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FIR was filed against the former JNU students for allegedly raising anti-national slogans at an event organized to protest hanging of Afzal Guru

Nearly three years after an FIR was filed against them for allegedly raising anti-national slogans at an event, the Delhi Police, on Monday (January 14), filed its chargesheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid, Anirban Bhattacharya and some 30 others, slapping charges of sedition against them.

The event, in connection with which the FIR was filed, had been organized in the JNU campus on February 9, 2016, apparently to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The FIR states that “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised at the event by Kumar and others. The police claims it has relied on “forensic evidence, testimonies of other students, videos from the event and news reports about it,” to arrive at the conclusion that sedition charges can be invoked against the accused.

Kumar was the president of the JNU Students’ Union when the FIR was filed. He, along with Khalid and Bhattacharya, was also arrested in connection with the case when the FIR was first filed but all three were later let out on bail.

The controversy over the FIR against Kumar, Khalid and Rashid had thrust the three students to instant stardom of sorts, giving them a youth icon status and making them faces of the resistance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP’s alleged crackdown on dissent, particularly in educational institutions. Protests had also erupted across educational campuses in the country against the persecution of Kumar and his fellow students. Ever since, Kumar and Rashid have been regulars at many public events organized to speak against the alleged tyranny of the Modi government and its efforts to muzzle criticism of any sort.

Interestingly, it has taken almost three years for the Delhi Police to finalise its chargesheet against the youth leaders. That the filing of the chargesheet comes months before the Lok Sabha poll campaign is expected to give the Opposition as well as Kumar and his comrades a chance to scream political vendetta. Sources say besides Kumar, Khalid, Bhattacharya and Rashid, sedition charges have also been slapped against Aparajita, daughter of CPI leader D Raja.

Kumar has already declared his willingness to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from a constituency in Bihar as an independent candidate supported by the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress party and other smaller political outfits in Bihar. It is being speculated that Rashid too could mark her electoral debut from a constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, either in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls or the assembly elections in the state that is currently under President’s Rule and will go to the hustings in April-May.

On Monday, while Kumar said he had no information on whether the chargesheet had been filed or not, he told reporters: “all of these, starting from the Citizenship Amendment Bill to the 10 percent quota act to now this charge, are being brought at the same time to coincide with the election. Why was so much time taken to file a chargesheet for sedition? I can see a complete lack of seriousness on the part of the Narendra Modi-government regarding everything.”

Taking a swipe at Modi and the Delhi Police, which comes under Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Kumar said: “If the news is true that a chargesheet has been filed, I would like to thank police and Modi Ji. The filing of chargesheet after 3 years, ahead of elections clearly shows it to be politically motivated. I trust the judiciary of my country.”

As per news agency ANI, the Delhi Police has filed a voluminous 1200 page chargesheet slapping charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124A 323, 465, 471,143, 149, 147, 120B, against the former students. The Patiala House Court, where the chargesheet has been filed, is expected to hear the case on Tuesday (January 15).

—India Legal Bureau

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