As Jawaharlal Nehru University's students' union president, Kanhaiya Kumar is accustomed to speaking in public. But last night his speech had a fiery edge to it that held a nation hostage for over an hour and turned him into a celebrity overnight. Straight out of jail on conditional bail, Kumar made a beeline for his university and was greeted with rousing cheers, warm embraces, emotional back-slapping and thunderous applause. No one anticipated what he would say when he actually took the microphone.
But the 29-year-old's hour-long speech, peppered with rustic humour was a searing jab at the state of the nation, free speech and politics.
The main charge against Kumar is that he raised anti-national slogans of 'azadi' or independence. The police have not been able to cobble up sufficient evidence to support the charge. The chants of azadi were back on the campus last night as Kumar took the stage to deliver a withering indictment of the government, not sparing Prime Minister Nerendra Modi, who Kumar said only speaks what's on his mind and never listens to others -- referring to the PM's periodic radio address to the nation -- Mann Ki Baat.
He even took a dig at the Delhi Police, accused of failing in its duty to protect him on his way to a Delhi court to appear in a sedition case slapped on him.
"I want to thank the people sitting in Parliament deciding wrong and right, the police and those few media channels," he said to applause and laughter.
Here are the salient points from Kumar's speech.
- I have faith in this country's law, in its Constitution, its legal process, and I am sure change will come.
- RSS se azaadi, bhookhmari, jaativaad se azaadi.
- The attack on the JNU is a planned attack. This attack is to de-legitimise the UGC protest and to prevent justice to Rohith Vemula. The fight which was initiated by Rohith Vemula, all of you and peace-loving people in the country, will be pursued by us and we'll win this battle.
- Let me just say it is not easy to get admission in JNU neither it is easy to silence those in JNU said. We don't look at the ABVP as an enemy. In fact we look at them like the Opposition. I will never do the witch-hunting of the ABVP because we believe that only those are hunted who are worthy of being hunted.
- I have many differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but I agree with his tweet - Satyameva Jayate.
- The present ruling dispensation at the Centre is anti-people. If you will speak against them, its cyber cell would come out with doctored video and charge you with sedition.
- Bharat se nahi mere bhaiyon, Bharat mein azaadi maang rahe hain (want freedom within India and not from India.)
- Addressing students at the campus, Kumar, who has been slapped with sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-national slogans, said he had many differences with the prime minister but he agreed with his tweet "Satyameva Jayate" which he had posted in praise of HRD Minister Smriti Irani's fiery speech in Lok Sabha on the JNU row as it is in the Constitution.
- I have many differences with the PM but I agree with his tweet Satyameva Jayate because these words are in our Constitution," he said, as his passionate speech was punctuated by repeated cheers and raising of slogans.
- The struggle of peace loving and progressive sections of the society in the wake of the JNU row and Rohith Vemula suicide will be a long fight.
- Is seeking freedom from thorny issues confronting India a crime?
- When he (Modi) was speaking I wanted to tell him to talk about Hitler as well. He should speak about Mussolini as well after all his guru Golwalker (second RSS chief) had met the former.
- PM talks about Mann Ki Baat but does not listen to others.
- I salute those soldiers dying at the borders. But what about farmers committing suicides in abject poverty? Those farmers are the fathers of majority of those soldiers. My father is a farmer, my brother is a soldier.
- And who is responsible for those wars where they make the supreme sacrifice? People making them fight are responsible. Don't create these false binaries.
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