A protest march seeking the release of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar turned into a celebration after the protesters, who had gathered near the Parliament Street police station, heard that the student leader had been granted interim bail.
Students and teachers from JNU, and the many others who had turned up to show their solidarity, started chanting slogans, hugging and congratulating each other. “We at JNU had been fighting for the soul of India… we were fighting for the truth. The government has been… against JNU, but the courts have ultimately told everyone who was speaking the truth,” said Professor Ayesha Kidwai.
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Amid slogans of ‘Comrade Kanhaiya ko lal salaam’, some of them broke out into an impromptu dance, while others sang ‘sarfaroshi ki tamanna’.
“We haven’t slept in 20 days… today we will sleep as well as celebrate,” said Anmol Ratan, a student. Others like Rama Naga, JNUSU general secretary, hailed the decision but said it was “only a beginning”.
“Humein pehle se ummeed thi kyunki charges bebuniyaad the (we were hopeful as the charges were completely unfounded)… this is just one decision. The struggle must continue for Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid. At the same time, the organisation will devise a strategy to counter ABVP’s false propaganda and the kind of politics it is engaging in,” said Naga.
“The truth has prevailed,” said Avinash Kumar, a professor at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of people joined the march in solidarity with the three JNU students arrested on charges of sedition, and marched till the police barricades set up near the Parliament street police station.
As he addressed protesters at Jantar Mantar, Khalid’s father SQR Ilyas said, “These people fear us because we think. These are attempts to prevent us from free thinking. Our nationalism is one which teaches love for fellow human beings.”
Journalist Vishwa Deepak, who had resigned from his job at Zee News over the channel’s coverage of the JNU row, told protesters that his resignation was against “maligning JNU’s name”.
Other participants in the protest included Pradeep Narwal, former joint secretary in the ABVP’s JNU unit, and Radhika, mother of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.