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Kanhaiya Kumar Recounts How He Was Arrested For Sedition From JNU

17/11/2016 5:24 PM IST | Updated 18/11/2016 8:27 AM IST
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JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar protests as he was fined of ₹10,000 by the authorities of JNU High Level Committee in front of the administrative block, on 26 April 2016 in New Delhi. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

On the morning of 12 February, I woke up at about eleven thirty. As usual I went to the dhaba downstairs and then headed towards my school. On my way I saw some police cars parked near the Convention Centre. The SHO of the Vasant Kunj thana was standing there. I went up to him, shook hands and asked what the matter was. He said they were here in connection with the 9 February incident.

I reminded him that nothing so serious had happened that it required this kind of attention. I myself had gone to meet him that night but he had been asleep. The SHO told me that there was pressure from the top and the police needed to be involved. He asked me to accompany him as he wanted to ask me some questions, essential for the investigation. I agreed.

When did I shout slogans against the country? I have been shouting slogans against Modi and that's no secret. Had Modi now become the country?

I got into the vehicle. On the way the police took my mobile phone from me. I told them I had one more phone and gave them that also. After a while they also took my wallet. I'd thought they'd take me to the local Vasant Kunj thana. But we were moving towards Hauz Khas. The cops were constantly getting calls on their phones. They were saying something to each other which I couldn't follow. There was a minor discussion about taking the wrong route, because this one had a traffic jam.

Eventually we stopped outside the Lodhi Road thana. One of them suggested covering my face. I was supposedly being taken for questioning. I wondered why my face had to be covered but I still didn't realize what was happening.

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Kanhaiya Kumar speaks during a Joint Students Youth Assembly against discrimination and attacks on Universities, at Adarsh Vidyalaya in Tilak Nagar on 23 April 2016 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

I was taken inside the thana and made to sit in a tiny room. Then the questioning started. The man who had brought me here spoke to me politely. But then another cop came in and said very rudely, 'This is your country and you shout slogans against it?'

I found this very strange. When did I shout slogans against the country? I have been shouting slogans against Modi and that's no secret. Had Modi now become the country? By now I was beginning to get the feeling that something was seriously wrong. On what grounds had I been arrested, I asked them. Where was the warrant?

'You'll get the warrant in jail,' he said. 'There, you'll get everything.' After that he spoke to someone on the phone. He asked if he should arrest me.

After disconnecting his call, he asked for my father's number. I am bad at phone numbers — I don't even remember my own. Luckily I remembered Pitaji's since he had been the first to get a phone at home. Calling my father, the cop told him that I'd been arrested for 'sedition'.

The judge said, 'So what? I have also been to Kashmir.'

It was the first time someone had spoken clearly about the charge against me. Hearing the words so starkly, I felt worried and emotional for the first time. Thoughts of my family came flooding to my mind. Seeing the look on my face, the officer asked a constable if I had eaten. I hadn't. He gave instructions to feed me. I refused to eat. I said I would go on a hunger strike.

That made no difference to him. He got my belt removed. I was photographed from all angles.

Then I was taken to Safdarjung hospital to have my medical tests done. Before getting me out of the vehicle they covered my face. No medical test was done in the hospital. The police did some paperwork; the doctor wasn't allowed to come near me. I was taken back to the car. The cloth over my face was removed. I was then taken to court.

It was my first time in a courtroom and it looked very different from the movies. Everyone stood up when the judge entered. The police told the magistrate that I was Kanhaiya. I had been shouting slogans against the country and had celebrated Afzal Guru's barsi. This is the charge against him, they said. We need police custody (PC) for five days.

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JNU teachers protest against the arrest of JNUSU students at JNU campus, on March 9, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The judge turned to me. I introduced myself and said that the police were lying. I had never shouted slogans against the country. Nor had I organized a programme commemorating Afzal Guru.

The inquiry officer (IO) said they had a video to prove their charge.

I asked the judge to check the facts before believing the police. I had no lawyer. I had been arrested without being informed. Nor had I been shown any warrant. I also said that I had voluntarily accompanied the police to the station.

I'm a student, I said, who has come to JNU to study despite many hardships. I fought for issues; I spoke against the government, but never against the country. This country and its Constitution were mine too.

The judge asked for the video to be shown. I was not present anywhere in it. Slogans were being shouted but these were not the ones that were being shown on TV. The judge said, 'This boy is not raising slogans. Nor is he in the video.' The IO said that the boys who were sloganeering were my friends. I denied this but while I was still speaking, the IO said, 'Sir, he has even been to Kashmir.'

The judge said, 'So what? I have also been to Kashmir.'

I laughed a little to myself when I heard this exchange. It's true, what they say. One can find humour in the most unlikely of places.

I'm a student, I said, who has come to JNU to study despite many hardships. I fought for issues; I spoke against the government, but never against the country. This country and its Constitution were mine too.

The IO replied that he had witnesses to testify against me and that they were in the process of recording their statement. This was news to me. Th ere were some lawyers sitting in the courtroom. After seeing the video, one of them came to me and said, 'Don't worry. If you don't have any lawyer I'm with you. You tell the judge that I'm your lawyer.'

I said so to the judge. The lawyer suggested I say to the judge that all the ongoing proceedings must be documented in his order. I did so. The judge said that you have expressed faith in the court, so have faith.

The judge wrote that the accused had been produced in court by the police but the video shown by them did not feature the accused. However, since the police had said that they had a witness, the court was granting PC for inquiry. The police requested for a five-day PC; they were granted three.

Excerpted with permission of Juggernaut Books from Kanhaiya Kumar's From Bihar to Tihar. Available in bookstores and on the Juggernaut app.

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