Biplab Das, INN/Gwalior, @infodeaofficial

Fourteen students of the Aligarh Muslim University have been booked for offenses including sedition, after a confrontation on February 12 with a crew of Republic TV. An FIR was filed by the police based on a complaint by a Bharatiya Yuva Janata Morcha leader. On Tuesday, February 12, Sharjeel Usmani, a student of political science at the Aligarh Muslim University, alleged in a Facebook post that a crew from Republic TV “was reporting live that ‘we’re standing in the university of terrorists’”. According to Usmani’s post, upon intervention by students, one of the cameramen manhandled them and called them terrorists. This was followed by the cameraman attacking the students with a pen.

What was Republic TV covering at AMU? According to a witness, the reason for the channel’s presence was the news of AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi being invited to the university. On February 10, Times of India had reported: “Owaisi has been invited by the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union (AMUSU) along with other Muslim parties’ presidents to discuss the formation of a new political front to fight for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.”

On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh police received three sets of complaints about a scuffle that had broken out at the Aligarh Muslim University in the afternoon. One was filed by Republic TV journalists who said they were reporting from the campus when they were heckled by students who also snatched and broke their equipment.

Another was filed by Mukesh Singh Lodhi, district president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing. He said he was driving past the campus and chanced upon a crowd of “Muslim students attacking journalists and Hindu students”. He stopped to check, only to became a target himself, he alleged.

The third set of complaints was filed by the university and the students against the Republic TV journalists and others. The university filed a complaint against the TV news channel for trespassing while the students alleged assault.

While the police promptly acted on the first two sets of complaints, they ignored the third. They filed a case based on the TV crew’s complaint without naming any student. Lodhi’s complaint resulted in 14 students being booked, including for sedition.

Among the 14 students booked are the AMU students’ union president M Salman Imtiaz and his predecessor Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani. Imtiaz vehemently denied raising any such slogans and said most student union members were attending a meeting at the social sciences faculty when the scuffle broke out.

Usmani said he was not even in Aligarh. He left the campus on February 11 to join the ongoing protest against sexual harassment at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, and claimed to be still there when contacted him on the phone.

According to Imtiaz, Republic TV staff arrived on the campus on Tuesday morning to interview students. That day, the students’ union was holding a meeting with “some Muslim political parties and some activists who are working with oppressed classes and marginalised classes”. Some news reports say the union had invited the MP Asaduddin Owaisi to the meeting which led to a protest by a section of the Hindu students. This section included Ajay Singh, grandson of the local BJP legislator, Dalveer Singh. Ajay Singh is among the eight students who have since been suspended.

Imtiaz said the journalists were asked to wait until the meeting was over but they insisted on conducting the interviews right then. The interviews done with, the union’s programme began at around 12:10 pm, but the reporters stuck around. Imtiaz claimed the Republic TV team had with them a few students from AMU who are Hindu and support the BJP. “They are the ones who caused this nuisance, tried to stoke communal tension on campus,” he alleged. “They fired guns and were violent with AMU students but the police is not acting on our complaint.”

The university’s students as well as teachers are convinced the constant goading of AMU by the BJP and its Hindutva affiliates is calculated to distract attention from unemployment and corruption in the government before the 2019 general election.


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