It's been two years since Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) found itself in the middle of a controversy over an event in which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised. It's also been two years since a sedition case was registered against the university’s students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and others.
Not much is known about what the status of the case has been in the last several months. When The Quint asked Pramod Kushwaha, DCP, Special Cell, about the progress in this regard, he said, “It is an investigation matter. We cannot share the details.”
With the case having been probed by the Special Cell since March 2016, the question is, how long is it going to remain in limbo?
Speaking to The Quint, Umar Khalid claimed that there has been absolutely no progress in the case, with its status remaining the same as it was two years back in February 2016. He pointed out that there hasn’t even been a chargesheet filed in the matter yet.
"To me, this (lack of progress in the case) is not very surprising. This case was never supposed to be in a court of law... it was always supposed to be in a court of public opinion, where the intention was to use this as a polarisation mechanism." - Umar Khalid to The Quint
The sedition case, which was registered on the basis that “anti-national” slogans were raised at an event to mark the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, prompted a nationwide debate in 2016 with many criticising the police’s response as suppression of free speech and dissent.
Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were believed to have been closely involved with the event, and were arrested soon after incident. However, they were eventually given bail.
The police had based its case on several videos of the event in the JNU campus that showed such sloganeering. However, a district magistrate’s probe found several videos of the incident to have been doctored.
Where’s the Chargesheet?
Today, a quick internet search regarding the case reveals only media reports that date back to the first half of 2017. There is little information on any progress since then.
A Hindustan Times report, dated 2 March 2017, mentioned how there had been no chargesheet filed in the sedition case at the time. The special commissioner of police Dependra Pathak had then dismissed reports of the chargesheet being finalised as speculation, as he was quoted as saying, "The case is still under investigation. It is a sensitive case so we would request everyone not to speculate. As of now, there is no finality."
An India Today report of 28 February 2017 too said that no formal chargesheet had been filed at that time, but went on to quote a senior special-cell officer as saying that they "are in the process of filing a chargesheet".
The report further stated that Kanhaiya Kumar was to be given a clean chit in the probe, with top officials and special cell sources indicating that he did not raise anti-India slogans, on the basis of forensic examination of the videos.
In April 2017, a notice was issued to 30 JNU students to join the investigation in the sedition case as part of a fresh probe into the incident. Media reports suggested that a draft chargesheet had been prepared by the Special Cell at the time and that was vetted by top officials of the Delhi police as well as the Legal Wing. According to a police officer, the Legal Wing wanted the case to be probed further in order to prove the offence of the accused.
‘Case Won't Stand Scrutiny of Law, Was Always Intended to Derive Political Mileage’: Khalid
Umar Khalid says the case was always intended to be used as a tool to get political mileage, and would not stand the scrutiny of law.
"The ambiguity around the whole case actually helps some. If the facts come out, they won’t be able to get political mileage. It’s very clear that the police has been used as a political tool in this entire case." - Umar Khalid
In a nutshell, the sedition case against the JNU students still seems to be far from a logical conclusion. But, as Khalid indicates, it has still managed to perpetuate an ‘anti-national’ stereotype associated with the institution and its students, no matter what the final verdict is.
"I agree that the incident made us vulnerable to a lot of hate campaigns. We still get death threats almost everyday. But at the same time, there are a lot of people who continue to express solidarity with us." - Umar Khalid
. Read more on India by The Quint.JNU Row: 2 Years On, Cops “Still Probing” Sedition Case?Chakdaha Express Chugging Along: Jhulan’s Four Impressive Spells . Read more on India by The Quint.