FREEDOM ANTHEM

Let us bloom, cries capital

By Rudra Biswas & Chhandosree
  • Published 5.03.16
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A VOICE THAT INSPIRES 
Students demonstrate at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar during his landmark speech on azadi at the varsity in Delhi on Thursday night after his release from jail on interim bail. (PTI) 

JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar's azadi speech on the Delhi campus on Thursday night electrified Youngistan and spurred debate on whether any establishment had the right to dub someone asking questions as unpatriotic.

In Ranchi, many campuses were in high spirits, hailing Kanhaiya, a PhD student who came out of jail after being booked on sedition charges, to champion freedom in India and not from India.

Most did not come on record, hinting at swift reprisal if they backed Kanhaiya openly. "We are afraid of the system and fear action if we support Kanhaiya before the media. Many anti-Kanhaiya groups are active on campuses," one student said, referring indirectly to rightwing students unions.

A brave few went the Kanhaiya way, coming on record to speak for Kanhaiya.

"Kanhaiya rightly pointed out that the state and the society needs to ponder on education, rapid spurt in unemployment figures, farmer suicides, reservation riots. We need answers. You can't slap sedition charges on us for asking questions," Shreya Varma, a second-year student of MPhil in clinical psychology at Rinpas and an alumnus of Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, who stayed awake past midnight to hear the speech, said.

"There is a concerted attempt to malign students," she said, reeling off names like FTII, Rohith Vemula and Hyderabad University, JNU, Aligarh Muslim University and allegations of doctored videos to show student movements in a bad light. "A college, a university is an open space. Humein khilne do, padhne do, udne do, badhne do. (Let us bloom. Let us learn, spread our wings and fly, march forward)."

Her classmate Shreshtra Dutta said: "I will only ask is questioning wrong, illegal and forbidden by law?"?

Rupak Rag, a research scholar in tribal and regional language of Ranchi University, said: "If you listen to Kanhaiya carefully, you will realise you are speaking, every middleclass person is speaking, and his words are the words of the nation. Every Indian is feeling the same way. The difference is Kanhaiya is speaking out and others are silent."

Amitabh Kumar, a final-year Sanskrit honours student at Ranchi College, said: "Our government spends just 2 per cent of the GDP on education, mostly infrastructure building. What about actual education? Only handful of actual students like Kanhaiya, coming from downtrodden families, are raising these issues, and they're suppressed." ?

He added it was ironical the government was not spending Rs 96 crore on student fellowships for higher studies but instead was keen to raise 207-feet-tall flagpoles at 46 Central Universities. "Calculate the sum the government will spend on creating flagpoles and on flags. Now tell me what will make the nation proud, academic excellence or show-off patriotism?"

"Students wouldn't be raising these issues had the Union ministry not tried to control over University Grants Commission," Powell Kumar, member of All India Students Union in Jharkhand, and an MCA student of Ignou, said. Calling Kanhaiya's speech a new wave, Powell said: "Students need to understand this new wave, counter illogical things in society. Students' movements shouldn't be suppressed."

Saba Parveen, second-year economics student of Marwari College, bravely said students should be allowed healthy debates. "Taking part in a debate does not make anyone less patriotic," Parveen said. Her political science batchmate in Doranda College Naurin Akhtar added: "Even in Ranchi there are people who don't allow healthy debates. Kanhaiya correctly pointed out that the government is shifting focus from one issue to another on campuses. The government should focus on running the country instead of trying to control the UGC, the FTII, the Rohith Vemula case and the JNU."

Ranchi boy Akhilesh Raj, who is pursuing a diploma in disaster management from Vinoba Bhave University, Hazaribagh, was in the city to celebrate Kanhaiya's release. "He said he got food in jail in red and blue bowls on a plate that reminded him of mass movements. It touched me."