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.
The other accused include Kashmiri students Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rasool and Bashir Bhat.
Former vice president of the students’ union Shehla Rashid, Communist Party of India leader D Raja’s daughter Aprajita Raja, and student leaders Rama Naga, Ashutosh Kumar and Banojyotsna Lahiri are among 36 people named in column 12 of the chargesheet because of insufficient evidence against them, PTI reported.
Kumar, Khalid and Bhattacharya were arrested in February 2016 on sedition charges for their involvement in a protest in which several students allegedly shouted anti-national slogans. The protest, which was against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, had led to outrage by Hindutva groups.
Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Anand will consider the chargesheet on Tuesday, The Indian Express reported. It has been filed under Section 124A (sedition), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 465 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 149 (unlawful assembly with common object), 147 (rioting), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, according to News18.
In a statement, the Delhi Police said they have sent names of 10 persons to court and have requested that the trial be started.
Kumar, who was a member of the Communist Party of India’s students’ wing All India Students Federation, questioned the timing of the move, asking why the chargesheet was filed right before the elections, according to Times Now. He claimed it was vendetta politics and a political conspiracy.
“If the news is true that a chargesheet has been filed, I would like to thank police and Modi ji,” ANI quoted him as saying. “The filing of chargesheet after three years, ahead of elections clearly shows it to be politically motivated. I trust the judiciary of my country.”
Khalid and Bhattacharya issued a statement sarcastically thanking the Narendra Modi-led government and the Delhi Police for filing the chargesheet just three months before the General Elections.
“Lying is an art,” the statement read. “It’s not enough to just lie. One also has to time it well. A sense of timing, of placement, is what makes one a master liar. And of course, one also needs to stage one’s own cheerleaders who would celebrate each of one’s lies. That is the role of most of the media today under this regime.”
The two former student leaders claimed that the people of the country have prepared a “chargesheet” against the “anti-people, anti-poor and communal government” of the BJP. “They [the government] need to bury their failures under these lies,” the statement added.
Khalid and Bhattacharya said they have not read the chargesheet, but if media reports were true, they reject the accusations levelled agains them. “In a way, it is good that the matter will finally move to the actual court room after almost three years of media trials,” the statement added. The two said they would be proven innocent in court, after which they would “take to task” all media houses that spread falsehoods against them.
D Raja said the charges were politically motivated and nobody can accused his party’s students’ wing of any anti-national activity. “There is nothing to prove, our students cannot indulge in such activities and the government cannot slap sedition charges on them,” ANI quoted him as saying. “We will fight the case in the court.”
Meanwhile, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union said it “stands in solidarity” with every student who has been accused in this “bogus case”. The students’ body claimed that the chargesheet was “a clear case of vendetta and well-planned instruction from the Prime Minister’s Office to whip up a frenzy”.
“We are 100% sure that such kind of trumped up charges would be quashed by the courts and our fellow students will be cleared of all charges,” it said. “The country is witnessing the brazen display of power, with raids being conducted on prominent leaders of the opposition to the use of sedition against students. We believe this only reflects the sheer desperation of the Modi government, whose time is coming to an end. However no such actions will stop us from continuing to oppose this regime and we are confident that truth will prevail in this matter.”