law and order

In court complex where Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked, police say they can now tackle any situation

A year after the Patiala House Court incident, police and lawyers say security at the complex has been heightened.

In February last year, the Delhi Police came under criticism for standing by as a mob assaulted students, professors and journalists gathered at the Patiala House Court, where then Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested in a sedition case, was to be brought for remand proceedings. Just a little over a year later, the city police went a step ahead when they not only failed to control violent clashes between student groups in and around Delhi University’s Ramjas College but also reportedly participated in them.

Despite their poor show at Ramjas, police officials insist that the probability of a similar mob attack breaking out at the Patiala House Court when the sedition case is next take up for hearing is close to zero.

Mob memories

In February last year, three JNU students – Umar Khalid, Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya – were arrested in a sedition case after members of the Right wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad accused them of chanting anti-national slogans during an event on campus. On February 15, a mob that included several lawyers attacked students, professors and media persons who had gathered at the Patiala House Court, where Kumar was to be brought. Some fellow laywers were also beaten up. Violent scenes were reportedly witnessed inside the court room too, despite heavy police deployment in the Patiala House complex. A repeat of this was seen on February 17, when a group of lawyers assaulted Kumar while being brought to court.

A year later, the Delhi Police, who were heavily criticised after the assaults, claim that they have increased security measures at the court complex and maintain that such an incident will not take place again.

“At Patiala House Court, we have intensified security in the past one year, which is regularly monitored by senior officials,” Special Commissioner and Delhi Police Spokesperson Dependra Pathak told Scroll.in. “We are ready to deal with any situation.”

Senior lawyers at Patiala House Court said security arrangements at the complex – including increased deployment and equipment such as a baggage scanners and CCTV cameras – has been at an unprecedented level since last February’s violence, which they insisted was a one-off.

“The possibility of something terribly wrong happening can never be ruled out,” said advocate Manoj Taneja, who has been practicing at this court for more than 26 years now. “What matters are the arrangements and strategies of the security apparatus to deal with such situations. And the picture now seems to be much better than what it was till one year ago. There is no reason for lawyers to feel unsafe.”

R K Wadhwa, who was the president of the New Delhi Bar Association when the Patiala House Court incident took place, said that over the past year, there has been “tremendous change” in the security arrangements in the court complex. “The police have definitely learnt a lesson after the February incident in the court last year which has led to much higher police presence in the court,” he said. “I believe that now the police are in a position to handle any unexpected situation much better than what they did in 2016. Lawyers are safe.”

Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.
Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.

Nationalism debate

Scroll.in also spoke to the three lawyers – Vikram Chauhan, Yashpal Singh and Om Sharma – who had been chargesheeted for their alleged role in Patiala House assault last year. The three, who are yet to receive court summons, did not speak about last year’s incident as the matter is sub-judice.

According to Singh, the events in JNU last year had led to a “wave” of nationalism across the country. “This is a good thing,” he said. “And later we witnessed the Supreme Court guideline on National Anthem too. But there was a negative impact too. We have witnessed the anti-India rhetoric being dragged with regard to several issues, including the Kashmir issue, in universities across the country. There is also a wave of dissent – like protests even against the guideline of standing for the national anthem. Such subjects are not meant for debates.” The apex court in November said it was mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screenings, and that moviegoers must stand up for when it is played.

Sharma, meanwhile, said he had done nothing wrong. “I will boycott all those who speak against the country,” he said. “I have not done anything wrong and I have full faith in the judicial system.”

Chauhan said he was a a victim of media trial. “If an entire group shouting slogans against the integrity of India inside a courtroom is not considered a crime, why should I be treated like a criminal for chanting slogans in praise of mother India?” he asked. “There is nothing wrong in anti-nationals getting beaten up for the things they say.”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.