February 18, 2016


[The decree follows angry demonstrations across university campuses this week after a student was arrested for sedition. Protesters accuse the government of attempting to muzzle free speech.]

Protesters are demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, who has been 
detained on sedition charges. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters
India’s Hindu nationalist government has ordered major universities to prominently display the country’s flag at a time when it is struggling to contain the largest nationwide student protests in a quarter of a century, officials said.

All 46 centrally funded universities have agreed to display the flags after a meeting chaired by education minister Smriti Irani, the government said in a statement.

The universities have been asked to install flag masts 207 feet tall – about the same height as the Statue of Liberty – to hoist the nation’s tricolour flag, according to officials at India’s education ministry.

“At a central place at every university, the national flag will be flown prominently and proudly,” the government statement said.

The flag masts will be the same size as one that was installed in the centre of New Delhi two years ago. The flag, weighing 35 kilograms and measuring 90 feet long, was the largest in India at the time.

The decree follows angry demonstrations across university campuses this week after a student was arrested for sedition. Protesters accuse the government of attempting to muzzle free speech.

Kanhaiya Kumar, head of the student union at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was arrested after attending a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the execution of a Kashmiri separatist last week.

The student’s detention under colonial-era laws, once used by British rulers to jail nationalist heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi, has exposed deep ideological differences about freedom of speech in India.

The police and government say the student’s jailing is right because his behaviour was anti-India. But his arrest has become a cause célèbre among opposition parties who complain India is increasingly intolerant under Narendra Modi, who was elected prime minister in 2014.

The largest student protests have taken place at Jawaharlal Nehru University, an institution that will have to display the new flag because it is centrally funded.

“This is psychological warfare,” said N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi. “The government has decided that students are not patriotic enough and they will do something about it.”

[Summons ‘erroneously addressed’ to Hanuman after case filed against temple in Bihar for encroaching on government land]

Agence France-Presse

A man dressed as the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, during a meeting of the 
World Hindu Council. Hanuman is worshipped for his courage and strength.
Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP
A court has served a Hindu god with a summons for illegally encroaching on government land in eastern India after a roadside temple was built in his honour, officials have said.

Photos in local media showed the summons, addressed to Hanuman, pasted on an idol of the monkey god who is worshipped for his courage and strength, at the temple in Bihar state.

“The summons was issued after the public works department filed a case against the temple for encroaching on the road,” a court official in Rohtas district, who asked not to be named, said on Thursday.

The department petitioned the local magistrates court to have the temple removed for obstructing traffic, but local Hindu groups have protested against the legal action.

An official in Rohtas said the summons had been erroneously addressed to the Hindu god and would be corrected. “The summons was meant for the temple management and not the god,” Hashim Khan, Rohtas deputy development commissioner, said.

Encroachment on public land is widespread in India, including by religious groups who construct temples, shrines and other places of worship on public walkways, roads and vacant land.