NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi and other political leaders today joined the protest at JNU to demand the release of the student leader, who has been arrested on sedition charge, with the government insisting that the premier university cannot be allowed to be a "hub of anti-national" activities.
A day after JNU students' Union (JNUSU) President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested in a sedition case over an event at the varsity's campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI National Secretary D Raja and JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi met Home Minister Rajnath Singh here to demand his release.
The JNU row became another point of political tussle with Rahul Gandhi asserting that "most anti-national people are those who are suppressing the voice of students in this institution" and BJP saying that Congress vice president and his friends are "speaking in the voice of LeT terrorist Hafiz Sayeed who had tweeted in support of anti-India event in JNU". Gandhi and the opposition leaders also attended a meet organised by the JNUSU demanding "immediate and unconditional release of students union president, end to police raj on the campus and witch-hunting of JNU students".
Gandhi was shown black flags by a group of ABVP members. Asserting that JNU cannot be allowed to be a "hub of anti-national activities", Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said freedom of expression cannot be "absolute and unqualified and reasonable restriction" has to be there.
"This was an unfortunate incident. But these are not small kids who don't know what they do. In the name of freedom of speech you can't abuse the nation," the minister added. Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the university, K Kasturirangan, today visited the campus and took stock of the situation even as four Deans of JNU wrote to VC Jagdesh Kumar to protest against the manner in which police "crackdown" was "allowed by the university".
After meeting Rajnath, Yechury said,"We met the Home Minister and apprised him about the tense atmosphere in JNU at present. Delhi Police has released a list of 20 students in connection with the event, which also includes D Raja's daughter, but we are asking are they seen in the video shouting slogans?." Earlier in the day, a batch of ex-servicemen, alumni of the university, threatened to return their degrees as they found it "difficult" to be associated with an institution that has become a "hub of anti-national activities".
Meanwhile, the HRD ministry has sought a status report from the university on the issue. However, the varsity administration maintained that it has not received any such communication so far. The university's alumni association also came out in support of the agitating students saying they are pained to see the "attack on university's image" which stands for its democratic culture. Facing criticism for allowing police inside the campus, the varsity administration said the securitymen have been removed from the premises and there are no restrictions on the movement of students. However, outsiders were barred from entering the campus.
Kanhaiya was arrested yesterday in connection with a case of sedition and criminal conspiracy over holding an event at JNU against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. During the event, anti-India slogans were alleged raised, while denouncing the hanging of Guru. The case was registered yesterday under Section of 124 A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC against unknown persons at Vasant Kunj (North) Police station following complaints by BJP MP Maheish Girri and ABVP.
The event was held despite the JNU administration having cancelled the permission following a complaint by ABVP members, who had termed it "anti-national".