Triggering another controversy amid the protests over the police action at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday claimed that the “JNU incident” was supported by Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.
Singh was referring to the protest march held against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on February 9, at which anti-India slogans were allegedly raised. Three days later, JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition.
“I also want to make it clear that the JNU incident has the support of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. We should also understand this reality that Hafiz Saeed has supported this incident and it is extremely unfortunate,” said Singh, speaking to reporters in Allahabad.
“Never should have something been done which puts a question mark over the country’s sovereignty and integrity. On such occasions, the entire country should be speaking in one voice. I would also appeal to all political parties not to view such episodes through the prism of political gains and losses,” he said.
While a home ministry spokesperson said the “statements from the home minister are based on inputs available from different agencies”, opposition parties said Singh should provide “concrete” evidence to back his claim.
“The charge is very serious… The Government of India will have to give foolproof evidence. A mere statement dubbing the students as anti-national and having the support of Hafiz Saeed or LeT or any other foreign organisation, without any basis or proof, will prove disastrous for the government and the student fraternity across the country,” said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.
“The government and BJP must spell out whether only those associated with BJP, RSS and ABVP are nationalists and the rest are anti-nationals,” he said.
“We hope that he has concrete proof… Considering the gravity of the charge made by no less than the Union home minister, we would like him to share the evidence with the country… When we met the home minister yesterday, he never mentioned Hafiz Saeed to us, but only harped on the slogans being raised at the protests,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Asked if the issue would be raised in the coming Budget Session of Parliament, Azad said “naturally”. CPI leader D Raja also demanded that the evidence be made public.
In a series of tweets, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said: “That #HafizSaeed supported the #JNU protests is a very serious charge to level against the students. The evidence must be shared with all,” he said. “Cracking down on students & using #HafizSaeed to justify the crackdown is a new low, even for this NDA government.”
Singh’s statement comes a day after the Delhi Police tweeted an “alert” quoting a purported tweet from Hafiz Saeed that supported the JNU protests. The tweet from the handle @HafeezSaeedJUD said: “We ask our Pakistani Brothers to trend #SupportJNU for our pro-Pakistani JNUites brothers.” The handle is now being said to be a fake one — a parody account which has been suspended several times in the past but resurfaced with alterations.
“This is to alert & sensitise student community in JNU and across the country. Do not get carried away by such seditious and anti-national rhetoric. Abetment of any kind of anti-national activity is a punishable offence,” the Delhi Police had tweeted.
Asked whether the Delhi Police did due diligence before reacting, Sundari Nanda, Special Commissioner of Police (Operations), who supervises the Delhi Police’s Twitter handle, said: “Why should we bother about whether that tweet is authentic or not. If anyone makes such an account and tries to circulate such messages, it comes under an offence. And the purpose of that retweet was to just make people aware.”
In Allahabad, the home minister said, “Necessary instructions have been given (to the authorities concerned). I have made one thing clear, that those who are found guilty should face action but the ones who are not, should not be harassed at any cost… Whosoever targets the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the nation or tries to cause hurt at a scale which affects the country’s honour will not be forgiven at all.”
“I seek cooperation and support from all political parties & people from all walks of life to join hands in fight against anti-national forces,” he later tweeted.
[With PTI inputs]