February 16, 2016

India Under Modi: ‘Defending Bharat Mata’, With Kicks and Punches - Violence by BJP-ABVP at the Delhi court house

[a series of news reports are posted below]

1. The Wire 
‘Defending Bharat Mata’, With Kicks and Punches

Students, teachers and reporters outside the Patiala House court in Delhi were set upon by lawyers and BJP-ABVP leaders and activists on the day the JNU students union president’s case came up for hearing.

New Delhi: A JNU student being beaten up by lawyers outside the Patiala House courts in New Delhi on Monday. The students were attacked for protesting the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. Credit: PTI Photo by Atul Yadav
New Delhi: A JNU student being beaten up by BJP MLA OP Sharma outside the Patiala House courts in New Delhi on Monday. The students were attacked for protesting the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. Credit: PTI Photo by Atul Yadav
New Delhi: The Patiala House court complex was the scene of chaos and violence Monday when a group of lawyers and BJP activists – including one party legislator – attacked and manhandled students and teachers from Jawaharlal Nehru University who had gathered to show solidarity with arrested student union president Kanhaiya Kumar. Even journalists were not spared, with at least five of them sustaining injuries after being set upon by right-wing activists.
The charge of being “anti-national” was flung inside and outside the courts at all those who had come from JNU. In the court room itself, a group of 40 lawyers accompanied by the police tried evicting 10 JNU teachers from the premises, badly beating one academic. Outside, the lead was taken by BJP MLA from Delhi OP Sharma. Captured on camera assaulting Ameeque Jamai, a leader of the Communist Party of India, he not only justified his action but said he was even prepared to murder someone if he thought they were pro-Pakistani : “If you ask me, there is nothing wrong in beating up or even killing someone shouting slogans in favour of Pakistan,” he said.

Asked by Zakka Jacob on CNN-IBN on the 9 pm news on Monday night whether he approved of Sharma saying it was alright to kill someone shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, Sudhanshu Trivedi, national spokesperson of the BJP said he did.
Inside the court, Kanhaiya Kumar, who is facing charges of sedition, had his judicial custody extended till February 17. Though Kumar, who is a member of the All India Student Federation – the student wing of the CPI – has flatly denied the police charges of sedition, Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi claimed there was “irrefutable proof” against him. So far, however, in all the video “evidence” circulating on television and social media, no footage of Kumar shouting “seditious” or “anti-national slogans” has emerged.
Legal experts say that the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the charge of sedition cannot apply to mere words and that an accused person has to have sought to instigate violence in order for his speech to be criminalised.
On Tuesday, the Delhi high court will hear a petition filed by a private individual urging that investigation of the JNU case be handed over to the National Investigation Agency – the specialised anti-terrorism arm of the government.
Drama in court
For the moment, however, the JNU teachers who were forcefully evicted from the Patiala House courtrooms spoke to the media about their ordeal.
“A group of these people in lawyers garb came into the court room shouting ‘Bharat mata ki jai’. They asked us to leave, and when we questioned this they caught hold of one of our male colleagues, Rohit, and slapped him”, Neera Kongari, professor of Japanese studies told The Wire. Ayesha Kidwai, professor of linguistics, added that several of the female professors present including her, Janaki Nair and Chitra Harshvardhan were molested and manhandled by these lawyers. All this time, police were present but did not take any action, and the professors had to specially request a police escort till the exit. The professors are exploring all legal options available to them.
But Kidwai’s main fear was what would happen to Kanhaiya once he entered the room, as all the exits were blocked by BJP lawyers. Since he was their prime target, she was afraid he would receive much harsher treatment.
Students and media persons also received the same violent treatment at the hands of the protesting lawyers. Varun Chauhan, a close friend of Kumar’s, said he and his friends were called “Pakistanis”, and when they did not respond they were hit and pushed out of the court room. The All India Students’ Federation (AISF) general secretary Biswajit was also badly beaten, and his clothes were torn. “Look at what they are doing”, he told The Wire. “And they can still call Kanhaiya a terrorist?”
Bystanders and journalists who were in the open areas within the court complex were also pushed around. Those who tried to record the on-goings with their cellphones were threatened, and some had phones snatched from their hand and thrown to the ground. While the police told the journalists to leave in order to avoid getting hurt, they did not do anything to stop the lawyers and BJP members.
Rahila, a JNU student and friend of Kanhaiya’s who had also been pushed out of the court room, expressed her outrage at what was happening. “I am ashamed that these are the people who are supposed to uphold our constitution. They behave like this, that too in a public court room, yet you call JNU students anti-national? And the police are only bystanders, not intervening on our behalf. The entire country should be ashamed”.
Growing anger
More than 40 universities from all over the country have now expressed their support and solidarity with JNUSU and JNUTA. Public universities in Karnataka, Osmania University in Hyderabad and Calcutta University have planning action including strikes and public meetings to show their support.
In spite of the widespread support they have received from political, cultural and academic groups, the persecution and branding of JNU students continues. A website has created profiles of JNU students who are “anti-national”, in order to “know them and expose them”. In addition to names, the website also has links to their Facebook profiles, exposing these students to online threats and harassment.
In an earlier version of the story, the person being beaten by BJP MLA OP Sharma was wrongly identified as a JNU student. He was in fact CPI leader Ameeque Jamai.


The Telegraph - February 16, 2016

‘Maro saale ko’: What I saw and heard inside the courtroom

- Basant Kumar Mohanty of The Telegraph recounts how teachers and journalists were assaulted inside the courtroom and outside in the Patiala House Courts complex on Monday

I couldn't believe my eyes. An assault was unfolding right inside the courtroom, which later spread outside.
A group of lawyers went berserk, attacking students, teachers and journalists. The lawyers slapped, punched and abused their victims, raining blows on their heads with shoes. For over an hour, Delhi police constables stood by - most passive, some smiling.
I was in the courtroom of the metropolitan magistrate Lovleen, waiting for the police to produce JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested on the charge of sedition.
On Monday, I did not hear any anti-India slogan - the reason cited by some lawyers to pounce on a group of teachers.
I entered the court premises at 12.45pm and business was going on as usual. Some students from JNU and other institutions - supporters of Kanhaiya - had gathered there. A few teachers from JNU were sitting in the courtroom much before the scheduled hearing.
I entered the courtroom at 1.50pm. Three court officials and two police constables were present. The courtroom had 11 chairs placed in two rows. The chairs are meant for lawyers and the public. "You can sit here," Professor Ayesha Kidwai told me.
Subhash Chandran K.R., the convener of the All India Lawyers Union, said lawyers as well as visitors could sit on the chairs since in-camera proceedings were not scheduled. I preferred to stand in a corner, possibly the reason why the attackers did not notice me.
At 2.05pm, a group of lawyers entered and asked the teachers to leave, saying the chairs were meant for lawyers alone.
" Bahar jao, yeh chairs lawyers ke liye hai, bahar jao (go out, these chairs are meant for lawyers, go out )," said a lawyer.
Most of the teachers protested. Four other lawyers heckled them. " Pakistan zindabad slogan dete ho aap log (You chant 'Pakistan Zindabad)," one of them said.
A lawyer pulled Rohit, an assistant professor at the Centre of Economic Studies and Planning at JNU, by his hair. He was dragged outside despite protests by other teachers like Kidwai, Janaki Nair and Himanshu. In the argument that ensued, a few other lawyers started chanting " Bharat Mata ki jai".
The police constables in the room did not move till Subhash Chandran requested them to intervene. A few more women constables came from outside. None of the police officers uttered a word against the lawyers but requested the teachers to vacate the room.
The teachers went out. By now, the number of lawyers had grown.
A group of 10 lawyers attacked a student in the court corridor. The youth was subjected to slaps, blows and kicks for three to four minutes before he was taken inside a room by a few policemen.
A few students, who were taking pictures or video, had stopped and were looking for an escape route. But some lawyers had identified them and chased them.
The whole court campus was reverberating with one line: " Saale, Pakistan zindabad bol rahe ho. Maro saale ko (they are saying 'Pakistan zindabad'. Beat them up)."
Kanhaiya was yet to be brought in. Some journalists were taking pictures or reporting over the phone. My phone was switched off.
Manu Shankar, a reporter with the Malayalam channel Kairali TV, was the next target. Slapped and kicked, telltale welts and scratch marks were seen on his face. He said they wanted to check his phone if he had taken any picture. When he said he was a journalist, he was attacked.
They asked a reporter from another Malayalam channel whether she had recorded any image and abused her. At least 20 people and policemen were mute spectators as she ran from the spot for cover. She later requested me not to mention her name in my report.
By then, journalists were being hunted down. I was not using my notepad or phone and was just moving from here to there.
Amit Pandey, a reporter with IBN-7, was asked to show his phone. When he argued with a group of lawyers, they encircled him. He ran. Another journalist was pleading: " Maf kar do, bhai (forgive us, brother)."
I came out through Gate 3, a side gate. As I reached the main gate, where TV channels had parked their OB vans, almost every journalist was asking each other whether they had been beaten up.
Bhavtosh Singh from TimesNow, Alok Singh from The Indian Express, Prachi Yadav from the Navbharat Times and Amiya Kushwaha from the IANS news agency told me they were all either attacked or abused by the lawyers.
It appears that they had protection from the government, one journalist told me.
(A lawyer later told me that most of the advocates who went on the rampage did not practise regularly in the court. They want to be seen in action, hoping that the government would empanel them as its lawyers, he said.)
A few students gathered outside the court. When I approached a Delhi University student, he said: "Please do not ask me anything here."
Delhi police said at night that "FIRs have been registered against unnamed persons".

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3.  The Times of India, 16 February 2016

‘One of them said, bone bhi todenge, phone bhi todenge’

Sana Shakil | TNN | Feb 16, 2016, 12.35 AM IST<

NEW DELHI: As a reporter covering proceedings at the Patiala House courts, I thought Monday would be a regular day's work, with perhaps the hearing in the sedition case against JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar being the day's highlight. As usual I made small talk with some of my sources there. I didn't sense anything extraordinary, and remained unperturbed even when I overheard a lawyer telling one of my sources that there would be some "hungama" at the complex, taking it to be the inanity of a boastful lawyer. A few hours later, limbs paralyzed by fear, shocked and reduced to tears, desperately searching for a safe nook with fellow journalists -- mostly women - I realized how foolish I had been to take the morning's remark so lightly. For more than an hour and half on Monday, we, the members of the media, were at the mercy of lawyers who threatened us crudely, physically assaulted some of us and freely abused us for being "anti-national".
The first sign of trouble came around 2pm when we saw women teachers of JNU being manhandled in the courtroom where the sedition case was to be heard. Two JNU students were also beaten by lawyers in full sight of complaisant police personnel. The violent methods adopted by the men in black forced the people from JNU to vacate the room.
The agitators' attention then turned to us. We thought our press ID cards would guarantee us safety, but of course that wasn't to be. A journalist who sported a beard was called a traitor and his ID dismissed as fake by the assailants; I was told that I looked like a JNU student and was abused harshly for looking at my attackers in the eye.
The frenzied lawyers threatened to teach us, "deshdrohi (traitorous) journalists", a lesson. "Bone bhi todenge aur phone bhi todenge, (We will break your phones as well as your bones," rasped an angry advocate. From my five-year experience of legal reporting, I thought things would be fine once the judge emerged from his chamber. But even as the pro-BJP/anti-JNU slogans got more raucous, the judge did not make an appearance. Instead, corralled by them, we continued to be tortured physically and mentally.
By now the number of assailants had gone up from the initial 40 to around 200. Fisticuffs broke out when a journalist took out his phone to record a clip of lawyers hurling abuses at us. I was shoved around but kept hoping that things wouldn't get out of hand. Then a cold fright took hold of me as I saw some lawyers locking up four journalists inside the courtroom. They kicked and punched them in front of my eyes and all I could do was stand by helpless.
A group of us pleaded to the unmoved cops to intervene, an action that only enraged the lawyers, who began shouting, "Agli baari tumhari hai (The next turn is yours)."
Four of us, all women, were advised by the female cops to "understand the mood and go away". We thought the senior most judicial officer of the Patiala House Court, the district judge, would be able to help us. We ran the few metres from where we were to the district judge's court and asked the staff there to get us an appointment with the judge, only to be told that he was "sitting with a very senior cop" and could not come out.
A mob of around eight chased us, forced their entry into the district judge's court and surrounded us on all sides. They snatched our phones and checked the devices for videos and photos. They made menacing gestures, but finally relented when the court staff requested them to leave us alone.
The horror finally ended around 3.45pm when we managed to escape the court premises from the rear gate, which was the only one open, the other more frequently used ones all blocked by the agitated lawyers.

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4. The Indian Express

Attack at Patiala House court: Indian Express journalists recount the assault