The news from the frontlines of the new war on terror is, briefly, that the desperately wanted Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya have surrendered to the police — which is a good thing. No matter how little trust you have in the law and order machinery (and in fairness to the students, it is hard to find a single reason to trust Bassi’s Boys), neither the students nor the university could afford to get into an indefinite confrontation with authority. It gains nothing; it merely gives the flag-wavers a handle to beat the institution with.
Elsewhere, some journalists continue to stick by their evidentiary guns. Like, so:
Video by JNU Security Staff in which slogans like ‘Bharat Ko Ragda-De Ragda’ clearly audible. Fringe frenzy in JNU. pic.twitter.com/PXgjzBEh1j
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) February 23, 2016
Fair enough. Cringe-inducing slogans were shouted on February 9 on the JNU campus. What is laughable if it weren’t so dangerous is the easy conflation of this video with the likes of Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and others named — none of whom can be seen in the clip.
My friend the professional mentalist Nakul Shenoy once gave me a private demonstration of the essence of ‘magic’. He kept making things appear and disappear and though I was seated across him at a restaurant at the time, damned if I could catch what he was doing. Then he slowed it down for me — and pointed out that each time, he was doing something with his other hand that distracted my attention at the crucial moment. I didn’t realise at the time that a working knowledge of magic was an essential tool of journalism.
On February 17, Bassi said the Delhi police has identified the ringleaders behind the February 9 incident and has mounted a nationwide search for them. Presumably, then, the police on that date knew the identities of the persons involved in the incident reflected in the video above. A day earlier, Bassi had said the police has “enough photo and video evidence” to make its case.
A full seven days later, the police has “shortlisted” the photographs of eight people, none of whom have been identified (which sort of begs the question — how the devil were you “manhunt”-ing across the nation without knowing who you are looking for?).
Earlier, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi had also said that some of the youths who allegedly raised seditious slogans at the JNU event were outsiders and the police are trying to find them out.
Once identified, the youths are likely to face arrest in connection with the sedition case which led to the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
In sum: the police arrested one; two others they named have surrendered; none of the three are who the police actually want; the police don’t quite know yet who they actually want (but are hell bent on holding on to the guy they do have, by opposing bail, even if the guy they have is not one of the eight they want…)
It’s getting so you can’t even keep the plotline straight anymore.
Meanwhile, the police demonstrated its remarkable abilities in quite another direction. Having first seen no signs of violence (“just some jostling”) and having been forced to confront compelling evidence to the contrary acquired by a media house, they arrested and immediately freed on bail one Yashpal Singh, a lawyer.
Turns out this Singh — who they first saw beating up people in full public view — is someone they have “wanted” since 2014, in quite another, but equally unsavoury, case.
This relates to an FIR lodged by Delhi police in 2014. His plea for anticipatory bail was rejected by a Delhi court on January 29 this year, and on Tuesday the Delhi high court refused to grant him immediate relief.
Even as a bench of Justice Pratibha Rani heard the pleas of JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, Singh’s plea for anticipatory bail came up in the same block before Justice Suresh Kait.
Singh has been accused of trying to sell off a dead woman’s plot of land by propping up a woman accomplice as the owner and pocketing Rs 45 lakh. Speaking to TOI, he admitted he had filed the anticipatory bail plea in the high court but claimed he was innocent.
In sum: A case (of preying on a dead woman and her property) was registered against him in 2014. He walks around free for two whole years. He files for anticipatory bail only this January. It is denied (which, from the little I know of the law, means he can and should be arrested when seen) — and a little over a week later, there he is in full public view indulging in violence. Worse — he is finally arrested, and immediately let loose, on the violence charge, and the police are not even aware they have “wanted” him for two whole years and counting?
In passing, this bail business? The Delhi police is opposing bail for Kanhaiya Kumar because of his presumed ability to break laws and influence witnesses — but grants bail to the likes of a cheat with a demonstrated proclivity to violence (IIRC, he is the gent who, on the IndiaTodayTV sting, promised to say it with petrol bombs next time) because, obviously, there is no apprehension that he will break any laws or influence any witnesses?
What bizarre looking glass world are we living in?
And finally on this for now, I notice that the student agitation continues apace — and judging by reports, is growing in strength. Good — to protest, to dissent, is their right. But if, in this season of ‘open letters’ written by nationals, anti-nationals, and sundry other confused folk, I were to catch the bug and write one of my own, it would be to JNU students and their supporters from other universities, and I would say to them:
Keep the politicians out. The Rahul Gandhis, the Arvind Kejriwals and others of their ilk (even the Medha Patkars, come to think of it). We both know they are latching on to your anger, your protest, merely to score political brownie points. Their presence at your rallies does you no favours, it merely dilutes your credibility and earns you the “politically motivated” label.
You don’t need them. Judging by the reported speeches of Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, you guys are far more capable of making your case, with reason and with passion (and with a soupçon of naiveté that is consonant with your age). And when you speak for yourself, your voice has a power and resonance the practised rhetoric of the professional politician can never achieve.
So do yourself a favor: keep the politician out.