NEW DELHI: I present you with Lal Salam and Jai Bheem.

All the previous speakers tried to put things into perspective about their idea of India. I will not repeat what they have already said, but will add a couple of things. Firstly, it is very unprecedented that we, the students, are chairing this session; usually we are on the other side of the dais. Maybe you all have come to terms with the fact that why it is necessary to hear us. I must clarify beforehand that Umar Khalid’s political ideology is very different from mine; I do not subscribe to many of his notions. But I certainly agree to him when he said I should not be the 2019 PM candidate.

The recent controversy which not only tagged us as being involved in anti-national activities but also framed the entire university in that light.Questions are being raised about taxpayers money being spent on us and why our PhDs are taking so long and subsidies being given to us.So it has now become more of a political responsibility on me than being an academic mandate.

There is a two pronged fight in this country: on the one hand, education must be saved, and on the other education quality must be ensured; on the one hand, nation and constitution must be saved, and on the other hand they must be interpreted it in a holistic manner. This fight has a long history. Today if we are taking the names of Ambedkar, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Periyar, Phule, Kabir, Guru Nanak etc, we need to understand why it is important. As far as I can understand, at the time of independence we saw many dreams, aspired many things and created institutions to achieve them. But our dream is in grave threat today. We must assess breaks and continuations in history in the same breath as Umar rightly put it. And after a holistic assessment, I come to the conclusion that even bourgeoisie democracy is in danger today, socialist democracy remains a distant dream. Capitalism, today, is hell bent upon killing the kind of democracy it brought years ago. History is repeating itself. Such a situation came 20 years ago too, we failed to make a dialectic strategy then; we will fail now also if a robust strategy is not in place.

We are unable to set our priorities straight: whom to fight first and whom to fight later; who is a greater enemy, and who is a lesser enemy. We often fail to unite to fight the bigger enemy. This is the reason for past failures. Everyone in the room thinks the same about certain issues, yet we are politically different. We share different views on Marxism. Factor this: there are more than 70 communist parties in India. This somewhat shows the differing interpretations but our goals are the same. It is imperative to keep aside our differences and unite to fight our common enemy.

Last year in this very hall, AB Bardhan had said that when we say left, it doesn’t simply mean communism; and it doesn’t simply mean people with red flags. Left has three streams in this country: social justice force; socialists; and, communists. All three combine to make the Indian left. And if we use the term Left Democratic, and Left Progressive then it will be safe to say that all the parties barring BJP will come under the umbrella of Left. Such a unity and political formation must be cemented and if not done, all our dreams will remain mere dreams.

One fundamental question in this country today is how to save our education system. The attack on education is not new. The big question therefore is that why there was inaction before? Why were self proclaimed communists, progressive, pro democratic forces quiet? When institutions such as Saraswati Shishu Mandir were opened to instill superstitions in the minds of people, where were the so called advocates of scientific temperament?

Never before have the political parties prioritized education. In 1986, when the New Education Policy was coming in place, the VC of one of the prominent universities wrote a book titled: ‘Bihar mein dhate vishwavidyalaya.’ During the 1980s, an attempt was made to ruin state universities. Intellectuals and scholars of Central universities did not take note. Why didn’t anyone think that what is happening to state universities can well happen to Central universities later? Slowly and gradually education system has been ruined in this country. And the sole reason to target education is because it is through education that one can understand idea of India.

To understand Idea of India, we need to understand several fundamental things: the government preaches the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, and at the same time spend 6000 crores on defense deals. Whom do you wish to fight? Either the idea of fighting the world and becoming a superpower is true or the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is true. And I strongly believe that the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is true, and the other is a lie. One simple argument will bust this lie: you don’t have 99 crores for non-NET fellowship but have 6000 crores for fighting wars. I reject this idea.

I strongly believe that if the 6000 crores can not satisfy the hunger of people, it is not worthy to be spent. It is not simply about education today; the 3% people in higher education today do not get jobs after completing their studies.I will tell you about my own experience. After I got into JNU, I thought my life is set, and I don’t have to do much now; I thought after completing my PhD, I will work in a good university. But see the condition today: Delhi University is not even giving jobs on ADHOC basis,let alone permanent job. We need to keep the issue of education and employment on the same footing. And this is not at all anti-national or unconstitutional.

When Ambedkar wrote the constitution, he propagated an idea: that Ambani’s kid and a cobbler’s kid on the road side are equal; and if they are not, then make them equal. Either elevate the poor kid to the school of Ambani’s kid or bring Ambani’s kid to the small school. We have a simple political vision: either give rasogullah to everyone or give sukhi roti to everyone. We need to examine the budget. If you spend 3% of defense expenditure on education, and education will make for 6% of total GDP,then that will be the day everyone will be educated, and we will understand what idea of India is. Idea of India should not be determined by few privileged elites; it should be determined by that poor villager in a remote village of the country who has no access to electricity but have access to Coca-Cola!

Lastly, we need to understand why this attack on students. You all must be aware of the old tradition that when a woman becomes a widow, the entire society gets hell bent upon looting her inherited property,and if she resists, she is tagged as a witch. No one then sympathizes with her. Same thing is happening with JNU today: the university has been put against the popular perception, so to delegitimize the prevailing struggle. This conspiracy has been done to prevent common man from connecting to this cause. Because we get into JNU after hard work, people get convinced by our propositions easily.

Once a General was listening to a poem, suddenly he got furious and called the poet. On being questioned, the poet said that he is mirroring the harsh realities of society. The General retorted that you will be killed for this, because I, too, was convinced by your ideas. This is the condition of our nation today: the core vote base is getting convinced by our ideas. Therefore I never say that the RSS and BJP are against the minorities in this country; they are against the majority. The majority in this country is that of poor and backward people. This government is anti-minority vis-à-vis religion but anti majority vis-à-vis economy. If we do not expose this anti majority government, then it will keep on coming to power. And if we do, then it will become a minority government. We know that democracy doesn’t work with minority governments. With this, I end my proposition.

(This is the text of a presentation made by KANHAIYA KUMAR at the “Idea Of India Conclave: Two Years Of PM Modi.” It has been translated, transcribed and edited by KUMAR SATYAM).