India’s top court worried by sedition row violence

Students shout slogans from inside a police van after courting arrest during a protest to condemn students actions in New Delhi, in Mumbai, Wednesday.

Students shout slogans from inside a police van after courting arrest during a protest to condemn students actions in New Delhi, in Mumbai, Wednesday.


India’s highest court said Thursday it was concerned about law and order after a student leader whose arrest for sedition has sparked major protests was attacked, while journalists and lawyers were heckled in court.

On Thursday the Supreme Court said it was “concerned about the law and order situation arising out of the violence” at the Patiala House court, where violence also broke out an earlier hearing for Kumar on Monday.

India’s government, meanwhile on Thursday told top public universities to fly the country’s flag on campus to promote national unity.

The university at the center of the storm, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), was among those directed to “fly the tricolor on a high mast,” said an official at the human resource development ministry, which includes education.

“The flag will symbolize the unity of the nation under which our education system can flourish,” she told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that the directive, issued to 20 leading public universities, was not a binding order.

It came as an estimated 5,000 people, chanting “release Kanhaiya Kumar” and “down with state terrorism,” marched through the center of New Delhi in one of the biggest student protests India has seen in years.

Police arrested the 32-year-old head of the JNU student union last Friday over a rally at which anti-India slogans were chanted.

Kumar denies he was among those chanting the slogans and has apparently condemned the incident in a letter released by police.

But he had publicly criticized right-wing nationalism, and many of the protesters saw his arrest as an attempt to stifle dissent.

“We are today standing for human rights and freedom of speech. The government can’t dub people anti-national and dump them in jails,” protester Avik Devdas told AFP.

The Bar Council of India said it had appointed a three-member panel to investigate the violence by lawyers.

“We are going to take a strong action against them,” Council president Manan Kumar Mishra said. “We are going to punish the lawyers if they are found guilty,” he said before apologizing on behalf of the lawyer community.

There were also some counter marches by the student wing of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which the opposition Congress party has accused of orchestrating the violence.


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