DC Debate: Kanhaiya's spirit of freedom' speech

Mr Modi came to power riding piggyback, in part, on a social media wave created by the BJP.

Struggle for azaadi in India

Bipin Sebastian

On Thursday midnight, amid calls for azaadi reverberating on the campus, JNU had its tryst with Kanhaiya Kumar, the unlikely rustic youth from Bihar who has become the pivot of the Opposition to what PM Narendra Modi represents. Never before, probably since the days of Independence, has the term azaadi caught the imagination and attention of so many in the country.

Mr Kumar and his friends have just told the nation that azaadi need not always mean independence from the Indian nation state, as the bhakts would want others to believe. It also means freedom from injustice and discrimination meted out by the state, especially towards the marginalised sections of society, be it a Dalit, a woman, or someone belonging to the LGBTQ community.

Mr Modi and his bhakts have been caught on the wrong foot in unc-harted territory, ever since his government started muzzling the voice of students. From FTII in Pune to UoH to JNU, his government has failed to deal with opposition in acceptable ways.

Several student pro-tests have rocked autho-ritarian governments in many parts of the world. The first prominent challenge that the communist state of China faced was from students at the Tiananmen Square, which unfortunately led to mass massacre by the military.

Mr Modi came to power riding piggyback, in part, on a social media wave created by the BJP. For now, Mr Kumar and his campus crowd seem to be turning the tables on Mr Modi.

Mr Kumar used the opportunity during his “homecoming” to rebut all the allegations made against him and sounded “politically correct”. From the “doctored” video used to frame him, to accusations of being anti-national, to calling the bluff in invoking the image of the selfless jawan to spread malice against student protesters, he tore into the arguments of the rival side. Mr Kumar’s speech contained the voice of those who do not exactly fall within the boundaries set by the narrow narrative of an ideal nationalist citizen, mou-lded in the image of a north Indian upper-caste Hindu male. Branding someone as anti-national is turning into a manifestation of caste discrimination in a neo-casteist society. The dominant sections of society used it to fervently defend the existing power structures that are very much in their favour. No wonder they easily used it to brand and dismiss Rohit Vemula and the Ambedkarite politics as being anti-national.

UoH and JNU are different issues. Still, than-ks to Mr Kumar and his friends, azaadi has come to embody the voice of the “other” within the Indian state. “We don’t want freedom from India, we want freedom in India,” said the JNUSU president.

Speech shows azaadi exists

Dr Y.L. Srinivas

Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Writings and Spee-ches in its Volume III, has an interesting piece titled ‘Buddha or Karl Marx’, in which he ends the presentation with the following words. “(That) society has been aiming to lay a new foundation was summarised by the French Revolution in three words, ‘Fraternity, Liberty and Equality’. We welcome the Rus-sian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha. Communism can give one but not all.”

Kanhaiya Kumar’s call for “azaadi within India” after his release from bail thus reflects the yawning gap between rhetoric and reality based on Dr Ambedkar’s own observations. Furthermore, Mr Kumar’s call for uniting the “blue” of Dr Ambedkar and the “red” of Communism is riddled with this very problem — that Comm-unism as an ideology can only go so far. In fact, Dr Ambedkar felt that humanity wants not only the economic values but also the spiritual values to be retained. The ideology of communism paid no attention to spiritual values. The idea of a nation and especially of India is one of the largest and most enduring spiritual values and the celebration of the event at JNU on February 9 was nothing but an attempt to trample on this idea. Thus the call for azaadi from hunger, capitalism and Brahmanism, that Kan-haiya made after his return from jail, was a well-crafted attempt to obfuscate discussion from the core issue.

As a student union president, Mr Kumar should have shown zero tolerance to the raising of slogans against India and the attempt to make a hero out of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. Instead, he chose to waffle on it. In interviews, he dodged questions on Afzal Guru and the anti-India slogans, and was elusive when questions were posed on Afzal Guru. The slogans are an affront to the Constitution that has given Mr Kumar and others the right to free speech. When overt attempts are being made to destabilise the Indian Union, it is the responsibility of every individual and the JNU fraternity to condemn it rather than condone it.

The issues which Mr Kumar is seeking freedom from are not specific to India. For a nation to fight socio-economic-cultural disparities, a prerequisite is that it has to survive as a nation. We will not be able to fight disparities by lending credence to the arguments being put forth by those indulging in a proxy war against India from within and without. Freedom within India exists and Mr Kumar’s speech is a standing testimony to that. The imperative before us is to free universities from fissiparous tendencies.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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