Amid the ongoing row over the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, people protesting in the downtown area of Srinagar were seen raising ‘Thank You JNU’ posters. What appeared shocking was that alongside these posters, people were also seen waving the ISIS flags.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Fierce clashes between security forces and locals erupted in Old Srinagar after Friday prayers. Several men, with their faces covered, were seen pelting stones at security forces.
Meanwhile in Delhi on February 18, thousands of students marched through the streets demanding the release of Kumar, who was arrested on sedition charges for allegedly chanting “anti-national” slogans at an event in the university.
The marchers carried flowers, placards and banners with the image of the arrested student, Kanhaiya Kumar, and accused the government of muzzling dissent and campus activism.
Students in Delhi played drums, sang songs and carried placards reading “Defend Free Speech, Defend Democracy” and “Just because I don’t agree, doesn’t mean I am an anti-national.” Others wore T-shirts reading “My Friend, Kanhaiya.”
After a week-long standoff between the government and the students and teachers of JNU in Delhi, protests have spread to several other Indian cities as well.
“We are not protesting just to save Kanhaiya Kumar. The battle is bigger than that,” said Seemi Zafar, a PhD student in social medicine at JNU.
Kumar was arrested because officials said he was present at a campus event where masked men shouted slogans about breaking up India into pieces.
On February 17, Kumar was sent to Tihar jail for fourteen days. His lawyers had sought bail on February 18, citing threat to his life in Tihar Jail. He would be kept in isolation for these fourteen days as authorities don’t want to take any chances.
In his bail petition, Kanhaiya said there is repeated breakdown of law and order at the Patiala House Courts despite directives of the apex court, making it impossible for him and his lawyers to approach the sessions court for bail. Earlier, eminent scholars and intellectuals from around the world, including philosopher Noam Chomsky, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, Columbia University professor Sheldon Pollock and filmmaker Mira Nair, issued a statement of “heartfelt solidarity” with the JNU students and faculty.
On February 19, a meeting chaired by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has decided that the national flag will be installed in every central university – “prominently and proudly” – on a 207-foot pole.
“At a central place at every university, the national flag will be flown prominently and proudly,” said a resolution unanimously passed at the conference of vice-chancellors of central universities. The first of these high mast flags will be installed at the JNU in New Delhi, sources said.