NEW DELHI —Former student activists have slammed the Delhi Police’s decision to charge them with sedition as politically motivated.
They also “thanked” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government for pushing the police to file the charge-sheet after the JNU row erupted in February, 2016.
Shortly after the Delhi police filed a 1,200 page charge-sheet in the Patiala court on Monday, the former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students said it was a ruse to distract the public from Modi government’s policy failures like demonetisation and to divide voters by raising the spectre of “anti-nationals”.
मोदी जी से हमने 15 लाख, रोज़गार और अच्छे दिन माँगे थे, देश के अच्छे दिन आए न आए कम से कम चुनाव से पहले हमारे ख़िलाफ़ चार्जशीट तो आई है। अगर यह ख़बर सही है तो मोदी जी और उनकी पुलिस को बहुत-बहुत धन्यवाद।
— Kanhaiya Kumar (@kanhaiyakumar) January 14, 2019
The charge-sheet for sedition, unlawful assembly and rioting has been filed against ten persons, including seven Kashmiri residents and three former JNU students ― Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya ― who were prominently linked to the JNU row.
They were accused of raising “anti-national” slogans at an event to protest the hanging of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri militant, who bombed the Indian Parliament in 2001, killing twelve people.
Their arrest, a few days later, triggered public protests against the Modi government in the nation’s capital.
Kumar, who was the Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union president in 2016, told INB India, “This government is in panic mode because of major upsurge against them and they are using all their cards just before the election.”
Khalid told INB India that he wanted the case to go to trial and prove his innocence.
“I hope the media trial in this country can come to an end,” said the former JNU student, who was falsely accused of twice visiting Pakistan on a news channel. “This government has nothing to show and that is why it is bringing all these bogus narratives.”
While refusing to comment on the merits of the case, the former JNU students said they had only read about the charge-sheet in the media, and had not received any official communication from the Delhi police as of Monday evening.
In a joint statement, Bhattacharya and Khalid, said, “We are yet to see the chargesheet, but if what is being reported in the media is true, then we want to say categorically that we reject the charges and will contest them legally.”
Shehla Rashid, who was the Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union vice president in 2016, has also been named in the charge-sheet under Column 12, which is for persons suspected for being involved in the crime but the police not having enough evidence against them.
“Anyone who is a potential enemy of the government, anyone is who going to campaign against it, has been charged,” she said.
Rashid, who led the protests against the arrest of her fellow college mates, says she was not on the college campus when students were allegedly shouting anti-national slogans at the event.
“This just goes to show how bogus their case is and how non-serious they are about the truth. It has been a bogus case from day one,” she said. “BJP’s war on students is continuing.”
Khalid, who was shot at in Delhi in August, last year, noted the charge-sheet has been filed three month ahead of the national election.
If the Modi government had gone to trial in the months following the JNU row, Rashid believes, the matter would be done and dusted.
“The BJP government would not have been able to capitalise on it, she said. “The government wants to stall the case to reap maximum benefit for the election. The next installment will be when nominations are filed.”
While Rashid plans to campaign against the BJP in the national election, Kumar is contesting as a Communist Party of India (CPI) from Begusarai constituency in Bengal.
For the past three years, with the exception of Bhattacharya, the three other prominent faces in this controversy have emerged as vocal critics of the Modi government. They have traveled to different parts of the country to give speeches and attend rallies, while attacking the government on social media.
Three years on, Khalid said, he felt the public vitriol against him has reduced. “We have also had a chance to present our side. This government lies and people have started to see through them,” he said.
Bhattacharya, who is the least involved in politics at present, said, “No, I don’t feel caught in the middle. We were in it together in being framed and tarnished. And hence we will face it together.”