Two New Delhi students accused of sedition under a colonial-era law surrendered to police late Tuesday night, furthering the saga that has surrounded one of India’s top academic institutions and ignited a national debate on freedom of speech.
Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were escorted out of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus just before midnight by university security and subsequently driven to an undisclosed location, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.
The duo were named as organizers of a Feb. 9 event at JNU to commemorate terrorist convict Muhammad Afzal Guru at which “anti-India” slogans were reportedly shouted. Demonstrators at the event were protesting Guru’s execution in 2013 for his alleged role in attacks on India’s Parliament in 2001, which remains controversial as many claim he was innocent.
A total of eight students have been named in an internal inquiry by the university over the event, including JNU students’-union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested and charged with sedition nearly two weeks ago. The young leader’s detention sparked widespread protests across Delhi and the country, against what many say is intolerance for dissent and decreasing free speech under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kumar’s Wednesday hearing for a bail plea was adjourned to Feb. 29 by the Delhi High Court, according to the Indian Express newspaper. His first hearing at a local court on Feb. 15 descended into violence, when a mob of lawyers reportedly assaulted JNU students, academics and journalists in attendance, while Kumar himself was beaten up when he arrived for the rescheduled hearing two days later.
Three other accused students remain inside the JNU campus, the Express reported, and said they will not surrender. The whereabouts of the last two students remain unknown.
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