JNU protest at Jantar Mantar: Rahul Gandhi backs demand for anti-caste “Rohith Act,

NEW DELHI: Addressing student protesters Rahul Gandhi has backed their demand of a new law- a ‘Rohith Act’ against caste-based discrimination. The government is stifling Dalits and adivasis, the Congress vice-president has alleged.

Live: Umar Khalid ready to surrender, approaches HC for protection; Rohith Vemula protests in full swing

With major political leaders stepping into the controversy over sedition and ‘anti-national’ activities, the issue has gone beyond the JNU campus.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has thrown his hat into the political ring over the JNU row, and has accused the government of trying to ‘stifle voices of dissent.’ ” He has said that the government ‘is not listening to the voices of young students.”
“We need a country where people are free to air their views…The RSS and BJP want to impose only a single ideology on the people,” Rahul Gandhi said.in his signature husky voice.

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According to The Indian Express, the key demands of the protesters in New Delhi seeking justice for Rohith Vemula are:

Enact ‘Rohith Act’ against caste discrimination in education spaces.
Remove Appa Rao from the post of Vice Chancellor
Employ family members of Rohith at the University of Hyderabad
Pay a minimum compensation of Rs 50,000 lakh
Drop the ‘false’ police cases against the five research scholars
Appoint a special public prosecutor in Rohith’s case
Constitute a judicial inquiry (non MHRD members) into all cases of discrimination and harassment of Dalits, Adivasis, OBC, religious minority students in all higher educational institutions
Implement affirmative action policies in all higher education institutions, irrespective of the management of the colleges.

JNU Student Union president, Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail plea will be heard today by the Delhi High Court after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on 19 February after which he was remanded to Tihar Jail. One of the key focus of the plea is likely to be around the allegedly doctored video clip used by the Delhi police to arrest him on the charges of sedition.
Zee News’ Vishwa Deepak had resigned last week citing that the channel had intentionally misinterpreted the video clip to brand some students as anti-national.
Kanhaiya’s lawyer had directly moved the the Supreme Court for bail, but the apex court asked his advocate to move the high court for bail, noting that bypassing the high court would set a wrong precedent.
The student leader had directly moved his bail plea before the Supreme Court invoking its jurisdiction under article 32, under which a citizen can move the apex court for enforcing his fundamental rights.
Besides bail, Kanhaiya Kumar had sought direction for his safety and security from the apex court.
Invoking article 21 guaranteeing right to life and personal liberty and pointing to the atmosphere of violence that prevailed in Patiala House Court complex on 15 and 17 February, he, in his petition in apex court, had said that the manner in which his physical harassment was allowed to take place was a clear pointer to the violation of his right to access justice delivery system.
Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested in a sedition case on February 12 after an event held on the university campus against hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Security will be beefed up in the high court to avoid any untoward incident, in view of the violence seen in the Patiala House courts when Kanhaiya Kumar was produced for hearing.
The National Capital Region is also being shaken up by 10,000 students who will be protesting at Jantar Mantar and India Gate on 23-24 February in solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and dalit scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide in University of Hyderabad. The JNU row and Rohith Vemula’s suicide have both sparked great debate in the country about the freedom of speech, the right to dissent, police brutality and overreach.
According to The Indian Express, the slogan of the protests is “humein chahiye azaadi, hum chheen ke lenge” (We want freedom and we will snatch it). The protest is being organised by Joint Action Committe (JAC) for Social Justice and Hyderabad Central University (HCU). The report also points out that students from TISS, TIFR, Mumbai University will join the protests.
According to Mid-Day, a number of students from across Mumbai universities and colleges have started a petition seeking the immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar.
Others accused of sedition and branded as “absconding” by the Delhi police, Umar Khalid and others will also be moving the High Court seeking security to surrender.
With inputs from agencies