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Centre may bring demands for ‘azaadi’ under sedition law, hints Venkaiah Naidu

The Union minister said shouting ‘anti-national’ slogans at universities was an attempt ‘to create a divisive mindset, and we have the right to condemn it’.

Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said the central government was contemplating making the sedition law more stringent, indicating that calling for azaadi (freedom) would be covered under it. “If raising azaadi slogans is not treason, then I don’t know what is,” Naidu said in an interview to India Today.

“Azaadi” was made famous by former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, after his speech at the campus following his release from jail. He and two other students had been arrested on sedition charges for allegedly shouting “anti-national” slogans during a protest at the university, but was given a clean chit in the case on February 28.

In his interview to the television channel, Naidu said that such incidents in universities were an attempt “to create a divisive mindset, and we have the right to condemn it”. “The slogan of azaadi is followed by violence,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court verdict that only speech that is followed by violence immediately can be termed seditious, The Telegraph reported.

His statements come in light of a video submitted by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, in which students – believed to be from Delhi’s Ramjas College – can be seen shouting “Bastar wants azaadi”, “Kashmir wants azaadi’, “police should go back”, “we want azaadi” and “youth wants azaadi”. The authenticity of the video has not been ascertained.

The ABVP and Ramjas College have been at the centre of a controversy since February 21, when a seminar had to be cancelled after members of the outfit had protested against the participation of JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid Shora. Clashes broke out the following day between the members of All India Students Association and ABVP at Ramjas College.

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