Student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, whose arrest on sedition charges sparked a debate over nationalism, attacked the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “anti-people” on Friday, saying the campus movement would continue till the ruling alliance was thrown out.
Speaking to HT on Friday night at the JNU campus, Kumar also made it clear that as a “leftist cadre”, he would remain engaged in politics and do what his organisation – the All India Student Federation – would ask him to do.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said the JNU student president would canvass for the Left in this year’s West Bengal polls.
Asked what was the goal of the students’ campaign and if it would end with the release of fellow students, Kumar said, “This movement is for rights and justice. You must see it as a part of a larger struggle — in FTII, the tolerance-intolerance debate, the Occupy UGC movement, what happened in Dadri, the Hyderabad episode and then JNU... the movement will continue till the end of this government. People will keep coming together.”
He said people — soldiers at the borders, farmers and students —were dying and it was his duty to expose the regime.
Did he agree -- in the light of the February 9 incident-- that fundamental rights and free speech come with restrictions? “Yes, I endorse that rights need to be coupled with duties. Restrictions are important but this is a grey area and it is precisely the area power centres seek to manipulate.”
He also said though his politics was different from that of Umar Khalid they were together on the need to fight this government. Khalid is in jail facing sedition charges and is also accused of organising the February 9 event during which alleged anti-India slogans were shouted.
Kumar was cautious on being asked if he saw the developments of the last three weeks as a turning point. “But people coming together against a government trying to impose one ideology, murder democracy and impose authoritarianism is a good thing.”
Indian left remained strong on the streets and on issues even if its electoral strength had diminished, he said, adding the two people he felt closest to and admired the most in recent times were Rohith Vemula and Govind Pansare.
His attraction for Left politics, he said, began with his reading of Hindi literature. “Literature makes you sensitive, your creative aspects get strengthened, you become aware and then you look for an alternative. And you get attracted to politics that speaks of equality, justice and end of exploitation.” If Left politics was about siding with the weak and powerless, he was and would remain a leftist.