Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani, Kavita Krishnan, Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar are the face of new opposition; this young generation is all braced to fight against BJP and its right-wing atrocities. Shehla Rashid Shora is a Ph.D. student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and was the vice-president of the students’ union. Shora came into the limelight after Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on the charges of sedition, leading the student agitation calling for the release of Kumar, Umar Khalid, and others. She is vocal about the human rights situation in Kashmir, particularly for ensuring justice to the minor undertrials and has been active since 2010 when she was a part of organising a youth leadership programme in Kashmir. She has her own fan following and supporters, who made her celebrity on social media. Another very prominent name is Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. Krishnan is also a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML), and the editor of its monthly publication, Liberation. She is been labelled as Urban Naxal by the right-wing social media supporters. She has a very strong presence on Twitter and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to questioning the government and authorities. Jignesh Mevani is already in politics. He is a member in Gujarat Legislative Assembly representing Vadgam constituency. He has worked as a social activist and lawyer and had led protests by the Dalits, considered ‘lower castes’ in the Indian caste hierarchy, in Gujarat in 2016. When he made his debut in the Indian politics, he was voted highest. Hardik Patel is already active and taking over the government on various issues. Whereas, Umar Khalid is yet to come in the political galore but he voices his concern by posing questions to the government. This new brigade is all set to come to the mainstream legislation in 2019.
Meanwhile, Kanhaiya Kumar is all set to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Bihar’s Begusarai Constituency. An informal understanding has been reached within the Left parties on his candidature. Kanhaiya will contest the election on a ticket from the Communist Party of India (CPI). He is a native of Beehat panchayat in Begusarai district. The village is a part of the Teghra Legislative Assembly Constituency, known to be a stronghold of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Kumar’s father, Jaishankar Singh, owns about an acre of farmland and he is currently paralysed. His mother, Meena Devi, is an Anganwadi worker. Kanhaiya has an elder brother, Manikant, who works as a supervisor with a company in Assam. His family members have traditionally been the supporters of the CPI. In 2015, Kanhaiya Kumar became the first AISF member to become the president of the JNU Students’ Union, defeating the AISA (All India Students Association), ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), SFI (Students’ Federation of India), and NSUI (National Students’ Union of India) candidates. He has mastery in oratory and has in-depth knowledge of the Indian politics. There was one more Dalit student from Hyderabad, Rohit Vemula, who committed suicide against the injustice done to him by the Education Ministry. After his death, the students from all over India came on the road to seek justice and in those days the JNU students were also a part of agitation. That’s how these students came to surface and somewhere posed as a threat to the government.
In 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested by the Delhi police. A case was registered against him under the Indian Penal Code Sections 124-A (sedition) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy). He was charged over an event organised by some students at the JNU campus against the hanging of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, following complaints by BJP Member of Parliament Maheish Girri and the ABVP. Kanhaiya Kumar denied the charges and said that he was neither shouting any slogan nor saying anything against the integrity of the country. Later on, he got bail and was released by getting a clean chit from the court. His arrest soon mounted into a major political controversy and has drawn sharp reactions from the opposition parties, teachers, students, academics, and civil society that are attacked as Urban Naxals. Well, that was the time that breaded some young minds against the ruling government and its atrocious acts. Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, and Ms Rashid were the new force; they became the young idols on the social media.
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, 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 the independent commentators. That moment turned Kumar into a ‘nationwide political star’. Following his release from jail, Kumar has faced bounties and death threats. Kuldeep Varshnay, a leader of the youth wing of BJP, was expelled from the organisation for offering Rs 5 lakh as a reward to anyone who cut off Kumar’s tongue. Posters were put up in New Delhi offering Rs 11 lakh as a reward to anyone who shoots Kumar. Adarsh Sharma, who allegedly put up these posters, was arrested on March 7, 2016. A high-level inquiry committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru University found out that provocative slogans at the controversial February 9 event inside the campus were raised by a group of outsiders, wearing masks. Somehow, that saga settled giving India a group of young aspiring politicians.
Now, the civil society again came under attacks and rationalists are getting killed. The Bombay High Court is upset with the Maharashtra Police for holding a press conference showing evidence against the recently arrested activists. It looks like the Police probably have no Court-Admissible Evidence against them. This is the latest blow inflicted on civil society by a party that wishes to see only its own organisations dominating the space of associations. The attempt might just rebound on the party. The well-known Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, jailed by the Mussolini government in the 1920s, set out to answer a crucial question. Why had a revolution occurred in semi-feudal Tsarist Russia, and not in the Western capitalist world as predicted by Marx? He concluded that revolutions only happen when the government directly and unashamedly exercises brute power, as in Russia. They do not happen in countries which possess civil societies, for here projects of domination and resistance can be played out. Citizens just do not need to revolt. Is there a lesson that our rulers need to learn from this piece of profound wisdom? Let’s see how this new equation challenges the new politics of India.
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