I have a thing for oratorical capabilities. The recent fiery speech of Kanhaiya Kumar won many hearts, including mine. As the speech of Kanhaiya, the JNU student who was charged with sedition, started streaming on my television set, I knew what would swamp the internet the following day. Hate-mongers would lash at the guy, while pro-liberals would make him sit on their shoulder for he “dared” PM Modi and his government.
As Kanhaiya rambled on national issues, such as poverty, casteism, patriotism and nationalism, and Rohith Vemula, I just swayed my head in disappointment. He knew he was playing to a big gallery this time: he wore a chic jacket over a white tee, unlike his pre-arrest pictures which show him in simpler attire. He seemed to get a makeover during his term in the jail.
Let us assume that a friend lend Kanhaiya a good pair of clothes, as he was going to be aired live to a national audience. Looking presentable is what we all strive for, blame it on human vanity. But it was sad to see this Leftist student, who believes in “Lal Salaam”, slowly turning into a victim of public attention, although unintentionally.
After Kanhaiya’s speech was broadcasted, the “JNU scholars live on taxpayer’s money” slander rose again, accusing the JNUSU president of nursing political aspirations instead of focussing in his research. While getting so touchy about our taxes going waste, why don’t we recall that all the Indian premier institutes run on subsidy?
The IIMs and the IITs provide subsidised boarding and meals to all its students, and quite often, these students prefer to settle abroad than serving their nation. Do we really raise a stink about paying taxes to support subsidised academic institutions?
However, the arrest of Kanhaiya has brought in a little change in the BJP. Under the international media glare, the BJP is pulling up the small fries within the party for giving embarrassing bytes to the media. While MP Gyandev Ahuja was pulled up by the party head last month for his “counting condom” comment, recently, Kuldeep Varshney, a Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha Badaun district chief was expelled from the party for announcing an award to anyone who would “cut the tongue of Kanhaiya for speaking insulting the RSS and Modi”.
Meanwhile, a section of people are of the opinion that they had enough of Kanhaiya and it’s time for him to get back to anonymity. I would say he has every right to be vocal about his trial in front his friends, in the campus where he studies. However, the recent jubilation has come after three weeks in the jail, when he was abused for being “anti-national” and the guy himself was not sure where he would end up.
But to say Kanhaiya’s political speech has been scripted by well-known journalists (read NDTV’s Barkha Dutt), to get even with PM Modi is such a lop-sided view. He’s after all, the leader of a students’ union, in a university where students and faculties love to flaunt their liberalism like a badge of honour.
We can credit Kanhaiya with a genuine speech, although with lot of cautious meanderings. He did steer away from all the issues for which he was picked up by the police, and in a well-meaning but ironical twist, he is only reinforcing what he vehemently denies in his speech: patented patriotism. Because unlike those typical JNU protests marches, he chose to speak right under the national flag, as if to reiterate his alliance with the nation.