Two days after Uttar Pradesh Police booked 14 Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students, including current and former office-bearers of the student’s union, on sedition charges, the police on Thursday said there is “no prime evidence regarding sedition in this case”.
The development comes after the police investigated video evidence and photographs.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s (BJYM) Aligarh unit president Mukesh Lodhi had alleged that slogans such as “Pakistan Zindabad” and “Bharat Murdabad” were raised on the campus on February 12.
But police said the allegation did not hold ground, and indicated the charges “may be dropped” on “further investigation”.
BJYM is the youth wing of BJP.
On Thursday, Aligarh SSP Aligarh Akash Kulhary told The Indian Express: “There is no prime evidence regarding sedition in this case. We have identified 17 people, of whom five are outsiders, involved in violence that took place on the campus (on Tuesday). We have forwarded their names to the AMU administration, along with a list of 15 complaints sent by the complainants.” These, he said, will be clubbed into a single FIR after the AMU administration conducts an internal inquiry.
Asked why police filed the sedition charge immediately, but took two days to act on complaints by AMU office-bearers and others, Kulhary said, “When sedition allegations were made, we were bound to register an FIR. But in this case, there are 15 complaints. I cannot register 15 FIRs, and communicated this to AMU. We have suggested rustication of the accused.”
The varsity administration said eight students have already been suspended, pending inquiry. “There will be a thorough inquiry. Our university stands for nation-building…,” AMU’s public relations officer Omar Peerzada said.
According to officials, a series of incidents led to Tuesday’s violence. These involve a fight between two BTech students from the same hostel the night before, a meeting of several Muslim outfits at the Social Science faculty conference hall, where AIMIM Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi was to be present, and an altercation with Republic TV new channel’s cameraperson and reporters.
The campus, though, has been at a boiling point for the last several weeks, after BYJM’s Lodhi and Ajay Singh, grandson of Dalveer Singh, BJP MLA from Barauli in Aligarh, started demanding construction of a temple on campus. This was precipitated by a failed attempt to carry out a Tiranga Rally, organised Ajay on January 22, after the AMU administration denied permission for “a bike rally on a working day”.
“They denied me permission for the Tiranga Rally. Hindu students complained that they were discriminated, and we demanded a temple on campus. There is nothing communal in that,” Ajay told The Indian Express.
Ajay, who unsuccessfully contested the AMU president’s post last year, subsequently planned a protest against the gathering of Muslim outfits on campus. “It was a gathering of the Muslim front and we objected to it. Before that, one of our colleagues was beaten up in (that) hostel,” he said.
But AMU president Salman Imtiyaz maintained that the programme was a meeting of 20 Muslim organisations to discuss “politics, economic condition of the country, and strategies for the Lok Sabha elections”.
Lodhi claimed it was “a gathering of terrorist sympathisers”.
Multiple witnesses to Tuesday’s incident and AMU administration officials told The Indian Express that an argument between some students and Republic TV journalists snowballed into a mass gathering of students led by Ajay, who allegedly cornered the registrar’s office. Student’s union secretary Huzaifa Amir Rashadi then led a group of students to demand that the Proctorial staff should check the crowd’s identification cards, inviting heated exchanges.
There are two narratives that emerge thereafter. The sedition FIR says Lodhi was passing through the university when he saw the scuffle and was shot at while trying to intervene. Rashadi’s complaint to the AMU administration stated a mob of 25, led by Ajay, Aman Sharma (MSc Chemistry student) and Sonwar Singh (M Tech), assaulted them, and later “some people from the mob opened fire” at them.