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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Student arrest protests spread across India

Published 18/02/2016 | 11:06

Students wave an Indian flag and shout slogans during a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (AP)
Students wave an Indian flag and shout slogans during a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (AP)

A protest that rocked a New Delhi university this week has spread across India, with students and teachers in at least 10 cities joining demands for the release of a student leader arrested on sedition charges.

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Protesters were outraged by TV footage of Kanhaiya Kumar, student union president at Jawaharlal Nehru University, being kicked and punched while he was escorted to a court hearing on Wednesday, renewing allegations of intolerance by the country's Hindu nationalist governing party.

He was arrested last Friday over his participation in events where anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted. A New Delhi court has ordered him to stay in custody for two weeks and will hear his bail plea on Friday.

Demands for the student's freedom in the Indian capital were met by mobs of Hindu nationalists, including many lawyers, attacking students and accusing them of being anti-Indian.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu groups accuse left-wing student groups of anti-nationalism because of their criticism of the 2013 execution of a Kashmiri separatist convicted of an attack on Parliament.

Mr Kumar's treatment and attacks on teachers who supported him have triggered allegations the Modi government and the BJP are cracking down on political dissent in the name of patriotism.

Soon after the protests began, India's home minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that anyone shouting anti-India slogans "will not be tolerated or spared".

On Thursday, students in at least 10 Indian cities marched through the streets and denounced Mr Kumar's arrest.

In New Delhi, hundreds of students, professors and journalists gathered in the centre of the city.

They carried flowers as a sign of peace, Indian flags and placards saying "Free Speech under attack" and "Just because I don't agree, doesn't mean I am an anti-national".

Police said the rally was not authorised.

In the southern city of Chennai, police arrested 40 students.

In Kolkata, police were on alert as two groups of students held rival rallies in the Jadavpur University campus.

Student groups affiliated with the BJP demanded strict action against Mr Kumar and others who they accused of being anti-Indian.

Press Association

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