The Latest: Top stories of the day
1. JNU standoff: The students camped inside will not surrender, while the Delhi Police bides its time before arresting them.
2. AAP leader Soni Sori is stable even as the Chhattisgarh Police denies a role in attacking her.
3. An aide of ex-Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was allegedly heard provoking Jat violence in an audio clip.
4. Violence in connection to the Jat quota agitation has started again, with three killed. The total death toll is now 19.
5. The Pampore encounter ends after 48 hours with three terrorists killed.
6. India has offered $1 million in assistance to cyclone-hit Fiji as the death toll rises to 29.
The Big Story: Hysteria>law
A sting operation by India Today has confirmed what a group of Supreme Court lawyers had found on February 18 – Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, now accused of sedition, was grievously assaulted by lawyers at the Patiala Court Complex.
The beating took place as the Delhi Police, responsible for protecting Kumar, watched. The lawyers ended the brutal beating by humiliating Kumar forcing him to shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, victory to mother India. In the end, Vikram Chauhan, a key organiser of the attack, satisfyingly recounted that the student had wet his trousers in terror.
As if this wasn’t enough, National Human Rights Commission has also accused the Delhi Police of pressuring Kumar to write a note to the nation decrying his so-called anti-nationalism. The NHRC also backed up the Supreme Court and the sting in describing the assault on Kumar as a planned conspiracy.
The authorities colluding in beating undertrial prisoners is a common occurrence in India but this is a new, despicable low. Kumar isn’t a person accused of violence or arson – he is a doctoral scholar at one of the country’s most prestigious universities. Hailing from the crushingly poor Begusarai in Bihar, Kumar had made it to Delhi to study International Affairs. In the capital of India, a young doctoral scholar is being assaulted with the full support of the state – let that sink in.
The charge of sedition against him, allegedly for shouting anti-national slogans during an event about Kashmir, is anachronistic in any democracy. Chillingly, in Kumar’s case, it might simply be based on manufactured evidence. Much of the case against him rests on video footage that many quarters are now calling doctored.
In a more logical world, these facts would have won the day. The weak case against Kumar, a commitment to free speech and a commitment to rule of law would have ensured outrage at what is being done to this young man. Instead, what we have is a strong, nationalistic silence.
But where does this anarchy end? How does one decide the validity of a charge of anti-nationalism? In Pakistan, the moral crime of blasphemy is often used as device to settle personal scores. Will the same happen with the anti-nationalism in India?
And what of Umar Khalid, another student camped at JNU waiting to be arrested by the Delhi Police? If this could happen to a Kanhaiya – in full glare of the nation’s media – what will happen to Khalid once he is in custody of the state?
The Big Scroll on the day's top story
Accused of sedition, six JNU students have been camped in the campus for 36 hours even as the Delhi Police stands impatiently outside the university gates. The student’s apprehensions are not without basis – after the assault on JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Delhi police chief Bassi had overturned standard norms of criminal jurisprudence publicly hinting that in this case, the presumption of innocence awarded to an accused does not exist.
And in this, the JNU vice chancellor, appointed a month ago by the Modi government, could do to learn a few things from Jadavpur on how to stand by his students.
Much of the uber nationalism sweeping the country is confined to apoplectic news anchors – the Indian Army itself faces a massive manpower crunch.
Politicking and policying
1. Narendra Modi is muzzling the voice of the Opposition, civil society and students, said Sonia Gandhi as the Congress passed a resolution accusing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of targeting educational institutions to impose its ideology on universities and colleges.
2. As both the court the Dalit vote, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejrwial visit a Ramdas Temple on the Dalit saint’s birth anniversary.
3. A non-political committee should decide on reservations, says Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, continuing the organisation’s efforts to rethink India’s Dalit and Adivasi affirmative action programme.
1. In a piece titled Umar Khalid, my son, Apoorvand writes in the Indian Express that to rebel is to affirm and renew ones humanity.
2. We need to be sceptical of reservation in higher education since it is a waste of resources, says Anjuli Bhargava in the Business Standard.
3. Ashok V Desai writing in the Telegraph conveys how the economy under Narendra Modi is faltering badly.
It’s a dangerous time when reporters are hounded for doing their job. It signals the State’s assault on the social contract that gave it right to govern, argues Saikat Datta, as the Delhi Police started to investigate journalists for simply covering the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition case.
The late night calls might perhaps have been seen as a routine examination had they not come against the background of the JNU sedition case, in which the sloganeering of a handful of students has spiralled out of control, forcing us to examine the very nature of the relation between the citizen and the state.
In democracies, citizens empower their governments through votes, appointing them the sovereign authority to govern and administer and ensure that citizens can progress and prosper. Part of an elected government’s responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the citizens and the state, so that industry, arts, culture can progress. And as part of that social contract to provide security, the state has to sometimes take on powers that give it limited rights to intrude into the private lives of citizens. However, if there aren’t enough safeguards, these powers can become dangerous to the very citizens that the state has been mandated to protect. The danger may not be very apparent, but it exists, corroding away the democratic tenets for long before the collapse becomes visible.