Unaware that the event will make them the most discussed and hated figures and they will be labeled as anti-national, a few students gathered at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on February 9 to commemorate the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged on February 9, 2013 after conviction in the 2001 Parliament attack case.
The students received national anger after a few video clips showed them raising several anti-India slogans.
While the Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised ‘strict action’ against the ‘anti-national’ students, Delhi police raided hostels inside the campus and private residences outside, to nab those who had organised and participated in the event.
Though a forensic lab report showed that a few of these clips were tampered with, JNUSU ex-President Kanahiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, and Anirban Bhattacharya suddenly became the national villains. While Kanhaiya was arrested 3 days later, Umar and Anirban went in hiding and dramatically returned back to the campus only to be sent to jail.
Kumar, who was not only picked up by the cops but was also beaten by lawyers, took directly on the Prime Minister, his party, and his policies right after his release from Tihar. Anirban and Khalid too addressed crowds in JNU against the current government.
Many predicted that these students, especially Kanhaiya Kumar, had a promising political career ahead of them.
However, a year since then, things have changed a lot and everyone, the police department, seems to have forgotten these ‘anti-national’ students.
Both Umar and Kanhaiya, in their interview to InUth, claimed that no official chargesheet has been filed against them. According to Kanhaiya Kumar, the case is nothing but a failed attempt by the current government to show JNU in a bad light.
“Even after a year, there is no chargesheet filed against us, which proves that the allegations were completely false and baseless. Did something really happen or was it just another failed attempt by our government to wrongly highlighted?” questioned Kanhaiya, who is now four months away from completing his PhD.
However, the incident did take a toll on their personal lives and studies. “I couldn’t go to my field trip as I haven’t a got a passport due to the FIR. I can’t go freely to Munirka anymore. I can’t go to play cricket as I used to. Things have changed and are difficult,” said Kanhaiya.
“While earlier we had a limited audience, now we have a national audience and we are responsible for meeting their expectations. However, now I face a lot of restriction of movement. I can’t board a metro or go just anywhere freely,” said Umar, who will submit his thesis this year.
This incident has also taken a toll on their activism. While Kanhaiya, apart from writing a book, Bihar to Tihar, and a few political stint has almost been forgotten, Anirban has just submitted his PhD and is now quietly working with some orphanage. The otherwise outspoken Umar Khalid has now mellowed down and does not speak in public without consulting his lawyer.
Though it remains to be seen that how their lives unfold in the coming years, what remains unanswered is that does anyone deserve to face such consequences just for dissenting? Was it fair for the media to declare them ‘terrorists’ before anything could be proved? And shouldn’t have the media been also taken to task playing with the futures of young students.