JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on Tuesday attacked the Modi government and took on the RSS but barely mentioned Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya in an hour-long speech that followed a march in support of the two students in custody on sedition charges.
A Delhi court extended to March 29 their custody as fellow students from Jawaharlal Nehru University marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street to express solidarity with the two, accused of organising an event on February 9 during which alleged anti-India slogans were shouted.
Kumar skipped the third “people’s march to save democracy” and came directly to Parliament Street in the city centre to address the gathering, his first campus outing after getting a six-month conditional bail on March 3 in the sedition case .
“Modi ji, you said that nobody can become a leader by giving speeches. If you are telling me this, same applies to you, as you did the same to the public of the country. Two years have passed, but na acche din na acche raat dikha (we are yet to see better days ),” Kumar said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll promise of ‘Acche din’.
The JNU Students’ Union president then targeted the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling BJP. “People who take years in getting from half pant to full pant can only divide the country ... Everyone is a part of India. Be it minorities, Dalits,” Kumar said.
The RSS recently decided to dump its trademark khaki shorts in favour of brown trousers.
Kumar also denied accusations that the university and he were against the army. The government had turned army into a political issue. It was the government which was dividing people, he said. “ Your (Modi) government was the one which lathi-charged soldiers demanding one rank, one pension,” he told a cheering crowd.
Kumar also took digs at the Union HRD minister Smriti Irani. “People who have never gone to a university are deciding on our future.”
It was at the end of the speech that Kumar shouted, “Umar, Anirban ko riha karo, sedition charges wapas lo (free Umar and Anirban, drop the sedition charge)”.
A member of the All India Students’ Federation (AISF), the student wing of the Communist Party of India, Kumar had told HT in an interview after his release that his politics was different from that of Khalid though they were together in their fight against the Modi government .
Khalid and Bhattacharya were once members of the ultra-Left Democratic Students Union. A Delhi government probe panel while clearing Kumar of chanting anti-India slogans had said Khalid’s role needed to be investigated. Khalid was one of the organisers of the protest against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru