Student - March 10, 2016

Meanwhile in... India

Koen Guiking

In the news: The arrest for ‘sedition’ of student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar led to protests in India. The speech he made on his release went viral.

Foto Quartz India

Commentary by Manjunath Prasad, PhD candidate at PRI Bioscience

‘One busy day in early February, I received a disturbing video showing a group of students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) shouting anti-India slogans and idolizing Afzal Guru (sentenced to death for the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001). The video provoked unrest and violence. Subsequently, three students were arrested on charges of sedition, among them Kanhaiya Kumar, president of JNU’s Student Union. Kanhaiya was beaten up while awaiting trial.

Later enquiry established that the video that caused violent unrest had been doctored. A few hours after Kanhaiya was released on bail, he enthralled an enthusiastic audience with brilliant rhetoric full of confidence, sincerity, humour and passion. This speech too went viral across the country. The speech came from the heart and represented the voice of hope and aspiration, addressing issues like social justice, economic inclusion and the empowerment of women. I was interested to learn how Kanhaiya rose from a poor farming family to pursue a PhD at one of the nation’s premier universities.

He often used the term ‘azaadi’ (freedom). This was not, as some claim, a call for an independent Kashmir. He was talking about freedom from things like corruption, poverty, inequality, etc. He also said ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (truth alone prevails), referring to the case against him.

This JNU controversy will end with a court verdict on there was any question of sedition or whether the charges were an attempt to malign Kanhaiya and his friends. I hope this verdict comes before I get sent another controversial video.