The Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet naming student activists Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya in a sedition case from 2016.
Kumar was the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union at the time of the incident, which had become a national flashpoint in 2016.
Delhi Police have cited both oral and electronic evidence to press sedition and other charges against Kumar. The police possess video footage where Kumar “is seen leading the students, who were raising anti-national slogans (sic.)”, the chargesheet says.
Kumar, the chargesheet alleges, had received a text message from co-accused Umar Khalid asking him to arrive at Sabarmati Dhaba in the university campus after the permission for an event to commemorate the anniversary of the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was cancelled by the university administration.
The chargesheet was filed by Delhi Police’s anti-terrorism wing Special Cell at the Patiala House Court on Monday, almost three years after the incident took place.
Senior police officials said that Kumar cannot be seen directly indulging in sloganeering in any of the video footage.
At least one of these videos was acquired from television channel Zee News, which was accused of broadcasting doctored videos in connection with the event.
Other videos have been obtained from eye-witnesses, officials said. Some of these witnesses, who are visible in the videos, have testified against Kumar, these officials said. These testimonies were recorded both by the police and the court under relevant sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
With elections around the corner, concerns have been expressed about the timing of the chargesheet, particularly because it leaves many unanswered questions. For instance:
How does Kumar receiving a message from Khalid substantiate the charge of sedition?
In the video footage in possession of the police, what was Kumar seen doing? In what way was he allegedly leading students who were involved in sloganeering?
It is not clear from the chargesheet what exactly the phone records show. At what point of time was Kumar’s phone located at the place of occurrence of the incident – before sloganeering, during sloganeering or during clashes between student groups after the sloganeering?
These questions become relevant because Kumar has maintained that he had rushed to the spot when other students informed him about the clashes. As the students’ union president, he had to make efforts to stop these clashes, he has consistently said.
The police, on the other hand, has not been forthcoming about the sequence of events concerning Kumar’s role in the incident. Kumar was also not mentioned as an organiser of the event, the permission for which was cancelled by the JNU administration.
So far, there is also no mention of the doctored videos that were allegedly shown by some news channels, which had led to the political firestorm, let alone pressing charges against the people behind those videos.
Delhi Police have, however, maintained that the videos related to the probe have got nothing to do with those aired by news channels. They claimed to have recovered raw footage from channels and sent to forensic laboratory all video clips recovered from eye witnesses.
In short, all videos examined by the police and mentioned in the chargesheet are genuine, the police officials, who did not want to be identified, said.
Other than Kumar, nine other persons have been charged with sedition, unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal conspiracy. These include former JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, who too were arrested in connection with the case, and seven Kashmiri students – two of whom are former JNU students, one is an independent journalist and the other four are students from other universities, including Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University.
Unlike Kumar’s case, the police have alleged that Khalid, Bhattacharya and the others were specifically seen engaging in sloganeering in the video footage available with the police.
The claims that the police checked their mobile phone locations. Pamphlets of the Afzal Guru event allegedly recovered from the computers of Khalid and Bhattacharya are also cited as evidence. Both Khalid and Bhattacharya’s names were mentioned as organisers of the event in the concerned pamphlets. Six more persons were named in the pamphlets – Anjali Kumari, Anwesha Chakraborty, Bhawna Bedi, Rubina Saife, Samar Khan and Reyazul Haque.
In Khalid’s case the police have also cited call detail records suggesting that he got in touch with Kumar, Bhattacharya and three of the Kashmiri co-accused. There are witnesses who have testified against Khalid, Bhattacharya and five of the seven Kashmiri men charged with sedition.
Khalid has also been charged for forgery with allegedly signing on behalf of Bhattacharya and another student whose name was mentioned in the performa for booking venues in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Other 36 named
In addition to Kumar and the above nine, the police have also named 36 individuals in the chargesheet against whom they said they do not have adequate evidence at this stage, thus suggesting that a supplementary chargesheet could later be filed in connection with the case.
Of the 36 names mentioned, there is no video or documentary evidence against 22. Their names only came up during interrogation of other accused persons and witness statements. These against whom there is no evidence include Mohit Kumar, the university students’ union leader who succeeded Kanhaiya Kumar, Communist Party of India leader D Raja’s daughter Aparajitha and activist Shehla Rashid, who was then the vice-president of JNU students’ union.
Of the remaining 14, six are persons whose named were mentioned as organisers of the event in the pamphlets but the police said that they could not be seen chanting slogans in the videos. They were not even named by any of the eye-witnesses and, hence, their presence in the location of occurrence of the event is also in doubt.
The names of eight others have cropped up in statements to the police. Out of them, one was spotted carrying a poster of Afzal Guru but was not seen among those chanting slogans. Two, including former student union member Rama Naga, were only seen present at the spot but were not involved in sloganeering. Five, including student leader Ashutosh Kumar, were spotted by eye-witnesses and caught in videos while indulging in sloganeering but those slogans, the police said, were not seditious in nature.
The police have so far pressed no charges against the 36 but have mentioned their names in the chargesheet.