On Kanhaiya: It is Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

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From fabricating a case to resorting to violence and peddling forged ‘evidence’, all those who have worked to ruin a young life must be brought to account.

Scenes from the massive demonstration taken out in central Delhi by students, teachers and workers in support of Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU Student Union president, on February 18. Credit: Shome Basu

Let Kanhaiya go! Protestors march in central Delhi on February 18. Credit: Shome Basu

Make no mistake, this is one of those moments when your children and grandchildren are going to ask you where you stood when cynical politicians, mercenary police bosses, thuggish lawyers, callous university administrators and rotten, corrupt journalists ganged up to destroy the life of a young man, Kanhaiya Kumar.

If this scenario sounds familiar, I have two words for you: Rohith Vemula. The country failed that student, driven to suicide by the false cases foisted on him by the corrupt men and women in authority who oversaw his life. The national remorse we felt then has evaporated in the heat of our present hyper-nationalist grandstanding.

Not satisfied with tormenting a student by helping to pin a concocted case on him, or by inciting vigilante violence against him with their incendiary coverage, Zee TV, NewsX and other channels like India News have gone a step further and broadcast a clearly doctored video clip purporting to show Kanhaiya shouting slogans in favour of Kashmir’s independence.

Most of us had never heard of Kanhaiya before the Delhi Police arrested him for sedition on February 12. He was charged with one of the most serious offences on the Indian statute books for an incident involving nothing more than the shouting of slogans on campus: An incident in which he played no direct role. An incident that a self-confident, democratic country should never have turned into a police matter.

Since then, Kanhaiya has been vilified by the Home Minister of India, by official spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party, by the Delhi police and black-coated thugs who masquerade as lawyers – and by television anchors. He has been violently assaulted inside court premises. “We have all the evidence we need,” Delhi police chief B.S. Bassi declared, while Rajnath Singh went one step further and sought to connect Kanhaiya to Pakistan-based terror groups on the basis of a Tweet from a parody account.

A young man India can be proud of

Those of us who tried to look for evidence of these grave charges against him, instead, discovered a vibrant young man who is anything but the “anti-national” of the Home Minister’s description.

I challenge you to watch video recordings of his speeches and not come away with the feeling that young Kanhaiya has better political sense and greater command over language than most of our national politicians and journalists. You don’t have to agree with his unabashedly left-wing politics and his pungent criticism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to recognise his passion and commitment to the people of India.

As a member of the All India Students Federation – the oldest extant student organisation in India, and an affiliate of the Communist Party of India, which has fought more general elections than any other party other than the Congress – he obviously could not support the demand for the “azadi”, or independence, of Kashmir. But he has the wisdom and political skill to know how to converse with advocates of that cause, and to seek to channel their demand for azadi into the wider struggles for dignity of the people of India. His azadi is the freedom for which all of India’s people yearn: azadi from hunger, azadi from feudalism, azadi from communalism.

Like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who put aside a narrow constitutionalism in order to talk to the advocates of azadi in the Hurriyat Conference when he was prime minister, Kanhaiya’s politics on campus embraces insaniyat (humanity) and insaf (justice). He is a patriot who knows his India is not so fragile that it will break into pieces because a handful of people on campus shout provocative slogans.

Listen carefully to Kanhaiya in this clip from a speech he made at JNU a day before the police arrested him:

What is he doing here? By anchoring the idea of freedom in rights that belong to all Indians equally, he is doing more to secure the future of the country – including its territorial boundaries – than those who treat every political challenge to the state as a military threat. Kanhaiya is challenging the superficial attraction that secessionism might have in Kashmir or elsewhere in a far more effective way than the state – which doesn’t seem capable of thinking beyond the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, sedition and other purely coercive methods.

I don’t know what is driving the Modi government’s insane persecution of this vibrant young man. Some argue that his arrest was, initially, the result of sheer incompetence. This theory is comforting, but the facts that have emerged since then make it harder and harder to believe.

Fabrication to forgery

Plainclothes ‘sleuths’ from the Delhi police were present at the February 9 meeting where Kanhaiya allegedly performed his seditious acts. Despite having been alerted by a complaint from the ABVP, the policemen noticed nothing untoward and took no action.

The next day, someone on campus provided cell phone footage of the slogan-shouting which had taken place to Zee TV, which went to town. The channel’s owner, Subhash Chandra, is very close to the RSS. Zee TV’s lead was quickly followed by Times Now and NewsX. For two days, the TV channels whipped up a frenzy; and on the morning of February 12, Rajnath Singh tweeted, “Whatever has happened in JNU is extremely unfortunate. I have instructed Delhi CP to take strong action against the anti-India elements.”

Later that day, Kanhaiya was arrested and charged with sedition. This is when Rajnath Singh tried to link Kanhaiya to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and a section of the media, presumably egged on by faceless intelligence officials,  made wild allegations against another young left-wing student, Umar Khalid, claiming that he was working for the Jaish-e-Muhammad.

All this while, the Delhi Police – which had acted under political pressure and done no proper investigation of its own – was frantically trying to obtain footage of the incident from TV channels, hoping to find a video clip on which they could hang their absurd allegations. They found nothing.

The blatant partisanship of Bassi became evident on February 15, when a BJP MLA, OP Sharma, was filmed viciously beating a CPI leader outside the Patiala House court, and a pro-BJP lawyer, Vikram Singh Chauhan, was also found attacking students. Instead of filing charges against them, Bassi claimed that the MLA had been attacked first. Sharma’s astonishing statement that he was even prepared to shoot dead someone accused of being “pro-Pakistan” has been endorsed by Sudhanshu Trivedi, the BJP’s national spokesman on live television. To date, no BJP leader has sought to distance the party from Sharma’s words and deeds, and no prosecution has been brought against Sharma for incitement to violence.

Two days later, despite clear instructions from the Supreme Court, the police allowed thugs to go on the rampage at the Patiala House court. Section 124A of the IPC defines sedition thus: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India,” commits sedition. The courts are a vital part of the Indian state and indulging in violence inside a court certainly “brings into … contempt” the government established by law. Yet it is Kanhaiya who faces sedition charges despite the absence of any evidence.

In order to salvage his tattered reputation, Bassi has been claiming that the police now have clinching evidence of Kanhaiya shouting anti-national slogans. Predictably, this ‘evidence’ soon found its way to TV channels like Zee,  NewsX and India News, whose anchors triumphantly rushed to broadcast it:

Times Now’s anchor, Arnab Goswami used the convenient device of asking BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra to show it on air:

Goswami can clearly be heard repeatedly asking Patra (from 22:50′ onwards) to “show the video, show the video.” When Patra shows it, he orders the Times Now camera to zoom in on it. “Show the video close by”, says Goswami. After the forgery is aired, Goswami declares triumphantly, “I can clearly him say, if that is indeed him in the video, I can clearly hear him say ‘leke rahenge aazadi’.” He then turns to a guest, Anand Kumar from JNU, and says, “If this video is correct, what are you going to say now?”.

As ABP News pointed out on Thursday, this clip is an edited version of the original clip we saw at the beginning of this article. Kanhaiya’s call for azadi from bhukhmari, samantvad, sanghvad etc. has been cleverly converted into a call for Kashmir’s azadi – something he never said.

When Kanhaiya is eventually released from jail and the charges against him are dropped – as they surely must – the Supreme Court must set up a Special Investigation Team to root out the criminals who fabricated this “evidence” and put it into circulation. The politicians and policemen responsible for this false and malicious prosecution must be arraigned and brought to justice. No one, not even Bassi, must be spared, if it is found that they played a role in the fabrication or its dissemination. The lawyers and BJP leaders who attacked students and teachers and journalists and others inside and outside the Patiala House court must be prosecuted. The lawyers should be debarred for life.

There is no criminal law that readily applies to the journalists who for the past ten days have engaged in the character-assassination of Kanhaiya Kumar, putting his very life in danger. Some of them have sons and daughters who are Kanhaiya’s age, and yet felt not a twinge of guilt in feeding a young man to rabid dogs. Let our contempt for them be their punishment. They are a disgrace to journalism—and to India.

Note: In an earlier note, The Wire accepted in good faith Arnab Goswami’s claim, made in a telephone call to Siddharth Varadarajan, that the channel had stopped Sambit Patra from showing the clip.

In fact, as the video link we have since then added to the article above makes clear, Goswami repeatedly urges Patra to show the video, instructs his cameraman to zoom in, and then announces that Kanhaiya can “be clearly heard saying azadi’.

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  • Raghu Reddy

    Thanks Siddharth. I always knew ,u fight for weak.Plz dont loose hope.

  • RevRoger

    Truth is coming out. Soon all these pseudo nationalists will act like this never happened and start on with destroying someone/something else.

  • muqaddem hussain

    All those connected with the morphed videos footage, if any, of Kanhaiya, should be prosecuted according to law. Defamation suit must be filed against them.

  • Balaji

    There is an attempt to make India believe that it is in some kind of an existential threat by the right and that is turning people who are otherwise rational also to be jingoistic. This is leading them to debate some of the fundamental premises that India believes in – secularism, pluralism and fundamental rights.

    The danger that the discourse is reduced to the level at which fundamentalist countries like the Saudi or US is imminent. Actual issues of empowerment and economy could take a backseat with polarization making India a majoritarian society. It seriously appears to be changing the fundamental fabric of the country and we have to stand up and resist vehemently.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Ryan_(BioShock) Charlatan Hunter

    The guys behind this should be punished with punishments which suits their crimes. But sadly nothing will be done. Witch hunting of people who dont share your narrow minded views has really gone to the new levels.

  • http://www.sky-properties.in/ Sky Properties

    A lot of hanky panky has been going on since before elections…incl propping up the Anna andolan which was backed to the hilt by the hidden hand of RSS and BJP.Its just gods will that something called AAP and Arvind emerged from that or else India would forever be in the grip of these monsters.Times now has systematically targeted all anti bjp forces while protecting and even obfuscating all BJP misdeeds including the DDCA scam etc.But I think things will get much worse before they get any better.Darkness is coming.Be prepared.

  • http://www.sky-properties.in/ Sky Properties

    I have just downloaded the whole show just incase timesnow decides to take it off youtube.

  • ರಾಜ

    Look at what has happened later. Bassi finishes term , gets removed since job is over , saves vikram chauhan and op sharma . GD Bakshi cries and smriti irani solaces on live newshour without taking questions – this is enough for emotions to rise. pdp fellow umer khalid ( who was easily accessible to newshour studio ) is allowed to escape out since bjp is in alliance with pdp. note all these people listed above with goswami belong to upper caste . this also means the whole week was a staged drama to show the rest of india ( except kashmir where they need alliance ) that delhi is the ruler and people like kanhaiya and rohith ( both low caste ) should not speak against varnashrama or hindu and be obedient . a proud hindu in form of rajdeep sardesai is also allowed who leans to right ( who calls himself proud hindu ) but never a historian like kalburgi who questions hindutva origin itself – whose investigation is almost dead by now. putting flags in universities and spreading hindi and sanskrit is one more divisive strategy to control rest of india advertising indo-pak terror and siachen sacrifice which is prominent source to clinch the tax to upper caste officers ( not jawans ). It can be further noted the original migrant muslims from iran , turkey etc number only in lakhs who have gelled well with upper caste hindus ( as can be seen with bjp-pdp alliance ) , while majority of rest of muslims are from lower caste / shudra / oppressed hindu hierarchy who have converted to fight against upper caste. this actually separates kashmir from rest of india while power remains with delhi to control state surrogates by using a few feudal lords with the same manu structure.

    • Arun Raj

      Could you explain in simpler terms what you’re trying to say here??

  • dasmir

    The Newshour Debate on TimesNow is a gadah Pachisi where twentyfive donkeys bray simultaneously making great noise but little sense!

  • Arunjeev Singh

    Very realistic and honest views. Kanhaiya is a victim of a nexus between politicians, media and the police. Lawyers and Judiciary have played highly disgraceful role.

  • Vivek Agrawal

    Times Now and other channels have already branded Kanihya as a terrorist. Will they publicly apologize if court finds it untrue?

  • shruti sharma

    thank you sir for such a good article on JNU issue

  • bonku

    I sometimes feel sad when I consider the condition few rare honest government officials work, among totally corrupt and sold-out top officials- bureaucracy and police included. Higher you go, more corrupt it becomes.

    Now think how those lower ranking Police officials, who were present in that 9th Feb gathering in JNU, would feel in this case!

  • Sheeba Aslam Fehmi

    I vividly remember Arnab asking Patra again again to show the video, zooming in on it then asking question to the Prof.
    If he is denying it now its pure odiousness.

  • Manali

    I really respect this platform brought up by the wire, but why are you people so firm on supporting those JNU students. Though I completely believe that what has happened to them is not correct and Kanhaiya Kumar shouldn’t have been jailed; those violent attacks by lawyers are condemnable.
    But none of the articles published by you mention how stupid of them it was to call Afzal Guru a martyr, and that those students were stupid enough to portray their outrage in a correct manner and spoke out that shit. If this had happened in the U.S, then my dear critics of India, those students would have been under harsh probes by FBI.
    How can you expect that the police and government to keep calm when the words uttered were related to destruction of India?
    Now imagine a college in Pakistan or any other country where students utter the same message regarding destruction of India. I don’t know about you people, but that according to my judgement is the first thing taught to terrorists against India.
    So at least use your sanity and criticise those stupid people about their stupidity who I guess had the least idea about what they were speaking. And for God’s sake don’t put up this thing as an issue of freedom of speech amd expression. If India was that intolerant as you all believe, you would never publish these articles
    PS: Let’s focus on other important things happening in our country, and I want you to begin with it.

  • ProgressForIndia

    This website has a reputation for censoring others, and yet it hypocritically demands freedom of speech for those it favours. Sorry, but you’re no better than those you’re condemning.

    I can accept that when Kanhaiya was shouting “Azadi” that he was not shouting “Azadi for Kashmir”

    But what I see is that this fellow has allowed himself to keep friendship and company with others who are radical enough to shout for “Azadi for Kashmir”, “Bharat ki Barbadi”, “Jang rahegi, jang rahegi”.
    While Kanhaiya shouldn’t be singled out for what his radical acquaintances did, I think it’s clear that by even just being present at such a rally, that he was crossing a line.

    The rally posters clearly stated that India’s judiciary committed “judicial killing” – ie. impuning the judiciary as “killers” – that’s contempt of court. The posters engaged in direct communal hate speech by venomously targeting “Brahmin” something-or-other. So there was plenty of inflammatory speech happening at that rally, for which there must be accountability.

    Leftists only want full freedom of speech for themselves, but want to rally to oppose and suppress others from speaking differently than them. This is why socialist countries around the world are associated with dictatorship, and vice-versa.

  • SJ

    “Newshour” by Arnab was my one of the favorite show but JNU incident opened my eyes and showed how insensible Arnab is!
    Now in India shouting “Leke rahenge Azadi” is an heinous crime irrespective of in what context it has been shouted.
    OPsharma gets bail in 15 minutes.
    Kanheyya could not get the bail as court did not have enough time on the day when bail applied even court knows it is Friday if not today then he will have to wait two more days…
    NHRC did great job. And The wire.in and headlines today also did great. Hats off to you guys..
    I am too scared to write… Kahin kal main bhi jail mein na daal diya jau aur kahi ye pseudo patriot mere ko maar na de…
    I remember the statement of Manmohan singh “if Narendra modi will become PM.It would be disastrous for India.” At that time I was annoyed to the silence of the government on the various scams but then still I thought if Manmohan Singh has said this he must have thought something logical.
    But now I can see the logic….

  • vijayninel

    Arnab Goswami’s ‘The Newshour Debate’ should be more aptly named ‘The Lynchhour Drama’ as its more of a lynching than a debate. Everyday Arnab selects a target and then becomes a mob leader to denounce and lynch someone.

  • Asif Khan

    Certain TV channels are just pack of lies, then our hon home minister convinces the nation of a terrorist link, Mr. Patra has the audacity of showing a doctored clip which the self styled Doctor Arnab of TOI laps up. my moral support for JNU

  • http://sky-properties.in Mayur Panghaal

    Even the Mumbai Cinema incident where a ‘Muslim’ family was shown disrespecting the National Anthem was a RSS produced,directed staged and acted operation.
    No channel cited its source or authenticity.
    No names ever came out.

  • USC_Trojan

    I will want India to be like USA any day…it does not matter what some , inconsequential person like ‘Livneh’ says!