NEW DELHI: Delhi Police cracked down on a group of protestors at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Friday and arrested a student leader on sedition charges for allegedly raising anti-India slogans during a demonstration in the campus to mark the hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Dozens of policemen swarmed the campus in south Delhi to look for more students, suspected to be involved in the protest held on Tuesday in this one of India’s top academic institutions.
The police swung into action a day after Bharatiya Janata Party MP Maheish Girri lodged a complaint against the “anti-constitutional and anti-national elements” who participated in the demonstration.
The event was organised by a group of students to protest the 2013 hanging of Guru, an alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed militant, from Kashmir. The protest sparked clashes between two groups of students after which police were deployed in the campus.
A day later, another meeting was held at the Press Club of India in Delhi where anti-India slogans and placards were also raised.
Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the left-dominated JNU Students Union, was arrested from a hostel in the university campus early on Friday in the police crackdown.
Charged with sedition and conspiracy, Kumar was brought before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen.
The police sought his custody to interrogate him about his links and also identify others accused of shouting “anti-national” slogans in a video clip from the event that was played in the courtroom.
The magistrate allowed the police Kumar's custody for three days.
Kumar denied that he shouted anti-India slogans. He said he was there to prevent a possible clash between Hindu-rightwing ABVP workers and protesting students.
“I dissociate myself from the slogans. I have full faith in the constitution and I always say that Kashmir is an integral part of India,” said Kumar, who is from the All India Students Federation, a Left-linked students outfit.
He said the slogan-shouting people were outsiders and he didn’t know them.
The university campus has witnessed events in support of Guru in the past as well.
The fresh protest sparked outrage in the capital with an angry government on Friday saying it “will not tolerate any anti-national activities in the country”.
"Stringent action must be taken against (those) who raised anti-India slogans in JNU,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters here.
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani also condemned the protest.
"I only want to say that today is the day of worship of Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati blesses every family that whatever they speak is for progress and strengthening the nation. Let mother India be praised. The nation will never tolerate an insult to mother India," the minister told reporters.
The arrest and police crackdown on JNU campus drew sharp reactions from opposition parties.
“What is happening in JNU? Police on campus, arrests and picking up students from hostels. This had last happened during Emergency," tweeted Sitaram Yechury, CPI-M general secretary.
The CPI-Marxist party also denounced the "arrest of (the) Left and progressive student leader".
“The presence of police in the campus and such indiscriminate arrests had last happened during the Emergency,” a CPI-M statement said.
The left-dominated JNU Students Union distanced itself from the controversial event at the campus. It said its members “hold no brief for those who raised objectionable slogans”.
The union, however, condemned “in the strongest possible words the high-handed police action”.
“This is reminiscent of the dark days of the Emergency when the state had swooped down on the campus and had arrested many on false and trumped up charges,” a JNUSU statement said.
The university administration claimed that it had cancelled permission for the event, which was allegedly pitched as a cultural function.
A group of RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists held counter-demonstrations at the India Gate and demanded action against the university and the students who organised the event.
Police detained around 200 members of the group for violating prohibitory orders.