JNU Fight Back: The March for Kanhaiya, ended up keeping “soul of the country alive”

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Protest march in Jantar Mantar for arrested JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar
Protest march in Jantar Mantar for arrested JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar

What happened during the solidarity march for JNU Student Union President’s Kanhaiya Kumar’s release was a befitting response to the lawlessness of Patiala House Court. On 18 February when students and teachers community of JNU were gathering for the March, similar violence like that in the court premises was preempted. What happened can be described as—Young girls from Delhi University holding flowers, lawyers sloganeering, Student forums from Jamia Islamia, DU, Ambedkar Univeristy and several other varsities holding paper pamphlets with slogans.

Activist like Yogendra Yadav, Harsh Mander encouraging students and within minutes the at least a kilometer long stretch between Mandi House and Jantar Mantar was reverabting with slogans of JNU-JNU and release Kanhaiya. Azadi (freedom) slogans too were raised but this time against fascism and social evils.

“Before joining the march I had written a letter to Home Minister, saying if what Kanhaiya said in his speech is anti-national and amounts to sedition then I am anti-national and seditious too,” says RTI activist Harsh Mandar. Another activist in her 50s tells that she has no connections with JNU but had no options then to join the solidarity march. “They are attacking campuses one after other. We cannot allow them to take away space for dialogue and debate.”Probably this was the reason that people from all walks of life joined the march.

One of the organizers had informed TEHELKA that they are expecting around 3,000 people from JNU and civil society. Interestingly, even before the students from JNU had reached the venue, hundreds of souls who support the cause raising slogans.  Communist leaders and activists like D Raja (CPI), Brinda Karat (CPM), Yogendra Yadav were giving short speeches from the tempo-turned stage. “They call me anti-national, anti-constitutional. I need not to learn constitution from Sangh Parivaar,” said D Raja, who was accused by one of the Hindi TV channel of supporting JNU community as his daughter is visible in one of the videos related to JNU row. Raja further challenged BJP government saying he knows “constitution better than anyone in RSS.”

Adding fuel to array of arguments Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yadav said “Those who want to transform India into Hindu Pakistan are supporter of Pakistan not the people who have gathered.” This led to cheering in the protesters and Yadav added, “We will learn nationalism but from Bhagat Singh, Gandhi not from the half knicker wale (RSS) who borrowed their ideology from Germany.”

Women and people from labour organizations flocked along and so did the office bearers of bankers association and LIC union. Those who have seen similar marches during the Anna Movement would agree that this gathering was surprisingly disciplined and tried to create least inconvenience for the traffic. Foreign media and nationals could be spotted extending their support.

“The way things are developing in nation is frightening. They attacked FTII, Hyderabad and now JNU,” says Eeshat, a student of Ramjas College of Delhi University. This was his first protest, and he believes that, “JNU is stronghold of activism and such debates, if they want to attack it, then sorry this is unacceptable.”

As the flags of different student organization such as SFI, AISA, NSUI were visible an equal number or even more national flag could be spotted in the march. In order set an example lawyers community too voiced themselves in the march. “I was present on the day students and teachers were thrashed inside the courtroom.” says the advocate on terms of anonymity “Had the other group of advocates not intervened and informed the magistrate about threat to Kanhaiya’s life, who knows what unfortunate incident might have taken place that day.” All India Lawyers Union had given a representation to Delhi High Court regarding law and order of Patiala House court, which they believe is in the grip of RSS-BJP backed advocates who are bring bad-name to the entire community.

Awkward slogans regarding few media houses, which has indulged themselves in media trail and branding JNU as a hub of anti-nationals, were also raised. But this faded soon amidst the assertion for right to dissent and differ from the ideology of those in power. Like a group of girls from Political Science Department of Lady Shri Ram College had their own reasons to participate ie “They concept of nationalism that is being portrayed by those in power is flawed. There is no single definition of nationalism.”

As the march concluded at Jantar Mantar, thousands of voices ensured that they are heard. A police man on duty here tells TEHELKA, “Everyone is playing their politics and students too have right to do so, as they are leaders of tomorrow.” When asked about Delhi Police’s role, with discomfort, he says, “We are doing our duty. However, they have right to say what they want to and we must not stop them from doing so, unless it is against the law.”

The songs, flowers, placards, red flags along with national flags all at the same march clearly showed one thing, “that this protest is not only about Kanhaiya, he is just a symbol. It’s not about JNU, it’s just an excuse. It is neither about communist parties, as they are being attacked. It is about keeping the soul of this country alive.” Probably, they succeeded in doing so!

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