KARACHI: A day after Jamshoro Police implicated 15 students of the University of Sindh, Jamshoro, over charges of rioting, criminal conspiracy and 'condemnation of the creation of the state', social media was abuzz with reprisals over what many users termed a move to silence free speech.
At the varsity, students belonging to various faculties at the varsity alleged that the Jamshoro Police had registered the case against the students who were leading the protests against the severe shortage of drinking water at one of the largest public varsities in the province. The students also claimed that the FIR was registered on the 'hidden' directives of the varsity administration.
For their part, the administration officials bluntly dismissed the allegations. "The university administration has nothing to do with the case," said the SU registrar, Dr Ameer Abro. "It is the police who have registered the FIR against those who were shouting anti-Pakistan slogans and were involved in anti-Pakistan wall-chalking on the university premises."
The FIR was registered against 15 students under sections 120(a and b) [criminal conspiracy], 123(a) [condemnation of the creation of the State, and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty], 124 [sedition] and 153 [rioting] of the Pakistan Penal Code. Interestingly, the case was registered on Monday, November 18 - 18 days after the protest rally convened by students on October 31 to protest the water shortage in the varsity.
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According to police, some students were raising "anti-Pakistan" slogans at the protest too. "We have video record and other evidence against the students who were raising the slogans," Inspector Ghulam Qadir Panhwar, the security in-charge of the university, who is also the complainant of the case, told The Express Tribune.
When asked if he could share the video footage, he refused, saying, "We can't share the proof with you, but these are student activists of various nationalist parties and are involved in anti-Pakistan activities."
Refuting the police's account, a student leader, requesting not to be named, said that this was the third demonstration staged at the varsity hostel gate and that the cases had been registered against those who were leading the protest.
Meanwhile, Dr Arfana Mallah, a teachers' leader, who has been protesting against the university administration over allegations of nepotism and corruption, held the administration responsible for the FIR. In a message on social media she said, "Shame on admin for harassing students. VC, Sindh University, is taking revenge from students."
Mehran Memon, an activist, who was previously a student at the university, questioned why the FIR was registered after a few weeks of the incident. "If the demonstration was held on October 31, why have the police registered the case after 18 days," he questioned, adding that the students who have been implicated in the case were affiliated with different political parties. "They have lodged fake cases of sedition against these students and we will challenge it in the court of law because the police have no evidence," he said, adding that no case can be registered without the consent of the university administration. "A case regarding any activity being held on the university premises can't be registered without taking the VC and registrar into confidence," said Memon. "We are devising our strategy to protest against the case in every nook and cranny of Sindh," he said.
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Meanwhile, another student, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that the case was registered after a "Sindh Cultural Day" event organised by students, where some people had indeed raised anti-Pakistan slogans.
The registrar, Dr Abro, said, however, that it was purely a police case and the varsity has nothing to do with it. "How can we register an FIR of sedition or criminal conspiracy against our own students?" he questioned, adding that some elements were deliberately trying to defame the university administration by dragging them into it.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2019.