SEEMA MUSTAFA | 28 APRIL, 2019
#TCVotes Begusarai votes April 29.
We had taken a delegation of students to Kashmir, to bridge the gap between the young people. About 80 young people from Delhi’s universities interacted for three days with the Kashmiri youth in Srinagar, in an attempt to dent the alienation, to understand that the one was not exclusive to the other, and that they all spoke a similar language. A young man from Jawaharlal Nehru University kept coming up to say he would like to speak at a conference organised there, and finally got a chance. He spoke for ten minutes, an obscure student by the name of Kanhaiya Kumar. And within a minute had the students from Delhi and Kashmir mesmerised as despite this being his first visit to the Valley, he understood the finer nuances that often escaped senior politicians and intellectuals on a trip to Jammu and Kashmir, and while acknowledging the alienation spoke of a solution within the bonding of youth. And the Constitution. He got a standing applause.
We kept in touch, but in Delhi it can at best be desultory, until he won the students union elections in JNU as the sole All India Students Federation candidate cutting through the monopoly of the other groups. The BJP came to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, mounted a campaign and an attack on JNU, arrested Kanhaiya along with other students, and locked him in jail on charges of sedition. It was a period of fear, as the political parties had retreated to basements, civil society was in shock, and the students and faculty of JNU terrorised. The fight back began, but the fear of the ‘unknown’ that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been able to create, dominated.
Until the fateful day when Kanhaiya was released after a long legal battle. Along with others of course. No one knew what he would do. What impact the terrible ordeal had had on him, with lawyers in the courts actually attacking him within the court premises. Fake news, lies, threats, abuse had all become the order of the day with the JNU students and supporters being referred to then, as indeed now, as the ‘tukre tukre’ gang. People who wanted to dismember India, while those who are indeed dividing and weakening the country with hate and abuse emerged as the ‘nationalists’. The media was playing a dirty role.
Would he emerge from jail compromised? Would he go back home? Would he cower in fear like many senior politicians at the time, and intellectuals who gagged themselves along with the media? No one really knew. Until that night. When this young man, a union president who often felt alone, a student who was a good orator but had yet to prove himself to be a fighter, literally broke all shackles, jumped across hurdles with a scintillating speech that launched him as a national figure.
The Citizen wrote :
https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/1/7039/A-LEADER-IS-BORN. And indeed a leader was born.
The rest is history. Kanhaiya Kumar is now fighting the Lok Sabha elections as the CPI candidate from Begusarai, Bihar. His home town.
For him nothing has been easy. His arrest, his release, his struggle since. And hence nor was the candidature as at the last moment the grand alliance led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress in Bihar refused to give up the seat for him. Kanhaiya himself did not then want to contest, but the CPI insisted. And from a hesitant beginning he has built a campaign that is not just dynamic, but is perhaps the only campaign in India where communal frenzy is being directly hit with secular determination. It is a campaign that should teach lessons to all the senior, honourable non-BJP leaders in the fray as it carries in it a true alternative discourse, a counter narrative that alone can stop communal divisiveness in its tracks. The tragedy is that Begusarai is just one of 500 odd parliamentary constituencies, for had it been the norm instead of the exception India would have emerged from the five year trial, whole, complete, and vibrant.
Kanhaiya Kumar has built a campaign that is direct, straightforward, bold, courageous and yet draws heavily on the local dialect and analogies where complex issues of secularism are explained in simple, relatable language. After former Prime Minister V.P.Singh he is the first to relate directly with the people, and punctures the BJP campaign with his engaging smile and words as simple as “we are not scared, you cannot scare us.” His famous ‘leh kar rahenge azadi’ from poverty, from communalism, from fear, from greed has the crowds of Begusarai delirious, as he is one of them not an outsider.
Why is it important he win? Because it is. Kanhaiya Kumar must win this Lok Sabha election from Begusarai, Bihar.
For just three reasons:
There are many reasons but suffice it to say he is the son of the soil. He has not been dropped from above. He does not have to make up lies for a past that is already his, of struggle. He does not have to make tea, to prove he is from humble origin. He does not have to visit his mother to prove that he has a mother. He is what you see. Simple, honest, dynamic, brilliant. A candidate all would rush to embrace, across caste, community, gender.
The rest is statistics. Muslims will be divided between him and Hasan, Bhumiyars between him and BJP. All meaningless in this election, in the campaign Kanhaiya and the multitude of supporters who have descended on this one sleepy town to campaign for him have built. As he is not addressing bits and pieces of castes and communities, he is campaigning for the truth against the lie, for democracy against authoritarianism, for an Idea of India. His every speech is a pull out from history and the Constitution of India. He seems gentle, but he is not. He has not allowed the campaign to drift, he has followed a straight line, and managed a difficult time yet again with the grace of the born leader.
Begusarai votes April 29,2014.