In the past 24 hours, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar has either been giving interviews to mediapersons or, by his own admission, playing hide-and-seek with them.
Kumar, who was released on bail Thursday after being arrested on charges of sedition, said he hasn’t had the “opportunity to feel anything”.
With his trademark grin, he told reporters Friday, “Hum ya to media se mil rahe hain, ya unse bach rahe hain (I have either been meeting mediapersons or I have been trying to hide from them)”.
From the moment he entered campus Thursday evening, till late Friday night, every free moment of Kumar’s time was spent giving interviews. “I haven’t been able to go to my room,” he said.
On Thursday, all street lights were turned off on the campus when Kumar reportedly entered the premises through the Nelson Mandela gate. He was whisked away to the residence of JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) president Ajay Patnaik.
He also met JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid Shora and JNUSU general secretary Rama Naga before his speech on ‘azadi’, heard by hundreds of students, teachers and supporters in the university’s administrative block.
At some point, amid all the excitement and activity surrounding him, Kumar took some time out to call his mother Meena Devi. He spoke to her after three months, as he mentioned in his speech later, when he urged everyone there to keep in touch with their family members. She was the one Kumar missed the most while he was in Tihar, under judicial custody, said his mother.
Much in tune with Kumar’s personality, said his friends, his fiery and powerful speech was completely spontaneous. “We knew he was going to talk, but even he didn’t know he would end up giving a speech. He arrived on campus, changed his clothes and went for the march. The entire speech was completely impromptu. When he saw the overwhelming support from the many people who had gathered here for him, he got emotional and said whatever he had to say,” said Bajinder Singh, a member of the All India Students Federation (AISF), the student organisation Kanhaiya belonged to.
Amrita, a member of AISF’s national council, said, “Kanhaiya has always been great orator and a very spontaneous person.”
She said that once Kumar finished speaking, she heard students all around complimenting the speech, and some of them expressed an interest to join AISF. After the speech, as mediapersons desperately tried to get a hold of Kumar, he was taken to a faculty member’s residence.
“We were talking till late in the night and slept very little. Kanhaiya was uncomfortable and restless through the night, but today he is more at ease and back to being himself. He has been having regular meals,” said Amrita.
Kumar spent most of Friday talking to the media and giving them interviews at a faculty member’s residence. His interviews kept him so busy that he could barely spare time for a cup of tea, said his friends.
“Every time, he would start drinking tea but would get busy with an interview. Eventually, the tea would get so cold that he wouldn’t be able to drink it any more. This has happened several times today,” said Singh.
A leader from another student organisation, who went to meet Kumar Friday afternoon, said, “There were mediapersons all around him. He couldn’t catch a break.”
But his friends have another observation to make: the Kanhaiya Kumar who walked out of Tihar jail Thursday is a bit different from the one who was arrested from the university on February 12. “He may have become physically weaker, but emotionally he has become stronger. He has become more confident and more energetic,” said Amrita.
“It was also a surprise for us… he was relatively silent in the last few days. I guess he used all that pent up energy in his speech yesterday,” said Singh.