Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam, Ashutosh Bhardwaj
Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Five days after 14 students of Aligarh Muslim University were booked for sedition, the Uttar Pradesh police said they will drop the charges when they file the charge sheet, due to lack of evidence.
Mukesh Singh Lodhi, president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Aligarh, had filed a complaint against these 14 students alleging that they had raised “Pro-Pakistan, Anti-India” slogans during a campus scuffle on 12 February.
While speaking to The Quint, he had conceded that neither did he have any proof nor could he personally verify those he himself had named in the FIR. On what basis then, did the police proactively file an FIR and slap sedition charge on fourteen students?
To clarify, on 12 February, there were two separate scuffles at the university campus. The first was between Republic TV journalists and a group of students over permission to shoot. The second occurred between two groups of AMU students, including Ajay Singh, who happens to be the grandson of a local BJP MLA Dalvir Singh.
It was in the second scuffle that 14 AMU students, including the past and present presidents of their union and other student leader, were charged under sedition and eight other charges.
Now, let’s decode the loopholes in the FIR, which was filed on the basis of unsubstantiated claims by a BJP youth wing leader.
1. Out-of-Town Students Among Those Named in The FIR
First, the FIR filed also names students who were not even present in the city on the day the alleged incident happened.
Mashkoor Usmani, former AMUSU President, said, “The day the incident happened in Aligarh, I was in Delhi. I had come to Delhi a day earlier to participate in a protest happening in Jamia Milia Islamia University.”
The current AMUSU President, Salman Imtiyaz, said there were CCTV footages that captured the moment when the scuffle broke out between the two groups. Imtiyaz said he was present in a meeting organised by the students’ body of regional Muslim parties and minority leaders and activists in Uttar Pradesh. He said the sedition charge was “an attack on AMU’s student leadership.”
However, when questioned why he named out-of-town students in his complaint, Mukesh Lodhi said, “This was all a part of conspiracy”. When pressed further, he conceded that he had not seen the students he named but had allegedly heard a “group of students raising Pakistan slogans” on that day.
“There were a lot of people in the crowd who were sloganeering so I can’t say that I have seen those particular people. I got them identified by people who were present there.”Mukesh Singh Lodhi, BJYM President
2. No Proof of Anti-India Slogans in Video Given By BJP Leader
A video that Mukesh Lodhi himself showed me and has also submitted to the police shows a scuffle between students but has absolutely no audio or video of any slogans being raised by anyone.
“They were sloganeering while coming towards me. When they came near, there were media persons standing, so they stopped and just attacked me.”
However, Hasan Khalid, who writes for the local Urdu daily Inquilab, claimed to have personally witnessed both the scuffles – with the Republic TV journalists and between the student groups – and said, “I did not hear any such (anti-India) slogans. Only ‘Republic TV Go Back’ slogans were raised. No slogans were raised against the country. I was present there all along.”
3. What Was a Local BJP Youth Leader Doing During a Campus Scuffle?
But the question is what was a local BJP leader doing during an altercation between two groups of university students?
While Mukesh Lodhi claims that he was simply “passing by that area” and his presence there was a mere "co-incidence," eye-witnesses and students claim that this indicates there was a prior plan to communalise the matter.
“I was passing by that area when I saw a few journalists being beaten up. They were bleeding. There were some Hindu students with whom there was a fight. They were also standing there. When I stopped to check what was the matter, all the student leaders who have been named in the FIR came running with a thousand other students and started assaulting me, firing and vandalising my car.”
4. No Police Action Against Complaints Filed by Students
AMU students claim that absolutely no police action has been taken on the counter-complaints filed by them. When asked the reason, SHO Vinod Kumar said, “Jiski FIR hone layak thi woh humne kar diya (We filed an FIR on the complaint we thought deserved to be registered).”
On what basis was one complaint accepted and another rejected? If you can book students for a crime as serious as sedition on the unsubstantiated claims of a BJP youth leader, what stopped you from taking pro-active action on the claims of multiple AMU students?
Was Aligarh Muslim University then just another target like JNU?