India: Arrest of JNU Students Union Leader on Charges of Sedition - Statements by Human Rights Groups (12 Feb 2016)
Press Statement by People’s Union For Civil Liberties (Delhi unit)
[12 February 2016]
PUCL,Delhi condemns the action of Delhi Police in arresting JNUSU President on charges of sedition
It is shocking that the Delhi Police has arrested the President of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) on the charges of ‘sedition’ –a provision of law about which Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had said in 1951, “Now as far as I am concerned that particular Section is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place…in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better.”
The provision of section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, which provide punishment for ‘sedition’ was enacted by the British to silence all opposition to its autocratic rule. This provision had been used by the British against Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, M.N.Roy, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, and many other freedom fighters. It is unfortunate that the governments in free India have been misusing this anachronistic colonial era law from time to time in order to silence the voices of dissent. The human rights organizations, especially PUCL, for many years have been campaigning for its repeal.
The action of the Delhi Police is also in violation of the law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the celebrated case “Kedar Nath Das Vs. State of Bihar” (AIR 1962 SC 955) which held that “…comments, however strongly worded expressing, disapprobation of the actions of Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal.” It appears that there was no intention on the part of the President of JNUSU to incite violence and therefore the action of the Delhi Police in arresting him is condemnable. PUCL appeals to the Home Minister (Central Government) to instruct Delhi Police to release the arrested leader immediately.
The governments should remember what Gandhi said in 1922 in his trial for sedition, "Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law".
President, PUCL (Delhi) , (M)9811099532
o o o
PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (PUDR)
Condemn Fascism in the Name of Nationalism
12th February, 2016
PUDR strongly condemns the Delhi Police for arresting the JNU students’ union president, Kanhaiya Kumar today, 12th February, on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for holding a protest demonstration on February 9th against the judicial hanging of Afzal Guru, three years ago.
The events between 9th and 12th February demonstrate how the administration (including the University authorities) have caved in to the demands of the ABVP, the BJP led students party which has only 1 seat in the JNU students’ union. On 9th the ABVP protested against the event and termed it ‘anti-national’ as pro-Kashmiri slogans were allegedly raised during the demonstration.
The ABVP subsequently organized protest demonstrations against what it termed as ‘anti-nationalism’ both in JNU and in Delhi University. Significantly, the BJP leader from East Delhi, Maheish Girri, filed complaints with the police along with the ABVP on Thursday, 11th February, that led to Kanhaiya Kumar being arrested this morning. The NDTF, the teachers’ wing of the BJP in Delhi University also gave a call in tandem with the ABVP against “Anti India and pro Pakistan/ pro Jehadi/ pro -Naxal activities” in JNU. In another incident, S.A.R Geelani, lecturer -Delhi University, was booked for sedition for a speech delivered at the Press Club on 10th February during the course of a similar event.
The arrests it may be noted have been expedited by the explicit sanction given to the Delhi Police by the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh to take strong action against the organizers and participants of both these events. Judging by the speed of the police actions against Kanhaiya Kumar and SAR Geelani, PUDR wishes to strongly underscore the following points:
1. Afzal Guru was secretly hanged in February 2013. Terming a protest demonstration which takes place three years after as anti-national is not only vindictive but also proof of the growing fascist definitions of nationalism propagated by the BJP through its students’ and teachers’ wings.
2. The JNU authorities’ assertion that it believes in debate and dissent is ridiculous as it could have easily contained the altercation internally. After the altercation, it has deliberately chosen to make the technical point of permission into a political matter.
3. The comments by the Union Home Minister underline the fact that the Central Government’s partisan interest in upholding the ABVP’s viewpoint. In the Rohith Vemula case, students have repeatedly demanded action against the Vice Chancellor and the Union HRD Minister. Why did it not agree then? It is significant to remember that in the Hyderabad incident, the matter was first politicized by its MP, Bandaru Dattatreya, when approached by ABVP Hyderabad University unit president Susheel Kumar in August 2015, who levelled similar allegations of “extremist and anti-national” activities against students belonging to the Ambedkar Student’s Association.
4. The promptness shown by the police in using the sedition clause in the JNU case is proof of its partisan nature. While the colonial nature of the sedition clause of the IPC is obsolete and should be struck down, its continuous use against critics of the government, is an alarming instance of the coercive nature of the state machinery. The fact that the FIR is registered against ‘unknown persons’ leaves scope for further arrests in the coming days.
5. Since the BJP and the ABVP have assumed that they alone are the custodians of nationalism, how do they defend the essence of Art. 19 of the Constitution, that deals with freedom of speech and association? This is a serious question and one which demands a debate: the definition of dissent and its role in democracy.
In the light of the above PUDR demands:
a. Immediate Release of the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar
b. Quashing of FIR and withdrawal of Sedition charges against unknown persons and S. A. R Geelani.
Moushumi Basu, Deepika Tandon
Secretaries, PUDR (pudr pudr.org)
12th February, 2016