“Freedom IN India!” says the president of the JNU Students Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, 28. “Aazadi” or freedom from poverty, from hunger, from castism, from corruption. Neatly shaven in a white shirt and black jacket, he addresses the cheering crowds of students last night. Double mic in hand, he lilts out the greeting chants of Jai Bhim and lal salaam. The students cheer him on- aazadi, aazadi! The young man has just returned to university from a fortnight in Delhi’s Tihar jail. Charged under the colonial law of “sedition”, the PhD student was the victim of a media trial that labeled him a ‘terrorist’. Doctored videos of Kanhaiya shouting ‘anti-national’ slogans went viral. His bail hearings were postponed. He was attacked and beaten in the court premises, with the police watching. His bail order reads almost like a ‘guilty’ verdict. But the resilient young man smiles sweetly and roars electrifyingly at the crowd – Aaazadiii!
Kanhaiya speaks of socialism, secularim, equality. Of his ordinary rural background. He politely refers to those opposed to him as opposition and not enemies. He talks of jawan and kisan, soldier and farmer. Of Rohith Vemula, Ambedkar, of the constables he met in jail. Sons of farmers, just like Kanhaiya. He has the young students laughing out loud at his puns and clever digs at various fanatical politicians who have been maligning JNU and it’s students.
Kanhaiya, you bring us hope. Stay relisiant and strong. Keep dreaming. We dream with you of an India where all are respected and can live with dignity. We dream with you of Aazadi IN India. Aazadi, Aazadi!
Ps. Watch his return to JNU speech here