There is a difference between being anti-government and treason, said JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar Friday, accusing the Narendra Modi-led Union government of using the colonial era sedition law as a “political tool”.
He spoke out against attempts to ‘patent’ nationalism and ‘malign’ JNU’s image. “We strongly condemn what happened on February 9. It is for the court to decide if that was ‘rajdroh’ or not. But I urge the government not to use the serious charge of sedition to ruin the future of students,” he said at a press conference. He added that he is “a resident of India and not a terrorist”, and insisted there is a difference between “deshdroh and rajdroh”.
Kumar deflected questions on JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya who have also been arrested on charges of sedition. Reacting to remarks that taxpayers’ money was being wasted in running JNU, Kumar said, “I want to tell the people of the country that the taxes they pay are being invested in the right place.”
Asked if he would join politics, Kumar said, “I am not a politician, I am a student.” He insisted JNU students could never be anti-national, as they “understand” the meaning of freedom of speech.
Kumar also criticised ABVP’s idea of “Akhand Bharat”. “I am against patent-wadi, nationalism cannot be anyone’s patented idea.” He warned his supporters of “divisive and false binaries”. “Students of JNU are patriotic not anti-national,” he said, assuring the “taxpayers of this country” that JNU is a “custodian of democratic space in the country”.
Kumar said the JNU’s fight to reclaim the democratic space will be long drawn. “There can’t be a victory march but a unity march on that.” He added, “Problem is that the government of the country has become the government of one party. Not one party but one office.”
Kumar expressed worry over how a certain kind of image being created about the university was impacting students’ lives. “I am being told students are finding it difficult in trains if passengers get to know they are from JNU, autowallahs are refusing to ferry them. This is the sad part of this controversy, rest all is a fight which will go on.”
Asked whether the controversy would affect his relationship with students on the campus who are affiliated with ABVP, Kumar said, “My hostel room is next to (the room of) the president of JNU’s ABVP unit. This is the beauty of JNU. It is a fight between two ideologies and not individuals.” He took hope from students of different ideologies coming together for him. “What was happening outside jail, I was getting to know only from news reports. It’s not just Left supporters who stood by me… those who haven’t been able to decide whether they should hold the Left flag or the Right’s are also coming out in support of JNU.”