It has been more than a year since former President of the JNU Students Union Kanhaiya Kumar was charged with sedition. The student leader, who has ruled out party politics at the moment, has joined other student leaders, activists and civil society members to start a campaign against mob-lynching and demand a law that makes lynching a non-bailable offense. This week on Off Centre, Kanhaiya speaks to Anuradha SenGupta on what he plans to do next and how educated youth can engage and intervene in the existing political system.
Talking about recent incidents of mob lynching, Kanhaiya says, “Philosophically both kinds of instincts are present in us, violent and non-violent. When we talk about culture, memory and history, the urge to be non-violent is greater. What is happening now is violent instincts are being instigated. Suppose I am a youth, what can be the most important question for me? What should the basic education be; suppose I have studied Medical, do I get to work in a hospital so that I can provide service to the society - for us these are the basic questions. But the basic questions that are being raised are that should Ram Mandir be built; who should love whom; what to eat? If the construction of Ram Mandir is so important, then why only in Ayodhya? We have reached the moon as well, let’s make Ram Mandir on the moon. To divert from the failure on the economic level on which social prosperity and political stability depends, this design is being deliberately put in front of the people.”
The man who became the face of the ‘nationalism’ debate thinks that an institute like JNU is the most national institute. According to him, JNU gives the opportunity to individuals for whom there is no space in the country. “They have made this place anti-national. I call this a design because you are creating a pseudo-enemy. You are the government, you have 282 seats. I haven’t measured it but you say you have a 56-inch chest. You have the support of world's biggest organisation the RSS, big corporates are supporting you. This is a small campus, students have come here with their dreams, how can they become anti-national? What you have done is made this institution a punching bag”, he says.
Kanhaiya says that incidents that are happening in the country will collectively form a social movement. He adds, “Like when Gajendra Chauhan was appointed in FTII, the students fought but couldn't get him removed. But it circulated a message in the entire country that the government wants to curb institutions. Then the Rohit Vemula incident happened. He did not get justice. We could not get the Rohit Act passed but a message was circulated that caste-based discrimination happens in the top institutes and until this stops, we cannot build a strong nation. These incidents could culminate into a movement. For this, it is important that the people who are emerging from these incidents should not confine their political dreams to becoming MPs or MLAs only.”