Protests against arrest of ‘anti-Indian’ student leader spread

On Thursday, students in at least 10 Indian cities marched through the streets and denounced the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the student union president at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

National Students Union of India members are detained by police during a protest in support of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, in New Delhi, India. Kumar, the president of the students' union at the country's premier Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been in prison since Friday on charges of sedition. Bernat Armangue / AP
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NEW DELHI // Scenes of protest that rocked a New Delhi university this week spread across the country Thursday, with students and teachers from cities including Bangalore, Jaipur and Chennai joining demands for the release of a student leader arrested on sedition charges.

The demands for the student’s freedom in the Indian capital have been met by mobs of Hindu nationalists, including many lawyers, attacking students and accusing them of being anti-Indian.

On Thursday, students in at least 10 Indian cities marched through the streets and denounced the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the student union president at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Many were outraged by nationally televised scenes of Kumar being kicked and punched while he was escorted to a court hearing Wedneday, renewing allegations of intolerance by the country’s Hindu nationalist governing party.

Kumar was arrested last Friday over his participation in events where anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted. A New Delhi court has ordered him to stay in custody for two weeks.

In New Delhi, students gathered at the university campus for a protest march in the centre of the city, where each carried small sprigs of flowers as a sign of peace.

Delhi police said the students had not been given permission to hold the protest.

In the southern city of Chennai, police arrested 40 students.

In Kolkata, police were on alert as two groups of students held rival rallies in the Jadavpur University campus. Student groups affiliated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party demanded strict action against Kumar and others who they accused of being anti-Indian.

The protests have triggered allegations that the Modi government and the BJP are cracking down on political dissent in the name of patriotism.

Soon after the protests began, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that anyone shouting anti-India slogans “will not be tolerated or spared”.

* Associated Press