We are of this country and love the soil of India: Full text of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech

Speech made by JNUSU president on JNU campus, February 10

Written by Kanhaiya Kumar | Updated: February 18, 2016 6:20 pm
Kanhaiya Kumar Illustration by C R Sasikumar

They are the people who burn the tricolour; they are the stooges of Savarkar, who apologised to the British. They are the people who, right now, in Haryana, run the Khattar government that has renamed after a Sanghi an airport named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The upshot is, we don’t need a certificate of patriotism from the RSS. We don’t need the RSS to certify us as nationalists.

We are of this country and love the soil of India. We fight for those 80 per cent of this country’s people who are poor. For us, this is desh bhakti. We have full faith in Babasaheb. We have full faith in our country’s Constitution. And we want to firmly assert that if anyone lifts a finger against this country’s Constitution — whether the Sanghis or anyone else — we won’t tolerate it. We have faith in the Constitution. But we have no faith in the constitution that is taught at Jhandelwala and Nagpur. We have no faith in the Manusmriti. We have no faith in or trust in the deep-rooted caste system in this country. That very Constitution, that same Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, talk about constitutional remedies in the Constitution. That same Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar talked about abolishing capital punishment. That same Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar talked of freedom of expression. We uphold the Constitution. We want to uphold our basic right, our constitutional right.

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But it is a matter of great shame, a matter of great sorrow, that today, the ABVP, with its media partners, is orchestrating a campaign. It is diluting issues. Yesterday, the ABVP’s joint secretary said that they fight for fellowships. It is so ridiculous to hear this because their government, Madam Manu-Smriti Irani, cut fellowships and the ABVP says “We fight for fellowships”. Their government has cut the higher education budget by 17 per cent. Our hostel hasn’t been built in four years. We haven’t got wifi till date. One bus was given to us by Bhel — but the administration doesn’t have money to pay for fuel. The ABVP’s people take photographs like Dev Anand in front of rollers and say that they are getting hostels made and bringing wifi and increasing fellowships. Their lies will be exposed, friends, if there is a debate in this country on fundamental questions. And I am proud that we JNU-ites discuss and raise fundamental questions.

[Subramanian] Swamy says that there are jihadis in JNU. He says that people at JNU spread violence. On behalf of JNU, I challenge RSS pracharaks to come and debate with us. We want to debate on the concept of violence. And we want to raise questions. We want to raise questions on the ABVP’s slogan that says “khoon se tilak karenge, goliyon se aarti”. Whose blood do you want to let flow in this country? You have offered bullets, alongside the British, and used them against people who were fighting for this country’s independence. When the poor in this country demand food, when people dying of starvation talk of their rights, you use bullets against them. You have used bullets against Muslims. And against women when they raise the issue of their rights. You say that the five fingers of a hand cannot be equal, that women should live like Sita and should have to go through trials by fire like Sita. But there is democracy in this country, and democracy gives everyone the right to equality. Whether they be a student or a karamchari or a poor person or a worker or a farmer or Ambani or Adani; everybody has equal rights. So when we talk about women’s right to equality, they say that we want to ruin Indian culture. We do want to trash traditions of exploitation, casteism (jaativad), Manuvad and Brahmanwad.

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So why are they so uncomfortable? They have a problem when the people of this country talk about democracy. When people do a neela salaam along with a lal salaam. When alongside Marx, people talk about Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. When people talk of Ashfaqulla Khan, then they can’t tolerate it.

They are conspiring, they are stooges of the British. Come, bring a case of defamation against me. I say that the RSS’s history is the history of standing strong with the British. And these traitors of the nation today distribute certificates of desh bhakti. Check my mobile, friends, they are viciously abusing my mother and sister. Of which Bharat Mata do you speak if my mother is not part of this Bharat Mata? I do not agree with that Bharat Mata concept. My mother is an anganwadi worker. My family survives on Rs 3,000. And they are abusing my mother. I am ashamed that the mothers of the poor, workers, Dalits, farmers of this country are not part of Bharat Mata. I will hail Bharat’s many matas, fathers, sisters, farmers, workers, Dalits, Adivasis. If you have the guts, then say “inquilab zindabad”. Say “Long live Bhagat Singh”. Say “Long Live Sukhdev”. Say “Long live Ashfaqulla Khan”. Say “Long live Babasaheb”. Then we will believe that you have faith in this country.

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You do a drama of celebrating Babasaheb’s 125th birth anniversary. If you have the guts, then raise the issues that Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar raised. In this country, casteism is the biggest issue. Speak against casteism. Bring reservation. Bring reservation in the private sector.

This nations was never yours — and will never be yours. A nation is made of its people. If the nation doesn’t have space for the hungry, the poor, the workers, then it is not a nation. Yesterday, I was saying this at a TV debate to Deepak Chaurasiaji: “Chaurasiaji this is a sombre moment, remember this”. Even the media won’t be safe from the way fascism is creeping in this country. The media will get scripts written at the Sangh offices — just like it used to get scripts written at the Congress offices in Indira Gandhi’s time. Remember this.

If you really want to show your desh bhakti. Some media people were saying that JNU runs on taxpayer money, on subsidy. Yes, this is true. JNU runs on taxpayer money. It runs on subsidy. But a question arises: What is a university for? A university is there to critically analyse society’s “common conscience”. To promote critical thinking. If universities fail in this job then there can be no nation, there will be no people’s participation. The country will only be fodder for capitalists. It’ll only be fodder for loot and exploitation. If the people’s culture, values, rights are not included, then there will be no nation. We stand by this country and that dream that Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar saw. We stand by the dream of equality for all, the dream of the right to live, the right to food, water and shelter. We stand by these dreams. Rohith gave his life to stand by these dreams. But I want to tell these Sanghis, shame on your government. I challenge the Central government, what you did in Rohith’s case, we won’t let happen in JNU. We will remember Rohith’s sacrifice. We stand by the side of freedom of expression.

Forget Pakistan and Bangladesh, we say that the whole world’s poor should unite, workers should unite. We salute the humanity of the world, the humanity of India. We have today identified the group that stands against this humanity. This is the most serious issue before us today. We must not forget this identification. That face of casteism, that face of Manuvad, that face of the alliance between Brahmanwad and capitalism. We have to expose these faces. Real democracy, real freedom, everyone’s freedom is what we want to establish in this country.

That freedom will come and it will come with the Constitution, Parliament and democracy. That’s why I beseech all my friends to set aside their differences. We have to safeguard our freedom of expression, our Constitution, our country. We have to stay united to keep the country together, to counter the divisive forces — the forces that give shelter to terrorists.

Who is Kasab? Who is Afzal Guru? Who are these people who have reached a point that they are willing to blow themselves up? If this question is not raised in a university then I don’t think there is any point in having a university.

If we don’t define violence, how do you see violence? Violence is not just killing people with guns. Violence also occurs when the JNU administration refuses to honour the rights given to Dalits by the Constitution. That is called institutional violence. These people talk about justice. Who will decide what is justice? When Brahmanism was dominant, Dalits were not allowed to enter temples. At that time, that was justice. During British colonial rule, dogs and Indians were not allowed to enter restaurants. At that time, that was justice. We challenged this justice. And today as well, we challenge the RSS and the ABVP’s notion of justice.

If your notion of justice does not accommodate my notion of justice, then we won’t accept your concept of justice. We won’t accept your concept of freedom. We will consider this country free when everyone gets their constitutional rights. When every individual in this country is equal under the Constitution, then we will accept that there is justice.

The JNUSU does not support any violence, any terrorist , any terror attack, any anti-national activity. I want to reassert this in no uncertain terms. There are some unidentified people who have raised the slogan of “Pakistan zindabad”. The JNUSU strongly denounces them.

I also want to share a question for the JNU administration and the ABVP. A thousand things happen in this campus. Please listen carefully to the ABVP slogans. They say “communist kutte [dogs]”, they say “Afzal Guru ke pille [puppies]”, they say “jihadiyon ke bachhe [children]”. Don’t you agree that if this Constitution has given us the rights of a citizen, then calling my father a dog, is it not the trampling of our constitutional rights? I ask this to the ABVP. I want to ask this question to the JNU administration: Who do you work for? Who do you work with? And on what basis do you work?

Today it has become absolutely clear that the JNU administration first gives permission. Then, after receiving a call from Nagpur, it takes back its permission. This process of granting and retracting permission has become just as frequent as the process of granting and retracting fellowships. Like they first announce an increase in fellowships and then turn around to say fellowships have been stopped. This is the Sanghi pattern. This is the RSS-ABVP pattern. The pattern on which they want to run this country. And they run the JNU administration on the same pattern.

We want to question the JNU VC. There were posters displayed in JNU, pamphlets distributed in the mess. If you had a problem, then you should not have given permission. But once you gave the permission, the JNU administration must clarify what caused it to take it back.

I also want to tell you the truth about these people. Please don’t hate them because we cannot hate anyone. In fact, I pity them. They are cock-a-hoop. Why? They believe that just like Gajendra Chauhan was made to sit [as the head of the FTII], they will get a Chauhan, diwan and farman. They think they will send farmans and they will keep getting jobs with these farmans. That is why, when they yell “Bharat Mata ki jai”, you should immediately understand that they are about to appear in an interview. But as soon as they get the job, they will forget about patriotism and Bharat Mata. Forget the tricolour, which they never recognised, they won’t even honour the saffron flag.

I want to ask them, what kind of patriotism is this? If an employer doesn’t treat the employee well, if the farmer does not treat the labourer well, if the capitalist doesn’t treat his employees properly, and all these TV journalist who work for Rs 15,000, even your CEO does not treat them properly.

The ABVP-RSS’s patriotism is limited to an India-Pakistan match. That’s why when they are out on the streets, they mistreat the fruit-seller. When the fruit-seller says, “Sahib, the bananas are Rs 40 a dozen”, they hurl an abuse and say, “You people are looting us. We will give only Rs 30”. But what will happen the day the fruit-seller turns around to say, “You are the biggest looter. You have looted crores”? Then, they will label him anti-national.

I know a lot of friends in the ABVP. I often ask them, “Do you really feel patriotic?” They say, “What to do? The government is for five years. Two years have gone by. Three years’ talk time is left. Whatever we have to do, we will do in these remaining years.” So I tell them that if you lie about JNU, then tomorrow someone might catch your collar too. Perhaps it will be one of your friends who will do that, the kind who checks beef in trains. He’ll catch you and lynch you and tell you that you are anti-national because you are a JNU-ite. Do you understand the danger in what you are doing? They say, we understand this and that is why we oppose #JNUShutdown.

I said that’s great. First create the atmosphere for #JNUShutdown and then oppose it because you have to stay in JNU. That’s why I want to tell all JNU-ites, there will be an election in March and the ABVP will come to you with the Om symbol. Please tell them, “We are anti-nationals, jihadi terrorists. If you take our vote you will also become anti-national.”

Make sure you say this. Then they will say, “No, no, it’s not you. Those were some other people.” Then ask them, “Why did you not say that those were some other people [and not the whole of JNU] before the media? Why didn’t your VC say that? Why isn’t your registrar saying that?”

And what about those few people? Are they saying that we did not raise the slogans of “Pakistan zindabad”? Aren’t those few people saying that we are not in favour of terrorism? Aren’t those few people saying that retracting permission, which was duly acquired, is an attack on their democratic rights? Those few people are saying that if a battle is being fought in some part of the country, then we will stand by it. They will never understand this small thing.

But I am sure that people who have assembled here on short notice, they are getting this. And you people will go to each student of this campus. The ABVP is trying to break this country, it is trying to break JNU. We won’t let JNU be divided. Long live JNU! All the struggles that are currently on in the country, JNU will wholeheartedly participate in them and strengthen the voice of democracy, voice of independence, strengthen the freedom of expression.

We will go forward. We will struggle and we will win and defeat the traitors of this city. With these words, I appeal for unity.

Jai Bhim, lal salaam!


Full transcript of this speech is on indianexpress.com