Hundreds of teachers and students gathered outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administrative block Saturday demanding the immediate release of JNU students’ union (JNUSU) President Kanhaiya Kumar arrested on sedition charges, and withdrawal of police from the university campus.
Besides the JNU community, senior leaders such as Sitaram Yechury, Rahul Gandhi, D Raja, Ajay Maken, Anand Sharma, Yogendra Yadav and Anand Kumar were also present at the solidarity meeting.
The JNUSU has given a call for an indefinite university strike from Monday till Kanhaiya is released. The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has also decided not to hold classes Monday when Kumar will be produced in court, said sources.
Earlier in the day, some of them met university Chancellor K Kasturirangan.
Addressing the crowd, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said he had asked Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to set up a magisterial inquiry to probe the authenticity of the evidence under which the students were being charged. Soon after, Kejriwal announced he had set up the inquiry.
“I cannot believe that JNU students, teachers and karamcharis can be anti-nationals. This battle will not only continue in campus, but also outside the campus in Parliament,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi too spoke out against JNU being branded anti-national, “These are the same people who called Rohith (Vemula) anti-national…,” he said, adding that this was an attempt by right-wing forces to sideline the Vemula issue. “They thought that by crushing you, they are destroying Vemula. But they don’t know that they are making you stronger,” he added.
Gandhi was shown black flags and slogans were raised against him by ABVP activists. The activists continued to raise slogans throughout the meeting.
CPI leader D Raja said the attack on JNU was an attack on the “constitutional idea of India”. He also said that he was getting threats from anonymous numbers.
“The RSS and its wings don’t have any moral right to speak about nationalism. We don’t believe in Hindutva nationalism, but we stand for a democratic republic, according to the Constitution. The attack on JNU is an attack on the constitutional idea of India,” he said.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said senior advocate Prashant Bhushan also promised to fight on Kanhaiya’s behalf. “They (ABVP) have picked the wrong university for their politics because students will not sit still here,” said Yadav.
Earlier in the day, a group of teachers had met Kasturirangan. An official communication from the university said, “He expressed concern… and appreciated the quick response by the vice-chancellor and his team in dealing with the matter and setting up an inquiry committee.” Sources, however, said teachers were not satisfied with his non-commitment on withdrawing police forces from campus.