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Life after Lok Sabha battle for Kanhaiya Kumar and comrades

What I learnt by contesting this election is that the fight is not easy, but not impossible either: Kanhaiya

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 29.05.19, 7:20 AM
  • Updated 29.05.19, 7:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
Kanhaiya Kumar. Telegraph file picture

What lies ahead of the crop of young activists, ripened in the angst against the Narendra Modi regime, who have come a cropper? 

What do you do when a saffron cloud hangs heavy over most flashpoint points from where resistance had emerged? Pune, home to the Film and Television Institute of India that was the first to go on strike in 2015, has elected a BJP MP. Delhi, hosting the restive campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, has elected BJP candidates from all seven seats. Aligarh and Varanasi, where too campuses had erupted in protest, have also voted BJP.

Former JNU Students Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested for sedition in 2016 and became the face of the movement against the crackdown on dissent, lost on a CPI ticket against the BJP's Giriraj Singh in Begusarai. 

Pedapudi Vijay Kumar -- an associate of University of Hyderabad's Dalit activist Vemula Rohith Chakravarthy -- got just 2.78 per cent of the vote in Andhra Pradesh's Parchur Assembly seat, where he contested for the BSP.

Kanhaiya now intends to continue his political activism in Begusarai. "I will now be based in Begusarai. What I learnt by contesting this election is that although the fight is not easy, it is not impossible either," Kanhaiya told The Telegraph.

"It is too early to chart a future course of action for all of us. I will continue to reach out to people, and participate in movements that arise after incidents and crimes against people. We have to make base areas, strengthen ourselves in places that we work in," he added.

Begusarai, once called Bihar's Leningrad, saw its CPI office stoned by suspected BJP supporters after the results. The party is protesting for justice for a soap salesman who was shot at and injured on Sunday because he is Muslim.

A CPI peasant worker had been abducted and lynched in Begusarai before the counting.

Former JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid Shora is one of the founding leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement. She is preoccupied with carving a space for her fledgling party before the Assembly polls are declared in the state. "We need a progressive party which understands social justice, and is not afraid to talk about issues…. There are a huge number of people who identify themselves as progressive but have reservations against the Con- gress and the Left... which has no Dalit leadership," she said.

Shora added: "Dynasty cannot represent us any more.... Regional parties represent India better than Delhi-based parties.... But at the national level, we need a leader to emerge as an alternative to Modi. Someone who has the moral high ground, who has come from struggles and not somebody who gets power on a platter." 

She hopes Jignesh Mevani, the activist who led the stir against the flogging of Dalits in Gujarat's Una and was later elected an Independent MLA from Gujarat's Vadgam in 2017 with Congress support, would emerge as a national alternative.

Besides Kanhaiya and Mevani, she is in touch with Bangalore-based actor-politician Prakash Raj and has plans for a common platform to raise issues that come up in the next five years.

Mevani, who has campaigned for Opposition candidates, said: "I am going to stay in Vadgam for the next few weeks. I promised voters that I would be there for them completely after the 2019 elections. We have to build a movement here against casteist onslaught and destruction of democracy. I want to raise an organisation in my constituency called Dalits for Dalits -- to end casteism within us.... In the next three years we want to build the cadre of our Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch to 100 members each in 50 tehsils in Gujarat. Other plans include starting a library and movements against downgrading permanent jobs into temporary ones and untouchability.