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Why did India Outrage Against 'JNU Anti-Nationals' this Day Last Year?

New Delhi: On February 9, 2016, a few students gathered in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) allegedly to mark the day Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri held guilty by the Supreme Court for his role in 2001 Parliament attacks, was hanged.

Not aware of the colossal proportions that the event would eventually take – make them the most discussed, debated and hated figures in the nation – the students decided to protest “the judicial killing of Guru and (separatist leader) Maqbool Bhat”.

A huge uproar followed after video clips showed them raising several anti-India slogans. The Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised ‘strict action’ against the ‘anti-national elements’.

Delhi police swung in action, raiding hostels inside the campus and private residences outside, to nab those who had participated in the event.

Though according to a forensic lab report, a few of these clips had been tampered with, anger against student leaders, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, rose to feverish pitch.

The two went in hiding, and emerged later in a dramatic fashion only to be sent to jail.

The University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who was picked up by police, beaten by lawyers, and sent to jail, was released soon after. He lost no time in taking on the Prime Minister, his party, and his policies directly. Anirban and Khalid too addressed crowds in JNU with rousing speeches against the BJP.

Many saw in these students, especially in Kanhaiya Kumar, seeds of promising political leadership.

Now one year later, almost everyone seems to have lost interest in the ‘anti-national elements’, including the police department itself.

Having begun investigations in the case in a dramatic fashion, the Delhi police has still not filed chargesheet in the case.

Police officers privately admit that the chances of making any more arrests in the case are quite low.

Kanhaiya has, apart from producing a book about his ordeal – Bihar to Tihar – not really been able to propel his political career. Anirban Bhattacharya has just submitted his PhD thesis and is now quietly working on some research projects. The outspoken Umar Khalid has become more withdrawn, not willing to speak in public without consulting his lawyer.

Senior police officers told this reporter that the investigations in this case seem to have reached a dead end.

Sources also say there is no pressure on the Special Cell to file the chargesheet. There is a debate going on in police Headquarters in Delhi on whether to chargesheet just three students and name others, or arrest other people as well and then file a complete chargesheet.

“This case involves voluminous investigation. Therefore, it is taking time,” said the officer, adding, “We’re trying to connect the loose ends. I can assure you that the final report will be balanced, logical, and strong.”

According to Kanhaiya Kumar, the case has become “a big joke”.

“JNU was wrongly highlighted in the case. Even after a year there is no chargesheet in the case, which proves the allegations were baseless. If something did happen, then why there is no chargesheet yet? It’s a big blot on the system,” said Kanhaiya, who is now busy completing his PhD.

Kanhaiya has changed his phone number since being released from the jail.

Talking about his experience in jail, he said, “I have learnt the reality of life in jail. Jail has a different kind of restriction but outside the jail (reference to society) there are more restrictions. It’s a bigger jail outside.”

Another accused, Rama Naga, on the other hand submitted his dissertation in July 2016. Umar presented a conference paper right after coming out of the jail. When contacted by CNN-News18, Umar thought for a while and said he would first consult his lawyer and then speak on the matter.

On being asked if this year Kanhaiya would participate in any such event related to Afzal Guru, Umar clarified, “I was not part of the event nor participated in any such event last time. This time also, if any such event happens, I am neither participating nor organising.”

Shehla Rashid former JNUSU vice-president, said that the sedition law was misused by the government.

“From the beginning we have maintained that the video was doctored and no JNU student raised any slogan. The fact that there is no chargesheet shows how the sedition law was misused.”

JNU’s ABVP unit, which raked up the issue first, feels the powers-that-be have given a long rope to Kanhaiya and other suspects in this case.

Former Joint Secretary, of JNU students’ union, Saurabh Sharma, who also is a member of ABVP, said, “The role of the JNU administration looks no different and appears toothless when it comes to punishing the wrongdoers. Apart from creating a buzz over the names of a couple of Left activists of JNU, the action by police has not been able to bring into its ambit the real culprits.”

Meanwhile, sources in Delhi police said there are high chances that men from the special branch and special cell might be present in the JNU on February 9 to monitor the activity.