JNU students lead march for Kanhaiya Kumar’s release, protest sedition lawhttps://indianexpress.com/photos/picture-gallery-others/jnu-students-protest-march-against-kanhaiya-kumars-arrest/

JNU students lead march for Kanhaiya Kumar’s release, protest sedition law

JNU students began their march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in protest against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and the ‘gagging of freedom of speech’ by the government.

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The police came first Thursday, the students later, backed by several groups including teachers, artists and citizens for a march to demand release of JNU students’ union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and retraction of charges against other students.

Those who turned up for the march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar described it as one to reclaim the soul of democracy. The numbers were too many for Jantar Mantar and the destination ended up being Parliament Street. Police personnel arrived at about 12.30 pm for the march scheduled to start at 2 pm.

Delhi Police personnel at Parliament Street, minutes before hundreds of JNU students, teachers, artists and leaders marched into the area Thursday. (Express Photo Tashi Tobgyal)

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More than 10 buses lined the main campus road to take students to the march. The numbers swelled as various groups went from one hostel to another, beating drums, singing songs and exhorting students to stand with JNU. As the first batch of students left the campus in six packed buses, they waved the Tricolour and urged passersby to stand with JNU. Soon, more buses were procured. Nearly each student carried a flower, to give to anyone who objected to their protest.

(Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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People started gathering at Mandi House at the designated time. As the anticipation built up, JNU students reached Barakhamba Road in several buses at about 3 pm and the crowd surged. Several police battalions were on guard at the Mandi House circle and police vehicles patrolled Bhagwan Das Road and Barakhamba Road. More personnel were radioed in before the march. Police came equipped with anti-riot gear, tear gas shells, lathis and shields. On standby was a water cannon.

(Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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The march began and chants rose, decrying the sedition law under which the JNUSU president has been charged.

Students said slapping the sedition law on campuses was the biggest disservice to higher education and free thought. Placards were out in full strength.

“Killers of Rohith, Go back”, “First FTII, then IIT-Madras, then HU and now JNU” and “Kanhaiya wadh karega, Kansa ka (referring to a scene from Hindu mythology where Krishna slays his evil uncle)” were among them.

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Youngsters sang, clapped to drums and chanted as they marched. Many were in t-shirts carrying the words “Mera Yaar Kanhaiya” with an image of the arrested JNUSU president. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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Members of the AISF, CPI and the JNUSU offered them to anyone who wanted to express their solidarity with Kumar, who has been arrested on charges of sedition.

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Students alleged Kanhaiya was being targeted for raising concerns about the Centre’s policies. “He (Kanhaiya) was at the forefront of the Occupy UGC movement. This is why he is being targeted by the government,” said a student of Ambedkar University. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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The crowd converged on Parliament Street at about 4.30 pm. Shortly thereafter, JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid spoke to the gathering”. “We see before us people from all walks of life. This is the support we have. We are innocent, JNU is innocent. Stop tarnishing the image of our institution." (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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Many pointed to the resignation of three ABVP leaders of JNU and suggested it was “proof that more and more people are deserting the ranks of the government”. Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said, “This government is trying to stifle dissent… We argue, we debate, we dissent, we are JNU.” (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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Dalip Jaiswal, a member of AISF, said, “Kanhaiya was at the forefront of the ‘Occupy UGC’ movement, which is perhaps one of the most crucial student movements of our times. His imprisonment is completely unconstitutional and we see him as a strong voice against the government’s faulty policies. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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“The protest is about a lot more than Kanhaiya. But the charges against him are baseless. Many of us know him and his speech only reiterates the fact that there was nothing seditious. This t-shirt represents our opposition to his imprisonment. The longer this lasts, the more people you’ll see wearing these t-shirts,” said another student. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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The march stayed peaceful, with security personnel busying themselves with guiding traffic through Connaught Place and strolling alongside. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

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Several JNU students came armed with roses, both red and white, and carried the Tricolour to present to people if they faced violence. (Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)