Indian students fight for freedom of expression

(CNN) – A clash of values and ideology is brewing in India over the arrest of a student leader at a top university.  He’s accused of sedition for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans at a rally.

The case has sparked a wave of protests, and police have carried out raids to look for other students.

They arrived in hordes, from college after college, carrying roses, chanting free speech is a fundamental right.

What began as a small college campus protest has turned into this massive movement. The crowds just keep coming. Tens of thousands of students here, all headed towards the main square. To protest against what they say is assault of democracy.

It all began last week, when students from one of India’s top universities, JNU, organized an event, to commemorate the third anniversary of the execution of a Kashmiri separatist.

It turned into a protest, with some chanting they wanted to see India broken into pieces.

The police clamped down and arrested a student leader, Kanhaiya Kumar, on charges of sedition.

These students say the charges against Kumar are unfounded.  In the name of patriotism, the government is crushing criticism and political dissent.

“We want to be allowed to speak out in this country that we love, if we say anything against government, anything that we are against, we don’t want to be called anti-nationalists,” said a student in New Delhi

At his first court appearance, lawyers who support the ruling party, beat up Kumar, even journalists weren’t spared.

Today’s rally, while much smaller, harks back to protests more than three years ago,

When Delhi came to a standstill following the brutal rape and murder of a young woman.

We haven’t seen this kind of anger on the streets of Delhi since the rape protests in 2012. These people say it’s not about one student or one university, this is about the very idea of India.

These students say the country is becoming increasingly intolerant under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP.

Supporters of the government say the crackdown is justified as the nation’s sovereignty is not up for discussion.

Copyright CNN 2016

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