It was expected to happen this way and thankfully it did happen this way – the response to the protest march called by the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) – that did not set the news agenda today.
And much of it has to do with the rapid climbdown the ‘Kanhaiya Kumar hopes’ saw – after his bail on March 3.
March 3 and 4 were crucial – for Kanhaiya Kumar to understand and act that he was not a fulltime politician but mere a student activist who had got people’s sympathy and support because people felt he was being wronged, because people felt that he and others in JNU were being victimized.
Newsrooms and the nation saw a surcharged atmosphere even during the breaking developments centred on Umar Khalid and Aniraban Bhattacharya disappearance, reappearance and surrender.
Being students was the significant brand equity every JNU student had when police, politicians and administration started making mess of a university matter. Their activism, ideological affiliation and sense of fighting it out only amplified the appeal. It worked well with the popular sentiment that tends to be with the people who are perceived as being victimized.
Kanhaiya Kumar and other JNU students lost these advantages after Kanhaiya Kumar started doing rounds of personal interviews and started making unnecessary verbal attacks that didn’t spare even the defence establishment including the Indian Army.
When communication goes on mass level, no one sees the intent but the words you ejaculate. The ‘Kanhaiya Kumar fined for obscene behaviour against a woman’ episode further added to it. Then there were additionals like talks of Kanhaiya Kumar slated to campaign for the Left-wing parties in the upcoming assembly polls.
So, a mess that had given a window, an opportunity to revive student politics and activism in India was being reduced to a mere political opportunity that could conveniently be labelled anti-BJP and thus could be dismissed.
Everyone saw through it – including those who had rushed to support JNU students. Certainly there has been a disenchantment and it reflected today when no national news channel made it a point to beam Kanhaiya Kumar and others while they were organizing the protest march.
It was third in a series of solidarity marches to raise voice for democratization of academic institutions in the country and was about JNUSU’s and JNUTA’s demand of releasing Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. And sane, neutral voices want them released though their judicial custody was extended for another 14 days today. Hope, they get bail tomorrow when their bail plea hearing is expected.
But as the overall issue is important – that how some students of a particular institution were targeted and are still being targeted – beyond what should have been a justified punishment/disciplinary action meted out to them – so was the attention given to the issue today. Almost every news carrier carried the developments on the JNU protest march later in the day – with relevant pointers from Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech today.
Student politics and activism are imperatives for any democratic society but within the confines of academic environment. Yes, universities must be the first places for voices of dissent but it is the responsibility of everyone to keep the culture of debate healthy and democratic. And they must be within the Constitutional norms that run a democracy. You have to practice the fact that only your ideology cannot be sacrosanct – be it Leftist – or the Centrist – or the Rightist.
If you have to get engaged in fulltime activism or politics, pass the confines of the academic institutions first. While still being a student, it is not your job to raise voices, indulge in sloganeering and organize events to rid the country of this or that ideology. Keep your leanings intact for the time when you will be out in the open to take on what you believed was wrong and unjustified when you were building the activist in you during your days in your academic institution.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/