View from India: Breakdown of Law and Media Trial

Two forms of nationalism emerging are emerging in India —an aggressive, dominating and capable of assaults while the second one being democratic and demanding the right to dissent.

Posted on 02/29/16
By Shubhda Chaudhary | Via ViewsWeek
(Photo by Prachatai, Creative Commons License)
(Photo by Prachatai, Creative Commons License)

On 17th February, when Kanhaiya Kumar (the JNU Students’ Union President) was produced in front of the Patiala High Court, he was assaulted by a group of lawyers dressed in black robes. Two days before, Jawaharlal Nehru University professors like Nivedita Menon, Himanshu and Rohith were also manhandled by the lawyers, who were loudly shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. They egregiously pointed at the professors and journalists present in the court, asking them to vacate the premises as they were not allowed to be present.

On February 27, a scared yet strong Kanhaiya spoke in front of the Supreme Court telling it how the police assaulted him. He stated how initially he was crowded by a mob of media people through which the police protected him. He in fact stated “I was almost disrobed during the attack” by the lawyers, which the police allowed to happen. It seemed as if they were impatiently waiting for him to come so that they could assault him. He was kicked in his stomach, his slippers went missing in the entire frenzy. These lawyers who were loudly calling upon other lawyers to join the assault manhandled him to the highest degree. In spite of the fact that Kanhaiya stated that he could identify the man who was beating him up, the police let the attackers go and acted in a very complicit manner. He even stated that “I think they were highly politically motivated people.”

Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer, stated that police were saying contradictory statements when they start lying. They contract each other and sometimes they even contradict themselves. Kanhaiya was assaulted despite being escorted by 49 police officers. The buck stops at the police Commissioner. He was asked by the Supreme Court to be responsible and protect Kanhaiya but he miserably failed along with the DCP who was present there. It seems that he had given a different direction to the Delhi Police because otherwise it is impossible for the mob of police officers to control the frenzy there.

So, if lawlessness can happen within the court premises, what about people outside? It is an open contempt for the law of the Supreme Court. Prashant Bhushan stated that such things happen in a fascist state. It’s a shame for a country to witness this and which prides itself to be a democracy.

Nalin Kohli, BJP leader stated that it was the same Supreme Court which has charged Kanhaiya on criminal contempt. Nevertheless, the three lawyers have been identified by the police and the investigation is bound to take place. But he states that there is one context that needs to be seen, as in ‘to what extent the issue has to be seen on the basis of evidence and on the basis of statements.’

Adding another ideation to the entire context, the BJP leader stated that some lawyers were acting on behalf of Kanhaiya and hence, their statements have to be seen with a pinch of salt.

Now, nothing can be more dehumanizing to Indian democracy that in spite of clearly having recorded evidences of Kanhaiya being beaten up on 17th February within the court premises, there are conspiracy theories running around that these lawyers acted on his behalf. It sounds inhumane to fabricate the evidence to such a point that the entire substance falls apart.

What we see now is a development of a nexus between lawyers and policemen who are taking the law into their hands, who decide themselves, and quite powerfully so, that they have the Right to Punish and if possible, they could have caused tremendous amount of harm to Kanhaiya, to which they have no guilt whatsoever.

What is disturbing in this case, is the utter silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other top echelons, as if the entire episode took place in some other country. As Achin Vanaik clearly stated that if something like this would have happened in Pakistan, we Indians would have been the first to claim that what form of ‘callous injustice took place’ as we belong to a democratic state. But look here, the manner in which media trials are going on, the draconian charges of criminal conspiracy and sedition are being charged on defenseless students without having concrete proof.

As a nation, where are we headed to? Certainly, there are two forms of nationalism emerging. The first one is aggressive, dominating and capable of assaults while the second one is democratic and demanding the Right to Dissent. Both are forms of nationalism but its utter shame that students of JNU are now caught on to prove their nationality and patriotism in such critical circumstances when they are being targeted as ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘parasites’, quite immediately and easily.

It’s a deplorable condition as of now and all we can hope is that history does not get repeated on 2nd March when Kanhaiya has to be produced again in front of the court. If something does happen, who would be responsible?

Shubhda Chaudhary is a PhD Scholar in JNU. She specializes in Middle Eastern Politics. She can be reached at shubhda.chaudhary@gmail.com

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