Politics

JNU ‘Sedition’ Case: What happened, the 1200 page chargesheet and Afzal Guru

Srinagar: Seven Kashmiris have been named in the chargesheet for an incident that took place in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi on February 9, 2016. The case is regarding the protests that were organised in the campus, on the day of the anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging.

Seven Kashmiris, the then President of the JNUSU Kanhaiya Kumar, student activists Omar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and others have been charged with sedition.

The Kashmiris named are Aqueeb Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain Gattoo, Muneeb Hussain Gattoo, Umar Gul, Rayees Rassol, Bashir Bhat and Basharat Ali.

The court has said that it will consider the charges on January 19.

The Delhi Police on Monday filed a 1,200 page charge sheet with their names in it based on electronic evidence, statements of students and security guards.

All the ten, have been charged under sections: 124 A, 323, 465, 471, 143, 149, 147 and 120 B of Indian Penal Code i.e., Sedition, Voluntarily causing hurt, Forgery, Fraudulently using a forged document as genuine, Unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal conspiracy.

What happened 

On February 9, 2016, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) held a protest in the campus against the capital punishment meted out to the 2001 Indian Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, and Kashmiri Resistance leader Maqbool Bhat.

The organizers of the event were former members of the Democratic Students Union.

The event was held despite the University administration withdrawing permission for the event shortly before it was due to begin, due to protests by members of the Hindu nationalist student union ABVP.

The event saw clashes between various student groups. A small group of individuals, whom a later investigation described as ‘outsiders’ entered the University wearing masks, shouted “anti-India” slogans.

The slogans were criticized by many individuals, including political leaders and students of JNU.

The then JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested by the Delhi police and charged with sedition after four days. His arrest was criticised by the many scholars. Investigations of the incident was carried out by the Delhi government and the University administration both.

In a letter submitted by Bupinder Zutishi, Registrar JNU, to the case’s Enquiry Officer, he mentions that he had seen a pamphlet regarding the event while he was in his office with, Kumar and Rama Naga who according to the letter were there to discuss the bus route for disabled students.

He had asked them if they were holding the event and they had denied. “But a group of DSU students whose name was written at the end of the pamphlet were.”

The 1,200 page Chargesheet

Kumar and other accused students have been identified by witnesses in a video. Apart from the oral evidence including a statement of witnesses, documentary evidence: Name in FIR Administrative action by Chief Proctor suspending him for his role in the event have been mentioned in the sheet.

“Video footage wherein he is seen leading the students, who were raising anti-national slogans. SMSs sent by Umar Khalid to Kanhaiya Kumar to arrive at Sabarmati Dhaba. JNU as their permission has been cancelled by the JNU administration. SMS has been retrieved by RFSL, Location of the mobile phone at the place of occurrence,” the list of electronic evidence against Kumar opined by genuine forensic Labs read.

Khalid also has the same oral evidence against him.

“An original permission letter applied by him having his name and signatures and as per the CFSL report, he had forged the signature of Ashwathi and Anirbhan on original permission letter. His name was mentioned as an organizer on the pamphlet of Afzal Guru.”

Bhattacharya also was seen raising slogans according to the charge sheet. The documentary evidence against him is, “Original Performa for booking venues of JNU having his name and signatures, His name is mentioned as an organizer on the pamphlet.”

Moreover, he has been identified by the witnesses in the video. CERT-In experts have received the pamphlets from his email ID, his phone location and footage of him ‘raising and supporting anti-national slogans’ has also been mentioned in the charge sheet.

No Oral or documentary evidence have been mentioned against Aqueeb. However, in the column mentioning electronic evidence against him, it is written that he was identified by the professor, where he was studying.

Basharat Ali also has electronic evidence against him and has been identified by the witnesses in the video. “Video footage wherein they can be seen raising and supporting anti-national slogans; mobile phone location present in JNU at the time of the incident,” are the other evidence against them.

Mujeeb Hussian Gattoo, Umar Gul, Muneeb Hussain Gattoo, Rayees Rasool and Khalid Bashir Bhatt have the statement of P W Akhilesh Pathak U/S 161 CrPC and 164 CrPC regarding ‘anti-national slogans raised/supported’ by them, as the oral evidence against them. The video footages and their phone location also go against them.

36 others, including Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja’s daughter Aprajita, Shehla Rashid (then vice-president of the JNUSU), Rama Naga, Ashutosh Kumar and Banojyotsna Lahiri have been named in column 12 of the charge sheet due to insufficient evidence against them.

The hearing of the case was to be held on Tuesday.

However, the Patiala House Court adjourned the JNU sedition case till January 19. The matter was deferred after Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Sehrawat, who was supposed to take cognizance of the charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police went on leave.

Kanhaiya Kumar has called the move “politically motivated” and questioned its timing ahead of parliamentary elections. The incident actually has its roots in politics.

Who was Guru? 

Universities often become hubs of discussion about the happenings in the society, political or apolitical. Same was the case when the students had held the protest in JNU against the capital punishment meted out to the 2001 Indian Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, and Kashmiri resistance leader Maqbool Bhat.

It was the third anniversary of Guru who to many is a traitor and to many a martyr.

Afzal Guru had admitted to helping one of the Parliament attack suicide bombers for obtaining a car and renting a room. The attack never received any applaud from Kashmiris, electoral politicians or the Resistance camp.

Afzal Guru

Guru was a militant at a point in time. However, he had surrendered. Reportedly, “he was desperately trying to build a new life for himself.” He went to Delhi to finish his graduation (His dream of becoming a doctor was cut short by the insurgency in the 1990s).

In Kashmir and in Delhi, he supported himself by giving tutorials.

He had gotten married to Tabassum, a Kashmiri woman. He had started a business to look after his family. However, a Special Operations Group, an anti-insurgency force of Jammu and Kashmir Police wanted him to become an informer. Guru was reportedly tortured for refusing, and had been hospitalized for a month. The man who tortured him, admitted to his crime on Indian National Television.

According to Guru, someone from the Intelligence Agencies had asked him to escort Mohammad, one of the suicide bombers responsible for the Parliament Attack. On his arrest, he was denied a lawyer at the trial.

Many believe that although Guru was involved in the conspiracy, he could have escaped the death penalty as he was not the prime accused. The charge-sheet named three persons as the masterminds of the attack: Maulana Azhar, Ghazi Baba and Tariq Ahmed.

Four persons arrested in the case were not the masterminds. The only one to receive a death penalty among them was Guru.

His hanging was kept a secret even to his family by the Indian Government. The sentiments regarding Guru have always been strong- either against him or with him.

The JNU Controversy

A Delhi High Court bench headed by Justice Pratibha Rani gave bail to Kanhaiya Kumar after 23 days he spent in jail, on March 2. Justice Rani lectured the students and faculty of JNU on patriotism and reminded them that the freedom they enjoy is because “our borders are guarded by our armed and paramilitary forces”.

“Our forces are protecting our frontiers in the most difficult terrain in the world i.e., Siachen Glacier or Raan of Kutch,” the justice was quoted as saying.

The controversy was discussed time and again.

On 10 February, the Members of the JNU branch of the ABVP, which has ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh  protested at the University, demanding the expulsion of the students who had organized the previous day’s event.

A day later the ABVP filed an official complaint with the JNU administration, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and the Delhi Police. The complaint referred to various leftist groups as “terrorists.”

Reactions

A new-age comedian Kunal Kamra invited the students and discussed the issue with them. In one of his performances, he tried to make a point that “These are just students, Inka Canteen Mai Udhari hai!”.

He also made it a point for people to realize that patriotism is not about covering the faults. It’s about addressing them. He profusely made fun of the “Siachen Mai Hamaray Jawan Lad Rahay Hain” statement.

“It cannot be an answer to every problem a nation faces,” he meant.

Meanwhile, the chargesheet has been criticized by the Kashmir’s pro India politicians as well as the Resistance camp.

PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti questioned the timing of filing of charge sheet and said that Kashmiris are being used to score political points ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) while condemned the charge-sheet against seven Kashmiri students in the 2016 sedition case said that for electoral gains, New Delhi is playing vindictive politics.

 

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