Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) President Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on sedition charges 20 days ago, was released from Tihar Jail on Thursday after the Delhi High Court granted him an interim bail on the surety of Rs 10,000 for a period of six months.
Kanhaiya received a heroes welcome upon his return, and the speech that he delivered thereafter turned out to be a major talking point in the country, with the social media abuzz with his quotes that were mainly directed against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the sprawling Jawaharlal Nehru University campus was enveloped in darkness after street lights mysteriously went off before Kanhaiya's return, slogan-shouting students massed in the open holding flaming torches and carrying placards and posters hailing the student leader.
"We are all relaxed that Kanhaiya is back but the fight is far from over," PhD student Priyanka Das told IANS, summing up the general mood in the student community.
"We will maintain the solidarity till Anirban (Bhattacharya) and Umar (Khalid) are back and safe," she added, referring to the two other student activists who too are in jail on sedition charges.
Das, who is with the Centre for English Studies, said the JNU community "must not give up until students are safe inside and outside the campus".
Added another student, Monika Gupta: "Kanhaiya's release is an happy hour for all the students."
JNU Assistant Professor Rohit Azad told IANS: "As you can see, the JNU community has gathered here in full support. It is a relief that Kanhaiya is back."
Kanhaiya's speech has drawn reactions from the political spectrum, although mostly from Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Hailing Kanhaiya's speech Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted saying:
What a brilliant speech by Kanhaiya...
Heard Kanhaiya's speech many times. Amazing clarity of thought expressed wonderfully.He said wat most people have been feeling.God bless him — Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 4, 2016
National spokesperson for Congress Sanjay Jha took to Twitter and compared Kanhaiya to the legendary Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara:
#KanhaiyaKumar is now like the legendary Che Guevara ; a young man who symbolizes a new young irrepressible India that believes in itself.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) March 3, 2016
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Parliamentary affairs Venkaiah Naidu retaliated in the midst of the NDA government coming under a barrage of criticism for their handling of the JNU situation.
Sitaram Yechury, General secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), was all praise for Kanhaiya, whose political alignment is said to be strongly Marxist. "Lal Salam Comrade Kanhaiya. Aazaad Hindustan ka bhavishya aap ki pidi ke hi haathon mein hain (Independent India's future is in the hands of your generation).
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) meanwhile, resorted to calling Kanhaiya a 'rat'. "The example of communists is that of ‘rats’. What the High Court has said during Kanhaiya’s release is of much more importance than what RSS thinks about him or the communists,"Manmohan Vaidya, RSS's All India Prachar Pramukh was quoted as saying according to a report on ABP Live. Meanwhile, members of the entertainment industry, authors, as well as famous Tweeple, also expressed their thoughts on the issue. Author Chetan Bhagat termed leaders such as Kanhaiya and Hardik Patel as leaders whom the "youth are desperate for."
Hardik Patel, Kanhaiya Kumar - youth desperate for new leader who can relate to them, talks to them and takes questions. Why govt doesn't? — Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) March 4, 2016
Singer and music director Vishal Dadlani stated that it was because of figures such as Kanhaiya standing up against tyranny that "we're free."
The student leader has repeatedly denied the charges hurled at him. According to forensic experts, at least two of the seven videos which the police used to act against him had been doctored.
With inputs from agencies