India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of being "anti-student" as the hashtag #AntiStudentsModi began trending across the country on Thursday 3 March. Thousands took to Twitter to condemn the government's actions in relation to the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student president was released from Tihar Jail in New Delhi 23 days after being arrested. His case gained international headlines, with a number of leading academics and human rights activists from around the world writing to Prime Minister Modi to condemn Kumar's arrest. Many have raised concerns over a crackdown of freedom of expression under the Modi government.
A spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tweeted: "Students want to a free sky to soar and fly high but what they are facing is the prospect of being oppressed and jailed. Modi government's full-fledged attack on free thinking students exposes its insecurity and insensitivity. BJP brand of nationalism considers those students anti-national who think and disagree with them. The more you crush, the mightier they will rise. Young students have the power to overthrow any regime."
Amid accusing the Prime Minister of being "anti-students", others have also accused him of being "anti-Dalit". In the ancient Hindu caste system, Dalits are the lowest in the social hierarchy and were often referred to as "the untouchables". The suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula in January reignited the debate on Dalit discrimination. Speaking at a rally in New Delhi on 2 March, Vemula's mother accused the Modi government of politicising her son's suicide.
Radhika Vemula said: "Injustice was done to my son and like him several others died in other universities of the country and justice should be done. A government order should be issued to bar universities from discriminating against students on the basis of caste."
Amid the backlash, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who back the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came out in support of the Modi government. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said: "Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai (hail Mother India). It should be real, spontaneous and part of all-round development of the youth."