Delhi court on Monday, 15th March began sedition proceedings against former JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya five years after they became synonymous with dissent against the ruling BJP and their university captured the public imagination as the fulcrum of this resistance.
The case stems from the events of February 9, 2016, when Khalid, Bhattacharya and others had organised a “poetry reading” session titled “The country without a post office”, after Agha Shahid Ali’s poem of the same name. It was meant to mark the third anniversary of the execution of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Apart from sedition, the charges the 10 accused face include voluntarily causing hurt, forgery, unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal conspiracy. The police filed the case on complaints from the ABVP and then BJP parliamentarian Maheish Girri, and later transferred it to their anti-terror unit’s special cell.
All 10 accused were in court on Monday. They included former JNU students Mujeeb Gattoo and Khalid Bashir Bhat; former Jamia Millia Islamia students Umair Gul (now a university teacher in Pulwama) and Basharat Ali, now a journalist; Aligarh Muslim University student and Gattoo’s brother Muneeb; dentist Aqueeb Hussain; and rights activist Rayees Rasool.
The same Patiala House Courts where Monday’s hearing took place had seen men wearing black coats attack teachers, journalists and activists on February 15, 2016, and beat up Kanhaiya in the presence of police two days later.
However, None of the 2016 attackers, who allegedly included then BJP MLA O.P. Sharma, has faced prosecution although the violence took place on court premises in a high-security zone near India Gate.
Kanhaiya, Khalid and Bhattacharya spent several weeks in Tihar jail before securing bail and becoming public speakers and activists for free speech and secularism
By Monday the trio had aged beyond their years, with strands of white hair, and the shadow of the case had prevented them from pursuing teaching careers despite their having earned PhDs. Kanhaiya is now a national council member of the CPI, Khalid has been in Tihar prison for the past six months on terror charges in connection with a speech linked to the Delhi riots, and Bhattacharya works for a think tank.
No Jail is big enough to cage the spirit of resistance, no prison powerful enough to diminish the humanity of young activists like Umar Khalid, Anirban and Kanhaiya
News Source – The Telegraph