Varsity divided on sedition charges

Jawaharlal Nehru University campus stands divided on the sedition charges against students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, with the varsity’s non-teaching staff association backing ABVP and the teachers’ association rooting for Kanhaiya’s release. 

“We’ve realised that it is a huge battle,” JNU Prof Ayesha Kidwai told students outside the university’s administrative block. She and a few other JNU teachers and students faced an irate mob of lawyers at the Patiala House court, where Kanhaiya was produced in a sedition case.

“The lawyers were escorted by police. They wanted us to clear out because we’re anti-nationals,” she said, alleging that the JNU teachers and students were “forcibly ejected” from the courtroom by a group of lawyers. Later in the day, JNU students’ union president’s police custody was extended by two days. 

Even as the JNU teachers’ association (JNUTA) has called for a strike on Tuesday in solidarity with “comrade” Kanhaiya, the university’s staff association said it will not allow “anti-national” activities on campus. 

“JNU witnessed an unprecedented show of strength today by JNU Staff Association (JNUSA), who chanted Vande Mataram and supported nationalistic cause. They demanded judicious punishment to those students who indulged in organising of the February 9 programme,” ABVP Delhi state secretary, Saket Bahuguna, said. 

“Regarding JNU faculty members, the opinion is divided. Yes, it’s an unfortunate reality that in these testing times, a section of JNUTA has come out in support of the organisers,” he said. 

A group of university students, including the JNU student’s union (JNUSU) president, were charged with sedition for hosting an event against the “judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat in solidarity with the struggle of the Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination”, according to a note issued by the JNU administration. 

“The ABVP has been discredited and yesterday’s human chain saw successful participation of all sections of the JNU community. Now we have to take this march outside the campus and counter the criminal designs of the RSS who subject JNU students to discrimination and mob frenzy,” JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid Shora said. 

Meanwhile, Kidwai said the attackers roughed up and sexually harassed female teachers at the Patiala House court.

Late in the evening, Prashant Bhushan’s Swaraj Abhiyan, a splinter group of the Aam Aadmi Party, held a protest at the gates of the JNU campus. Bhushan told students he has offered to appear as a counsel for Kanhaiya Kumar who faces charges of sedition.

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