The student leader’s loud proclamation of new-found patriotism has nothing to do with a change of heart; it’s a change of tactic after sensing hostile public opinion and understanding the High Court’s mood
A few days in prison can miraculously change a person’s conduct. India’s rising star on the ideological and political firmament, the one and only Kanhaiya Kumar, is now singing a patriotic tune that should gladden Manoj Kumar’s heart. Out on bail for a period of six months after spending 20 days behind bars on a variety of charges including sedition, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president’s fresh statements have been hailed as “amazing” and “brilliant” by his political admirers. On various platforms since his release, he claimed that his ideal was Rohith Vemula (why?) and not Afzal Guru; and that the azadi he is demanding is freedom from poverty, from hunger, from inequality.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar could not contain his excitement, claiming that “the coming forward of such a talented student and youth will strengthen the roots of democracy in our country”. He leaves unexplained how the roots of democracy can be strengthened when the likes of Kanhaiya Kumar remain mute to break-India campaigns. Mr Nitish Kumar’s colleague in the Janata Dal (United), Mr Sharad Yadav, was moved enough to declare that the country needed “more Kanhaiya Kumars so that the people could live and sleep peacefully”. Live and sleep peacefully, when university students and others plot the destruction of India! Not to be outdone, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal chipped in with his “amazing clarity of thought expressed wonderfully” endorsement, accompanied by a warning to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not “mess with students”. In other words, the Prime Minister and the Government must remain silent spectators (like their predecessors) while sections of the student community go on a verbal rampage — not just against the incumbent regime but also institutions that symbolise democratic authority — Parliament, judiciary, police etc.
Just in case you thought all the gushes has to do with Kanhaiya Kumar’s patriotism, a correction is in order. The student leader is the toast of the Opposition especially because he used his homecoming to launch a tirade against the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Patriotic sentiment doesn’t excite this crowd of opposition leaders; in fact, it embarrasses them. What has had the opposition leaders cheering like possessed fans at a rock concert is Kanhaiya’s diatribe against the Prime Minister. Two of the student activist’s gems are as follows: “Modiji only says mann ki baat but doesn’t listen to it”; and, “We have some people like that (selling magic) in our country, who say black money will come back; sabka saath sabka vikas”.
After all this, certain Left leaders have reportedly decided to use him for electoral campaigning. Kanhaiya Kumar claims he is not into politics. We will soon know. He has shown the veteran politician’s knack of milking situations. Meanwhile, he is being felicitated as if he has been discharged of all allegations, and in a manner reminiscent of the adoration freedom-fighters received from the public on their release from colonial prisons.
Kanhaiya Kumar has no option but to adhere to the undertaking he has given to the Delhi High Court, that he will not participate actively or passively in any activity that may be termed as anti-national. On his part, the student leader maintains he is not anti-national. The irony appears lost on his admirers. Why would the court ordinarily ask a law-abiding citizen to provide an undertaking that he will not engage in anti-India actions, as part of the bail proceeding? It would do so only if it has reason to believe that the person concerned may do what the court considers wrong. The judge had even gone to the extent of quoting a patriotic song from a Manoj Kumar film and observing that anti-nationalism was an “infection” that had to be addressed.
Kanhaiya Kumar has discovered the virtue of patriotism after his time in jail. He had not found it necessary to condemn and confront the anti-India and pro-terrorist sloganeering crowd in the JNU campus in the second week of last month. If he had wanted, he, together with the other students of the university, could have easily done that. He didn’t, just as he had not opposed the ‘cultural meeting’ that was organised with the deliberate aim of demeaning the country and its sovereignty and integrity, and in which calls for India’s disintegration were raised.
Kanhaiya Kumar today talks grandly of the difference between “deshdroh” (anti-nation) and “rajdroh” (anti-Government), but since he remained silent (even complicit, according to his detractors and Delhi Police) over calls for India’s dismemberment and terrorist Afzal Guru’s ‘martyrdom’, he must educate us on whether that silence had to do with deshdroh orrajdroh.
Incidentally, Kanhaiya Kumar’s (after-thought) sanitisedazadi call is interesting, since he now wants freedom ‘within’ India and not ‘from’ India — and from a host of socio-economic ills. The student leader is now craftily projecting for himself an image of an activist out to provide succor to the toiling millions struggling for two meals a days or decent clothing. If he is sincere, he should train his guns on the Congress which ruled the country the longest and ruined it the most. He must turn around and demand that his comrades explain why they ground West Bengal’s economic development to dust in the more than three decades of uninterrupted reign. If he is a progressive, he must seek answers from both the Congress and the Left parties on why they have continued resorting to brazen appeasement policies based on religious identity (even as they condemn the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for precisely that) and not on economic considerations.
On matters of ideology, he and his ilk have the memory of Gujarat 2002; how is it that they have forgotten the 1984 Sikh massacre, or the various acts of violence involving the Left cadre in Kerala and West Bengal over decades?
Kanhaiya Kumar may want to reflect on the observation by legendary businessman and builder of the iconic McDonald’s, Raymond Albert ‘Ray’ Kroc: “The quality of leaders is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” The JNU scholar might not be Kroc’s ideological fellow-traveller, but as a student leader (and a soon-to-be political leader), he can ponder over Kroc’s observation without being infected by the ‘capitalist’ virus. Did he set the right standard by his silence over anti-India campaigns? Reports suggest that he had even opposed the cancellation of permission by university authorities to the so-called cultural event.
Kanhaiya Kumar’s loud proclamation of patriotism has nothing to do with a change of heart; it’s a change of tactic after sensing hostile public opinion and the High Court’s mood.