students could be chargesheeted. But, on the one hand, the police avoided a chargesheet “for sedition could have political ramifications.” This is an extension of reports suggesting that there were about six Kashmiri students who were interrogated by the Delhi police, and then asked to write down their version of events, after which they were allowed to leave.

None of them had any connection with JNU.

Yet, seemingly without any evidence, Home Minister Rajnath Singh even alleged that Lashkar-e-Taiba chief had supported the JNU students. 

rajnath-copy_091218054715.jpgHome Minister Rajnath Singh alleged that Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed had supported the JNU students. (Photo: PTI)

In the 900-plus days of the JNU incident, it seems this was a complete mess up. The three JNU student leaders were not guilty, nor have they been accused of any such crime. Sedition is not a crime that can be waived easily. Nor can such a crime be put on hold for as long as 900 days. The evidence is also shoddy.

According to Rajshekhar Jha, “Video footage emerged soon after showing masked men raising their hands as slogans were heard.” Yet on February 12, 2016, police arrested JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, while others like Umar Khalid had allegedly absconded. Police had identified several students as co-accused in the case.

But the three targeted were Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. Since some participants were wearing masks, how were they identified? The Delhi police questioned five Kashmiri youth many times between July and August. A year has passed. What data or information did they give since they were questioned many times?

jnu2_091218054910.jpgIs JNU being unfairly targeted by the government? (Photo: Facebook)

The most shocking issues in this imbroglio is the lack of evidence. Police Commissioner BS Bassi claimed that Kanhaiya Kumar was not injured in the scuffle by right-wing lawyers on the way to the Patiala House Court. But doctors stated that Kanhaiya had suffered cuts and bruises. After several months there are no chargesheets despite all the evidence being allegedly acquired. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has yet to respond about how he got the information that Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Sayeed “had supported the JNU students.” But Kashmiri youth were questioned not just two or three times but many times. As far as we know, nothing substantial was unearthed.

The real story is that there was an incident in which relatively few students were involved. Kashmiris were also involved. There is not an inch of proof, that sedition was committed.

Otherwise, sedition cases do not linger for three months. The Kashmiris involved had nothing to do with JNU. Basically, the right wing and the police seemed to decide to embroil JNU students and a few faculty members in a communal-terrorist scandal, to be played up by pro-government media. The gambit did not work. In desperation, the police may try to blow up a minor issue. But the real “Kashmiri-terrorist” expose turned out to be a hysterical farce.

Also read: I teach at JNU. This is how the top university is being dismantled today

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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