The Indian student who was arrested last month after being accused of undertaking “anti-national” activities has returned to his university campus to a hero’s welcome where he gave an hour-long impassioned speech which has since gone viral.
Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the students’ union Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, was arrested and charged with sedition on 12 February after students held a rally against the 2013 hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist who was convicted over the 2001 Indian Parliament attack.
Mr Kumar, 28, was accused of shouting “anti-national slogans” at the rally and, after his arrest, universities across the country saw protesters and critics hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for attempting to stifle free speech.
However, on Thursday, Mr Kumar was released from jail, after being granted bail, and headed back to his campus to give an impactful talk - described by local media as “the speech that electrified India” - on the importance of freedom.
According to local media reports, thousands of people turned out to hear him speak. In a video of the full speech which surfaced shortly after on YouTube, to roars from the crowd, Mr Kumar began by repeatedly shouting: “Azadi (freedom) from hunger, corruption, discrimination, and backwardness.”
One of the main highlights of the speech, which has since been widely quoted, was when Mr Kumar said: “It is not freedom from India, it is freedom in India we want...from the corrupt practices that are going on inside the country.”
Reportedly taking a dig at BJP’s election promises, he continued: “I come from a village where there are a magic shows. People show magic and sell rings that fulfill all wishes - we have some people like that in our country, who say black money will come back, sabka saath sabka vikas (development for all).”
Then, according to The Hindu newspaper, Mr Kumar described how the BJP government did not take kindly to any criticism in the way it functions. He said: “We Indians forget easily, but the drama, this time, was so big that we still remember all the ‘gimmicks’ used during the election campaign.”
Mr Kumar’s speech was widely praised - by politicians and those within the film industry - as #KanhaiyaKumar began to trend on Facebook and Twitter.
Chief minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, described Mr Kumar’s speech as “brilliant,” and added: “Heard Kanhaiya’s speech many times. Amazing clarity of thought expressed wonderfully. He said what most people have been feeling. God bless him”
Filmmaker Shirish Kunder tweeted saying BJP had helped to “launch a new hero.”
According to reports, two other students who were also arrested still remain in custody.
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- Kanhaiya Kumar
- Jawaharlal Nehru University
- Bharatiya Janata Party
- New Delhi
- Mohammed Afzal Guru