The arrest of JNU's student union President and activist Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges begets criticism and uproar in equal measure to the country.
This can be seen as a litmus test for the current BJP government when it comes to freedom of speech. It has not only embarked on heated political debates but also has concerned the foreign media.
Journalists, teachers and students shouted slogans during protests at JNU against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, denouncing violence by Hindu nationalists. Activist Kanhaiya Kumar is accused of shouting anti-national slogans at a demonstration at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
This uproar is also being talked about and covered by the foreign media. Some of the leading newspapers have given immense attention to what happened in JNU. Washington Post has emphasised the students’ stance which is against government but not nation. It also drew a comparison of how the the country is divisive on what should be called freedom of speech and what is sedition?
This has actually triggered an intensive debate on democracy, treason and campus activism. Their reportage of JNU row shows how the arrest of a University student on sedition charges has snowballed into a stiff standoff between Indian government and a prestigious university.
The Telegraph of UK has enlisted the Universities that come together to condemn the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, terming it ‘illegal.’
A joint statement has been signed by academics from Oxford and London School of Economics to free Kumar. It has also highlighted in its reports how Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party was accused of stoking intolerance and stifling freedom of expression.
On the other hand, Wall Street Journal reports the JNU row in the light of free speech debate that has been sparked again by Kumar’s arrest.
The Guardian of UK has reported how the massive protests have paralised the University and once again sparked the intolerance debate in the country. The newspaper has extensively reported on how the current government has repeatedly been accused of seeking to repress free speech and of encouraging extremist nationalists who systematically intimidate critics.
Not only in India but the foreign media is actively keeping an eye on the JNU row in the national capital. This issue is being dragged from court rooms to news rooms to social media.
The fight for freedom of speech and expression is not constrained to the university campus. It became a national concern the day when outside a Delhi court room several dozen lawyers and BJP supporters attacked students and reporters.
The Supreme Court will today hear a plea in connection with the thrashing of journalists, students and teachers by lawyers in the city court and seeking a fair trial ‘free from fear of violence and prejudice’ for JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar.
This has also raised the question if the protesting students can be termed anti-national by journalists hosting debates and shows on television. How fair is it for the journos to call the people seditious or anti-national? As this strongly turns our heads towards the ethics of journalism.
When media is representing itself as the voice of the nation, it should better be careful with words. Felicity with which the stories are treated, issues are being discussed in the news rooms and how it reaches the general public matters a lot.
Here is how the nation reacted to JNU row:
Where'd you find students& teachers, ex&present from diff parties&ideologies unite to defend idea of a Univ?— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) February 13, 2016
Saw this at #JNU today.
#ShutDownJNU & Kanhaiya Kumar arrest is wildly disproportionate. His video does not show him threatening India at all! Facts before arrests?— Shoma Chaudhury (@ShomaChaudhury) February 13, 2016
#JNUCrackdown RG' choices: hide rather than stand with Nirbhaya rape student protestors but run to incite anti-national sentiments.— Shalini Singh (@shaliniscribe) February 14, 2016