New Delhi: JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested for sedition 20 days ago, was released from the Tihar Jail here on Thursday evening and returned to the university campus amid noisy celebrations by hundreds of students and teachers.
As the sprawling Jawaharlal Nehru University campus was enveloped in darkness after street lights mysteriously went off before Kanhaiya Kuamr's return, slogan-shouting students massed in the open holding flaming torches and carrying placards and posters hailing the student leader.
"We are all relaxed that Kanhaiya is back but the fight is far from over," PhD student Priyanka Das told IANS, summing up the general mood in the student community.
"We will maintain the solidarity till Anirban (Bhattacharya) and Umar (Khalid) are back and safe," she added, referring to the two other student activists who too are in jail on sedition charges.
Das, who is with the Centre for English Studies, said the JNU community "must not give up until students are safe inside and outside the campus".
Added another student, Monika Gupta: "Kanhaiya's release is an happy hour for all the students."
JNU Assistant Professor Rohit Azad told IANS: "As you can see, the JNU community has gathered here in full support. It is a relief that Kanhaiya is back."
The February 12 arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the first president of the JNU Students Union from the CPI-affiliated AISF, was widely denounced, more so after he was beaten up in a Delhi court on two days by some lawyers.
Delhi Police kept claiming that they had irrefutable evidence that Kanhaiya Kumar had raised anti-national slogans but failed to come up with the evidence in the court, weakening their case.
On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court gave a six-month interim bail to the jailed student leader but made wide-ranging observations on issues such as nationalism and love for the country that were quickly lapped up by the establishment and denounced by legal experts as unwarranted.
Judge Pratibha Rani told Kanhaiya Kumar to ensure that no "anti-national" activity took place in the JNU.
Wednesday's bail order sparked wild celebrations in the JNU by students, particularly those from leftist groups. On Thursday, there were fears that there may be clashes between leftist and rightist student groups.
But the situation in the JNU was largely peaceful although surcharged even as activists ranged against Kanhaiya Kumar gathered outside the JNU's main entrance.
Kanhaiya Kumar, who comes from a poor family in Bihar, eventually entered the university through a side gate.
The JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA), which actively backed Kanhaiya Kumar, welcomed his release but said it was concerned over the two other students still in custody.
"The JNUTA reiterates its demand that the sedition and criminal conspiracy cases based on frivolous videos be immediately withdrawn," its Secretary Bikramaditya Choudhary told the media.
Earlier, two JNU professors and one of his lawyers reached the Tihar Jail with judicial orders for his release.
Kanhaiya Kumar was released around 6.30 p.m., Mukesh Prasad, the jail's deputy inspector general, told IANS.
Advocate Vrinda Grover told IANS that Kanhaiya Kumar's surety of Rs.10,000 had been furnished.
The student leader has repeatedly denied the charges hurled at him. According to forensic experts, at least two of the seven videos which the police used to act against him had been doctored.