JNU is celebrating students union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s return from jail, but the celebration is marked by an awareness that their friends Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are still imprisoned and the world perhaps views the university suspiciously.
“The mood in the campus is one of cautious optimism. It was a celebration when Kanhaiya was released, but the talk among my friends since then has been about the bail order and what it reflects, particularly since Umar and ban are still in jail. I have had conversations with friends wondering what we can do to make the common public outside the campus understand that we are not anti-nationals,” says Nivedita Kapoor, a PhD student.
For the moment, though, all talk on campus is centred around Kanhaiya’s fiery speech. Discussions in dhabas and tea stalls on Friday revolved around this, with students recounting the punch-lines Kanhaiya delivered.
“Even after coming out of jail, he took on the government, heads on. It takes guts to do that,” said an MPhil student from the Centre for Political Studies. “His speech raised the right issues and highlighted how the BJP government has failed to deliver any promises, especially where where he talked about how the BJP won people over with Har Har Modi and how the same people are now angry about ‘Arhar’.
As Kanhaiya stepped in to the administrative block also known as Freedom Square, students cheered and shouted slogans of ‘Lal Salam’. Everybody was keen to shake hands and congratulate their leader.
The press conference afterwards was a huge success too. A large number of students turned up to hear their leader. Some of them even wore a T-shirt with Kumar’s picture to express their solidarity.
“What a speech he gave, a new leader has emerged. We have to thank the BJP government for they have made our President even stronger,” said a Phd student who did not wish to be named.
Post all the action, the administrative block became more lively with new posters of ‘Stand with JNU’, messages to their jailed friends and cartoons made by students adorning the walls. Some students sat in groups and shouted ‘Lal Salam’ and ‘Azadi’ slogans.
Many students from Brahmaputra hostel, where Kanhaiya’s room is located, turned up at the block because he hadn’t yet visited the hostel. “We have not been able to meet him as he has not come back to the hostel. But we are looking forward to hear from him,” said Abhay Seth, who lives in Brahmaputra hostel.