hree years ago, in February 2016, we were introduced to a little-known PhD student of Jawaharlal Nehru University – Kanhaiya Kumar, a student leader with a pocket-sized personality and a flair for words who was the President of the JNU students’ union. He was arrested on the charges of sedition that put the country and its media houses into a frenzy; whether he was guilty or not was a thought reserved for another day. When he was released (on interim bail) 18 days later, the atmosphere in the country had changed and the damage had been done to him, his peers and also the ruling party. BJP lost its sheen with day-by-day exposure against them. This average man became huge overnight and his attacks on BJP went viral. BJP had to see defeat in the state elections due to these young guys and their aggressive approach. Even though it was evident that he was framed, people had made up their mind to hate him and the university at large. Admitting they were wrong or misled, would hurt their ego; that’s something we, as Indians, are guilty of. We are too stubborn to take back our words even if it has hurt someone and keep defending our stand regardless. New words were added to the Indian lexicon – anti-national, taxpayer, Azadi, and Bharat Mata ki Jai albeit with different meanings.
His almost an hour-long speech after his release added fuel to people’s inner fire. He was articulate, funny, and clearly not angry nor remotely ruffled. The witch-hunt had led to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. He was targeting a government; RSS and Narendra Modi much-loved by the masses. This was the last straw. How can someone take a dig at the government, which won a landslide victory in 2014? This, for many of his detractors, was actual evidence of his “anti-nationalism”. Moreover, people who were against the government were standing in solidarity with him. He was an average guy who was being targeted and hounded by the “big guns in power” on the basis of a few distorted facts. The so-called “upholders of justice” on the very steps of justice beat him and not a single “protector of the law” stopped them. This could happen to any ordinary citizen. Despite being beaten and jailed, his resolve only grew and it takes a lot of courage to stand up to a powerful establishment. He was a representation of how dangerous it is to be a vocal opponent of the government and its rabid fan base.
The people who reject him are the very people who are giving mileage to his growth and keeping him in the news. Since the question is about manipulation, isn’t showing manipulated videos of someone leading to their arrest misleading? Isn’t circulating a fake tweet without confirming its authenticity misleading? Isn’t forming an opinion based on unverified videos and shouting it out on national television misleading? Isn’t locking up students, artists, writers, and activists under a dated law simply because they spoke against a particular political party or organisation misleading? Isn’t implanting ideas of pseudo-nationalism and jingoism in naïve minds rather than encouraging rational thinking misleading? The haters of Kanhaiya Kumar saw him as a threat to their leaders and political future. We, the people, are not naïve to idolise and deify everyone with good oratory skills. But we should be willing to listen to both sides of a debate and form our own opinion. Nonetheless, we have predicted that the students of JNU those who are not supporters of Modi and BJP are anti-nationals. We want to be biased declaring that they promote anti-social elements, maybe that is the reason now after three years Delhi police filed a chargesheet against them. By doing this, the government can keep their one enemy in the lock, they will not dare to campaign against BJP and other students those who are planning to campaign, can be pressurised. One needs to understand, no government can choke the voices. Kanhaiya Kumar’s case again snowballed into a major political controversy and has drawn sharp reactions from the opposition parties, teachers, students and academics. Kanhaiya Kumar’s parents have stated that their son was being victimised for his opposition to the Hindutva politics.
Remember, On March 3, 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar gave a speech to a packed auditorium in the JNU campus, during which he said that he was seeking, not freedom from India, but freedom within India. He appealed to his fellow students to free the nation from the clutches of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which, he stated, was trying to divide the nation. Referring to the ABVP (right-wing student organisation), whose members were instrumental in bringing about his arrest, he called them his “opposition”, not his enemy. He urged his supporters to keep raising the slogans of azadi (freedom). The speech won accolades from the leaders of non-BJP parties as well as independent commentators. Kumar has faced bounties and death threats. Kumar’s autobiography, ‘Bihar to Tihar: My Political Journey’ was published in October 2016. The book is his story from his childhood in rural Bihar, college days in Patna, to his political coming of age in Delhi. On April 29, 2018, he was elected to the 125-member party national council of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Now ahead of 2019 elections, he has been dragged into pressure tactics.
BJP needs to know that Kanhaiya is just a result of all the growing discontent in the country. People even before Kanhaiya, if not directly in public but silently in the background, have been raising questions regarding various issues to be it caste, capital punishment, majoritarianism, discrimination, rape, forced military occupation, poverty etc. He just articulated those anxieties, questions and doubts which ordinary people have been asking and dealing with. Speeches can be effective, motivating and gear people to action but really it’s not one Kanhaiya, but all such Kanhaiyas and let’s not forget the youth of this country who are demanding answers to some very pressing issues and want to see a change; not just at the economic or political level, but also at the social level. This should not be seen as a threat but rather a positive sign reflecting a vibrant democracy, but how far he succeeds in making a substantial differences only time will tell, for now, it’s nothing more than a good speech.
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