Republic TV, AMU Clash: Police Say Early Probe Suggests No Evidence To Support Sedition Charges Against Students
Sedition charge against 14 students of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was slapped after the fracas that took place on February 12. The complaint was filed by Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha district leader Mukesh Lodhi, who accused them of raising pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogan. However, the police in its initial investigation have not found any evidence to back up the sedition charges levied against the students. A complaint was also filed by Republic crew who alleged they were manhandled and their equipment were broken.
Clash between students and media persons
A team from Republic TV had arrived on the campus to cover an event. Reportedly, AIMIM lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi was visiting the campus. The students alleged that the TV crew entered the campus and started shooting without seeking the appropriate permission. Students also alleged that the crew from the Republic TV announced that they were “standing in a university of terrorists”, in order to incite a reaction from the students, as reported by The Wire.
Republic TV and its journalists/cameraman have claimed that the crew was manhandled by the students. Journalist Nalini Sharma who was at the campus has refuted all the claims of the crew instigating the students. Sharma even claimed that the crew was not even interacting with any student in the vicinity.
This is ABSOLUTE LIES! I’m appalled at how this has been created out of thin air. I was MYSELF standing and reporting on a story that had NOTHING to do with AMU when the students began to heckle and threaten us. We weren’t even speaking to any student in the vicinity! https://t.co/jHuupm9nNK
— Nalini (@nalinisharma_) February 12, 2019
However, students say otherwise. The AMU students’ union says that the Republic TV team along with associates of RSS and BJP “entered the campus with malafide intentions”.
Dear friends in media,I reached the campus at 9.30 am for attending my classes. All was well back then. Few students…
On the other hand, after few reports claimed that Owaisi was addressing an event in the university, ABVP activists staged a protest at the Faiz Gate of the university, as reported by India Today. Mukesh Lodhi, Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha’s (BJYM) Aligarh district president, who also filed the complaint against the students of the varsity, said that he was passing by the university and decided to stop when he saw two groups arguing. He further claims that few students then forcibly dragged him out of his vehicle. “When I objected, they thrashed us and also opened fire. No one got injured. The assailants raised slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Bharat Murdabad’. We somehow escaped and reached the police station,” he said, as reported by The Indian Express.
On the contrary, student activist, Sharjeel Usmani told The Logical Indian, “The ABVP/BJYM members have been floating different theories about what they were doing at the venue where a scuffle broke out. At first, they said they told that they were at there to ‘rescue’ the Republic TV crew, this was supported by the channel as well but they later denied. Then they said they protesting to prevent Owaisi from entering the campus, which is baseless as Owaisi was never invited in the campus. Then they said that they came to prevent Hindu-Muslim riot which was taking place. So, all in all, they have floated three to four theories about their presence on the campus.” Usmani suggested a possible nexus between BJYM/ABVP and the Republic TV crew.
FIRs from both sides
Lodhi filed an FIR against the students under various sections of IPC, including 124-A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (rioting) and 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration). At least 14 students have been charged with sedition. Interestingly, as reported by NDTV, Aligarh police have said that no evidence of sedition has been found in the initial investigation. Adding to that, the Police have also said that the charges will be dropped if no evidence is found to support the claim. Sharjeel Usmani told The Logical Indian that three people of the 14 were not even in the city on the day when the scuffle broke out. “Former president of AMUSU, who was also named in the FIR, in fact, was in Delhi doing a press show with The Wire.”
Two separate complaints were also filed by AMU students and officials, one against the journalists for entering the campus without permission and second against “unidentified miscreants” for unlawful activities.
The internet services in the city was suspended as a precautionary measure for a day. Usmani also said that teams of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were stationed outside the University from the early hours of February 12. “Until before the crew of Republic TV arrived at the campus, the atmosphere at AMU was usual. We are not sure why teams of RAF and PAC were stationed outside the university from 7 am,” said Usmani.
Internet will be blocked until 12.00 am in Aligarh, as we have been told. The campus is peacefully fine but the tension can be sensed in areas around Aligarh.