NEW DELHI: The entire campus of JNU resonated with the slogans of ‘Azaadi’ on 18th March when Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, charged with the draconian laws of criminal conspiracy and sedition finally got interim bail and headed towards their university. The entire campus erupted in a Holi-like celebration It was an infectious moment of solidarity, zeal and fervor, as the student fraternity was finally able to earn ‘justice’ from how obnoxiously the university has been targeted by the state and media trials.

Addressing thousands of students at JNU’s Freedom Square, Umar Khalid stated that it was difficult for him to reveal his emotions in words, as for the past one-and-a-half months, things have happened so fast, it takes time to process it. But he categorically mentioned that ‘if the government thought that by profiling few students, it could break the solidarity and unity of student movements, they were in great deception. I feel that I am stronger than what I was one-and-a-half months back. We do not have any sadness that we were charged under article 124 (A). We are proud that we were booked under a law under which the great freedom fighters of our country and after that whoever has questioned the regime has been arrested. We are proud to be associated with such comrades. In Hindi, it is not called ‘desh-droh’, rather ‘raj-droh’.

He stated that the current regime is anti-dalits, women, labourers, farmers and minorities as well against humanity. The revolution continues, he declared. It is great humiliation that the regime had to resort to the colonial law to act against us. Today, the criminals have power and those against crime are in jails. The labourers of Maruti, advivasis of Chattisgarh, dalits against Ranveer Sena and Muslims make the demography of jails. Umar bought attention to the fact that in spite of their surrender of 23rd February, ‘the media trial continued and new stories were being planted every day.’ The media did not act independently and it was ordered to generate the opinion in this manner. What happened with us, happened because we are ‘thinking people, we debate, we dissent, we interrogate, we are JNU.’

Umar quoted few lines from the famous anti-war poem:

“General, Your Tank is a Powerful Vehicle

It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.

But it has one defect:

It needs a driver.”

Anirban Bhattacharya stated ‘it is a fight against injustice and it puts a lot of political responsibility on us. Mastermind is a term used for muslim witch-hunting. Till now it was used in terror related cases. But for the first time it was used for the organizers of a cultural programme. We don’t know of what we were masterminds of. There was madness but then we realized there was a method to this madness. Sometimes, it looks hopeless, sometimes it evokes anger. It was often stated that Khalid could have done it, but why a Bhattacharya? A story that Bhattacharya went to Pakistan three times will not increase TRPs. It is scary to even think what would have happened if we both were practicing Muslims and belonged to Azamgarh? What would have the Special Cell done on us? Those who fit on the narrative on the ‘war on terror’ are harassed.’

Both the students questioned the narrative of nationalism. They quoted various real-life episodes of harassment taking place all over India and how it degrades the entire essence of it. They stated that how India has entered into an ‘OLX Raj’ where students have become anti-nationals. They questioned that why patriotism is judged only by stating ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. The speeches of both the students were very cerebral and pointed questions towards the current regime.

(The writer is a doctoral student at JNU)

(Cover photo credit: Azhar Amim)