A day after delivering a fiery speech, JNU student president Kanhaiya Kumar on Friday remained the rebel that he is but with a subtle shift – a nationalist who respects the Constitution in letter and spirit ready to take the government head-on.
The PhD scholar, who got out of the Tihar Jail a day earlier on a conditional bail after being accused of sedition, made it clear no one had a “patent” on nationalism. He was as committed to territorial integrity of India but would fight for free speech, Rohith Vemula, and freedom – azadi -- from all exploitation.
But while delivering the most political of messages, Kumar reiterated and reminded -- perhaps himself as well -- that he was just a student representative.
“I want to make it clear that I am not a politician. I am a student and the students of this campus have elected me as their representative. I’m not thinking more than this at present.”
While speculation is at feverish pitch about his political future – if he would campaign for the Left in the upcoming state elections, India’s latest political sensation insisted he was not a politician.
Kumar is a member of All India Students Federation, the student a wing of the Communist Party of India.
Surrounded by students and faculty, Kumar, whose speech night before became a top Twitter trend, spoke to media on Friday at the JNU campus.
“I want to thank all who supported me, and want to assure tax-payers that a JNU student can never be anti-national.” He was referring to accusations that the university students were abusing subsidized facilities being provided to them.
“I condemn what happened on February 9. Whether it is sedition or not, courts will decide. We will not comment on sub judice matter. We have faith in Constitution.”
Anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted during the event to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru that triggered a political row and also invited charges of sedition against Kumar and five others.
For him, Afzal Guru was a citizen of India, a resident of Kashmir, which is a part of India, he said in his counter charges that slogans for Kashmir’s secession were chanted on February 9.
“He (Guru) was given punishment by the court as per law. The same law gives freedom to people to question that.” Rohith Vemula, not Afzal, was his icon, he said, targeting the anti-national accusation.
Terming sedition as a black law, Kumar said the British used it to suppress Indians and now the government was using it to suppress students. “Ask this government and tell them a black law like sedition should not be used to destroy students’ lives.”
Speaking for fellow students who in the last few days have been accused of being unpatriotic, he said, “We understand the meaning of freedom of speech, we understand the meaning of freedom.”
He had a message for the government too -- “The Indian Constitution is not a video that can be doctored.”
Kanhaiya chose to speak at the Ad Block, the spot from where it all started and has since seen daily demonstrations, sit-ins, and also teach-Ins where lectures on nationalism and freedom are delivered. On Friday, Apoorvanand, a professor of Hindi at DU, spoke about Gandhi to a rapt audience.
An alumni, now with an intelligence agency, said, “He made us proud... People were casting aspersions on us when we said we are from the university. Kanhaiya showed what the university stands for.”
A faculty member, pointing to the media throng, laughed and said the market had finally recognised JNU’s potential.