The Rise of Kanhaiya Kumar, How a Bihari Student is Challenging the Govt

Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU President who was arrested on 12 February 2016, was granted interim bail by the Delhi High Court on 2 March, and returned to the JNU campus on 3 March. He addressed thousands of students, teachers, alumni and others amidst calls for freedom from poverty, hunger, casteism, communalism and capitalism.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar addressed a press conference on Friday, a day after he was released on interim bail from Tihar Jail. The student leader reiterated his comments made on Thursday evening that he never asked for freedom from India, but freedom within India. “Afzal Guru is not my icon, Rohith Vemula is,” he said, adding that the sacrifices of the Hyderabad University PhD scholar, army jawans and farmers will not go to waste. Kumar was arrested on February 12 after being charged with sedition concerning an event held at the JNU campus on February 9, in which allegedly anti-national slogans were raised.

Kumar said, “I strongly condemn the events that occurred on February 9. However, the court must decide whether it is sedition or not… I want to assure the taxpayers of this country that a JNU student can never be anti-national. There is a conspiracy to defame JNU and other educational institutions. JNU has never supported something that is against the Constitution… We want to expose the conspiracy of those who act against the Constitution.”

Without naming any person or entity, Kumar said that there have been efforts to fabricate the truth, adding, “The Constitution is not a video that can be doctored.” He also took a dig at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, whose legislator from Rajasthan, Gyan Dev Ahuja, had said that 3,000 condoms are used daily on the JNU campus. “Some people are appointed as condom-counting officers if students are found speaking against government,” Kumar said. He also ruled out joining politics, saying, “I’m not a politician. I’m a student. I want to be a teacher.”

This comes hours after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that Kumar “is getting free publicity and enjoying it”. The Union minister also asked the student leader to focus on academics and not get into politics. “They are all studying at a central university, where public money, people’s money is involved…If they are interested in politics, they can leave studies and join politics,” he said.

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