The arrest, release and re-arrest in as many days of three engineering students from Kashmir studying at KLE Institute of Technology, in Karnataka’s Hubbali, on charges of sedition has come in for criticism from Opposition Congress and JD(S) leaders.
Sources in police and ruling BJP said that the three were initially released by Hubbali police following pressure from certain quarters in the state government, as the institution is part of a chain run by the KLE Group, belonging to BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Prabhakar Kore.
Basit Aashiq Sofi, Talib Majeed and Amir Mohiuddin Wani were arrested on Saturday on charges of sedition and promoting enmity in a case registered over a selfie video, where they allegedly seemed to sing along to a song with the words “Pakistan Zindabad”. The three were released on Sunday on grounds of lack of evidence, leading to protests against the police by Hindutva outfits such as Bajrang Dal. This led to their re-arrest on Monday.
But this has led to questions about selective application of law by the government from opposition party leaders. “Who ordered the police to release those accused of being anti-nationals without producing them in court? The BJP needs to answer this,’’ JD(S) member Basavaraj Horatti said in Legislative Council on Tuesday.
State Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao said, “Those who raised ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans have been released on bail, and now they have been arrested again due to pressure from right-wing groups. Is this child’s play?’’
“They file sedition cases against whoever they want and no cases against others. They (students) were released initially just because they study at a college owned by a BJP MP,’’ said Congress leader and former state minister U T Khader, who is accused in a sedition case in Mangaluru for a speech at an anti-CAA rally.
A police officer said on conditions of anonymity, “We did not want their lives to be spoilt on account of the case. We also did not have sufficient evidence initially. There were fears that the case could mar the college’s image since the complaint was also filed by the college authorities.”
College principal Basavaraj Emami, who filed the complaint, has denied executing a bond allowing the students’ release without being presented in court, as required in cases which entail punishment of more that seven-year imprisonment.
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said: “They were released on execution of a bond. We have sought a report from police on their release. We will take action based on the report. We will take action against all anti-nationals as per law. The youths were arrested and presented in court. There is no question of releasing them.”
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