Published: 06th March 2020
Meet the Bengaluru lawyer who is fighting to get the Kashmiri KLE students who sang 'Pakistan Zindabad' freed
Advocate B T Venkatesh tells us why the three Kashmiri students singing Pakistan Zindabad does not amount to sedition. He explains to us how he went all the way to Hubballi to attempt to get them bail
On Thursday morning, when advocate B T Venkatesh was at the Fifth Additional District and Sessions Court in Hubballi to argue in favour of the three Kashmiri students accused of making a viral anti-national video, they were surrounded by police constables, police inspectors and the police commissioner, R Dileep. The contingent remained firmly in place until Venkatesh safely departed to Bengaluru the same evening. Venkatesh says, "I have filed a bail plea and have presented my points to the judge that the students must be let off and must be allowed to continue their studies. Currently, the hearing has been postponed to March 9 and we hope the students will be freed."
While the entire Hubballi Bar Association is against taking up this case and arguing on their behalf, Venkatesh from Bengaluru decided to represent the three KLE students in court. When we asked him the reason behind it, he says, "Every person needs a legal representative to talk on their behalf and it is wrong to say that lawyers will not do so. I believed that the boys are entitled to get quality legal representation. According to Article 39-A of our Indian Constitution, everybody must get legal representation. The best part of this case was there were lawyers from different parts of Karnataka including Bidar, Vijayapura, Raichur, Mysuru, Mandya who came to argue on behalf of the students."
Advocate B T Venkatesh (Pic: Facebook)
Venkatesh believes in following his heart and not his mind when it comes to representing the poorest of the poor in different cases. He has a history of taking up many such cases when lawyers did not come forward to argue on the person's behalf. Therefore, his work has been recognised by the National Legal Services Authority and several other international organisations. He says, "I have been providing legal assistance and argued in many cases on behalf of LGBTQIA+ community and on behalf of the poorest people. For all these cases, I have spent my own money without charging them a single rupee. I am not doing them a favour but I believe in doing this work and following my principles as a lawyer."
Explaining why this act by the three Kashmiri students does not amount to sedition, he says, "If you have seen the board at the entrance of the Parliament of India, it is written, 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka'. This Sanskrit phrase means that the world is my family. Earlier, in Balwant Singh's case when they said, 'Khalistan Zindabad', the Supreme Court Division Bench has stated that it is not sedition. Sedition requires a bad intention of a person to destroy his or her own country whereas the students have no where said that. Unfortunately, sedition has become a joke. When India has diplomatic relations with Pakistan and people come and go to each other's nation, then why do we call it an enemy country? Has the government declared Pakistan an enemy country? Wishing good to the neighbouring country is not sedition."
Lawyers who gathered at Court in Hubballi
He further adds, "The sad part is that we don't treat Kashmiris as Indians but we only say it in our words and read it in books that Kashmir is an integral part of India. We treat them like they are from a different part of the world. I don't think the trio did not raise any slogans but they sang a song that's there on YouTube titled Pakistan Zindabad. It does not mean that they want to destroy or hate India."
But will they be able to go back to college and resume their studies? Venkatesh said, "Yes, they will be going back to the college. Yesterday my appeal to the court has been the same that the three Kashmiri students must be allowed to go back to the college and they must be given complete protection. It was unfortunate that the Principal has lodged the complaint. They have not done anything that must be persecuted by the law. They have not been taken into police custody all these days and have been kept only in the judicial custody because there is nothing to possess from them. "