A day after he captured the imagination of friends and foes alike with a riveting speech from the stairs of the administrative block on the JNU campus, Kanhaiya Kumar was the newsmaker of the day on Friday.
Hordes of journalists -- both from the print and television -- queued up to talk to someone who was declared as the next big thing of the Left movement.
After addressing the media at a press conference organised by the JNU Teachers’ Association, it was the turn of one-to-one interactions. Speaking to Hindustan Times, the JNU students’ union president said he was worried about the prevailing environment in the country but asserted that he will not allow anybody to encroach upon the ‘free space’ in JNU.
A stint in jail, violence in court and a hero’s welcome. How has the experience been?
When I was in prison, you people (the media) took the movement forward. I am still recollecting what transpired over these 22 days of my life and putting the pieces together. Honestly, I did not expect that so much would happen if I go to jail. Suddenly from being a student learning about the system, I became a part of the system, facing sedition charges. At this point only thing I am certain about is that all is not well with our country.
What are your thoughts about your comrades Umar Khalid and Anirban, who are also facing sedition charges?
The government is exploiting its power but we are fighting to ensure that there is proper utilisation of the state’s power (It should be exerted in the right direction). Yes some of us are still in jail and some more may go to prison. But whoever is involved, we will continue to fight for all of them.
Did you expect the kind of welcome you got on reaching JNU? What have you been doing?
Honestly, from the time I have come here, either I am with the media or running away from the media. I have done nothing.
There are reports that you are going to campaign for the Left parties in the West Benal and Assam elections
It’s a very serious issue. If this question is posed to me as an individual, I may say yes or a no. But if the context of your question is that whether I am going to take the plunge in active politics so soon, I will say I am not prepared. These are just reports, there has been no communication from anybody. I came to know about this through the media only. No such offer has been made, so I cannot answer right now.
The entire controversy erupted after a seminar. Will now there be a scrutiny of events? Will seminars like the one that took place on February 9 will be stopped?
Not at all. The students of JNU never do anything against their country. JNU is a serious institution and everything that we do here is with conviction. I will not comment on whatever happened after the February 9 event since the matter is sub-judice. But nobody can steal the space for free speech in JNU from us. I want to send out a message to the people who love democracy in the entire world that our fight will go on.
Do you think that your movement will strengthen the Leftist forces in the country? What do you think is the road ahead for the Left ?
The entire opposition (people who are ideologically against the establishment) is united in this fight. This opposition consists of those who want to implement what is written and guaranteed by the Constitution. We are fighting against those who are destroying the Constitution.There are divisions in the Left movement and it is not a bad thing. But when it comes to protecting the Constitution, not only the Left but whoever is progressive and believes in democracy must come together. People who want to divide the country are seeking certificates of patriotism from us. The Left has to widen its base so much that it destroys the Sangh ideology.
Have you been cautious while speaking after coming out of jail?
It is not that I am cautious but everybody has their own way of talking. But an environment is being created in the country where rumours spread like wild fire. People who burn the national flag are moving around with flags and giving lectures on nationalism and asking others for proof of their patriotism. I am speaking in a serious manner because the situation is very serious.
How do you plan to connect to other student movements in the country?
The movements are connecting on their own. We did not get an invitation to join the FTII protests. Then it was the tolerance-intolerance debate, the Occupy UGC movement, Rohith Vemula case and then Stand with JNU happened. If the government keeps doing what it is doing, all such movements will identify with each other and join hands.
Now, there is an air of suspicion around JNU. What do you have to say to that?
New media has been used wrongly. Regressive forces have been doing this. We need to think about this rationally. But we go to the people and establish a dialogue with them to clear the air.