View Full Version : Kanhaiya Kumar as Beckett’s Godot by JAWED NAQVI - 8th March 2016

8th March 2016, 11:17 AM
WE can look at the Kanhaiya Kumar phenomenon through several lenses. Let’s choose two. He can be cast as a messiah from a Cecil B. DeMille movie. And he can be the elusive Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play, someone who may not exist but who the tramps are waiting for.

He has been compared with Lalu Yadav. Some say with his Marxist insights he is better equipped to deliver India from the gathering darkness. Unfortunately, Kanhaiya cannot get a fraction of the votes that Lalu garners in Bihar with a vagabond’s ease, election after election. If the two don’t see eye to eye that is India’s loss, and his university’s.

Before analysing his brilliant speech upon release on bail, which has made waves beyond India’s shores, let’s scan the bare facts about who plunged JNU, Kanhaiya and his equally bold and brilliant fellow students into a contrived crisis. Rohith Vemula is of course a far greater hero and deserves separate applause.

The point of departure in Kanhaiya’s compact address was not what has been picked out for display. People do not want azadi from India. They want azadi in India. He indulged in the prattle because the media had put words into his mouth, doctored videotapes and made him sound like a wannabe seditionist, which he isn’t. It’s all right though if they liked him more for cooing kindergarten patriotism even if a globally respected university campus was not the best place to tickle people’s nationalist fancy. The old hat could be useful for his legal case, however.

Smiling benevolently at his tormentors, Kanhaiya likened the prime minister to a railway station con artist.
Those who thought it was the highpoint of his speech know little about India’s long romance with communist struggles. Relevant to the JNU episode is the fact that there is no leftist group in India whose aim is to dismember India. The most extremist of these could be the Maoists, dreaming of an equitable and just nation and not about breaking it. Compare their dream to the nightmare of a Hindu rashtra. The two are opposites. The Maoist tactics may be untenable as are the Hindu extremists’, unless, of course, you are endorsing the Hindutva outrage in Ayodhya in 1992.

The destruction of India is an oft-heard Kashmiri separatist call, not an Indian one. I once asked a Kashmiri militant soon after the Ayodhya episode why Kashmiris were not angered by the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The militant said the mosque was an Indian matter. And he turned the question on me: “Why haven’t you ever supported our struggle?” I said many Indians oppose the military occupation of Kashmir. They stand for its peaceful resolution not violent secession.

So the slogans on Afzal Guru’s death anniversary, particularly those demanding the breakup of India, could not have come from Kanhaiya or his two other colleagues who are now in jail — Umar Khaled and Anirban Bhattacharya. Unless you believe they are political cretins, which they are not.

Those who shouted the moronic slogans were either false flag veterans, which Hindutva groups are. Or they were a government plant with a view to destroying JNU’s secular, analytical, inclusive and outspoken character.

Another point needs to be grasped. Seeing the hanging of Afzal Guru as a judicial folly is not tantamount to endorsing the terror attack on parliament. I was looking at how the executed assassins of an Indian prime minister in office are lionised by their politically powerful admirers in Punjab. And I found actress turned BJP MP, Kirron Kher (wife of a reigning superstar of Indian nationalism), endorsing a movie that glorifies Indira Gandhi’s killers.

“While Kaum De Heere, based on Satwant Singh, Beant Singh and Kehar Singh, has been banned by the government, the Chandigarh BJP MP felt if there is any issue with the name, which loosely means the jewels of the land, it can be changed, but creativity should not be suppressed.” That was India Today’s report soon after Padma Bhushan recipient Anupam Kher’s wife was elected MP in May 2014.

If courting politics that questions judicial executions is anti-national, Prime Minister Modi should promptly cut ties with subversive allies in Punjab and Kashmir for their followers openly embrace memories of judicially hanged men.

Smiling benevolently at his tormentors, Kanhaiya likened the prime minister to a railway station con artist, common in Bihar, people who sell magic rings to gullible passengers. The prime minister promised he would turn black money into white, that he would put Indian Rs1.5 million in everyone’s account from the retrieved unaccounted wealth. “He sold you the ring and sent you on your journey.” No one had poked Modi in the eye as Kanhaiya did. To some he may have sounded like a Malhaar song summoning rain clouds to a place stricken with drought.

Some have preferred to see Kanhaiya as a messiah. It could be because his speech upon his release on bail was biblical in its messianic scope. There was darkness, and then there was light. In his rendering of the grand truth, he reaffirmed the celestial order his people may have stopped believing in. Dark nights are usually followed by dawn.

The battle is on. Hindutva fascism, it was now possible to assert with unblinkered clarity, can be defeated, and its hateful agenda can be stalled. Appeals rang out, in an endorsement of a fascist response, to shoot him, get rid of him anyhow.

Kanhaiya’s arguments were mathematical: 69pc of Indians, he reminded us, were not with Modi. He may have forgotten Hitler had 37.1pc votes when he became chancellor in 1933, up from 30pc when he fought the presidential polls the previous year. In any case the 69pc Kanhaiya leaned on includes the Left Front and Mamata Banerjee. Laugh? It has Congress, AIDMK, DMK, Lalu, Nitish, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, each seeing the other as a threat or a liability. Kanhaiya’s beaming optimism may thus mask a fatal overreach that many a messiah, real or imagined, have succumbed to.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.