JNU row: Congress, Left join protest, students threaten strike

The arrest of JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, a leader of CPI-affiliated student outfit, set the two sides on the warpath.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 13, 2016, 21:51 PM IST

New Delhi: The raging JNU row on Saturday turned into an ideological battle between the BJP and its Left opponents, with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi lending them support and comparing the Modi government with Hitler's regime.

The arrest of JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, a leader of CPI-affiliated student outfit, set the two sides on the warpath, with the government declaring that the varsity cannot be allowed to be a "hub of anti-national" activities.

The BJP also attacked Rahul Gandhi, saying he and "his friends are speaking in the voice of LeT terrorist Hafiz Sayeed who had tweeted in support of anti-India event in JNU".

The students, agitating for the release of Kanhaiya, who was slapped with sedition charge over an event on the campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, have threatened to go on strike from Monday if he was not freed.

Rahul Gandhi, who visited the campus in solidarity with the Left leaders, addressed the students. He said, "Most anti-national people are those who are suppressing the voice of students in this institution".

Students owing allegiance to ABVP, which is the student's wing of RSS, showed black flags to Rahul Gandhi and repeatedly disrupted his short address during which he often referred to the suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad University and attacked the government for that.

"People who suppress the voice of this institute are anti-national. They are trying to crush the voice of the youth. I was in Hyderabad a few days back and these same people or their leaders said that Rohith Vemula was anti-national.

"There was a person in Germany named Hitler who had destroyed millions and millions of people. If only that man had listened to other people, may be that country would not have gone through that much of pain," Rahul Gandhi said to loud cheers by Left-leaning students.

Asserting that JNU cannot be allowed to be a "hub of anti-national activities", Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said freedom of expression cannot be "absolute and unqualified and reasonable restriction" has to be there.

"This was an unfortunate incident. But these are not small kids who don't know what they do. In the name of freedom of speech you can't abuse the nation," the minister added.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the university and former ISRO Chief K Kasturirangan, today visited the campus and took stock of the situation even as four Deans of JNU wrote to VC Jagdesh Kumar to protest against the manner in which police "crackdown" was "allowed by the university".

Earlier in the day, a batch of ex-servicemen, alumni of the university, threatened to return their degrees as they found it "difficult" to be associated with an institution that has become a "hub of anti-national activities".

Meanwhile, the HRD ministry has sought a status report from the university on the issue. However, the varsity administration maintained that it has not received any such communication so far.