The 15-year-old Ludhiana girl Behal who challenged JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar for an open debate on freedom of speech and expression is being mocked by some of his supporters. Folks like the Twitter top man whose derision has not sat well. What is it... she does not qualify for the right to freedom of expression because (a) she is a girl (b) she is a minor (c) she is not high profile (d) she is a Modi fan (e) she does not study in JNU.
Any of these or all or some...
Kanhaiya Kumar does not have to debate her, we all know that and it is neither cowardice or fear because none of us have to get quixotic and go picking up all challenges which are flung at us.
But just in case he did decide to take her on it seems fair to balance out the contest (age, experience, glibness) by giving the young lady a few arrows to place in her quiver.
1. How many years more will you stay in JNU working on your PhD now that you are already in your ninth... right? Let me say here that you can get your PhD at fifty, no problem, people do that, I think the world record is 88... thing is many of them earn and produce and become responsible in the interim, which is what confuses people about you... what is the texture of your schedule so your detractors can stop accusing you of being a waster?
2. Does your scholarship have a time limit or is it open ended?
3. Maybe my questions are naïve but I have as much right as anyone to ask them? Since you are now a public figure you are bound to reply (even to say you won’t) because that goes with the territory... you do not have the harbor of anonymity... would you agree?
4. It is said you are seeking your doctorate in African Studies, which is admirable but what was the thought process when you elected to take this subject as your choice. Why Africa and not India since the ills of our nation disturb you so vividly?
5. In the same vein, why did you choose Senegal as your subject for the 2013 doctorate why not the northern segment, the West, the East, the Maghreb, South Africa, the Horn, the Sub-Sahara, the Rift, all of it? Now, you are doing Post-Apartheid South Africa... how many people from the former ANC have you met?
6. How often do you travel to Jo’burg and are you aware there are 1.1 million Indians, mostly from Bihar, living there. How many have you met or contacted to get your data? As a 15 year old I want to know your inputs so that one day who knows I might do my PhD, too.
7. We do express empathy with the fact that your family is poor (so is mine) and I was wondering how much you send every month to augment their meagre income. I have friends who send half their income, there are labourers in the Gulf who send 80% of their earnings to make sure their families are a little more comfortable... people who labour under loans taken for marriages, to pay off earlier loans, buy land, eke out a living. How far does your helping hand stretch?
8. Have you taken out a loan? Have you fought a moneylender, taken on an anti-female panchayat, confronted the khaps, subdued a rapist, gone to the rescue of a victim of injustice, borne your brother’s burden because he ain't heavy, he is your brother.
9. Since you do not have a job do you have any specific hostility against those hundreds of thousands of Indians in the rat race who get up every morning and catch buses and trains or pedal to offices all over India and get reamed for ten to twelve hours and then trek back home to face another set of domestic problems and yet they smile and laugh a little and love a lot... does this instinct for survival annoy you?
10. Would you ever consider taking a nine-to-five job?
11. I hear you wish to teach... to the best of my knowledge you need a B Ed or M Ed so tell me, will you be teaching African studies or something else for which you might need to stay in university a few more years.
12. What, as a charismatic student leader, is your opinion on compulsory military training. Most communist countries have a sort of conscription so would you enthusiastically enter the parade ground... just asking?
13. Do you think JNU’s fees and hostel costs should be commensurate with the top ten colleges in the country seeing as how it has a unique standing... won’t that be socialistically fair... the same for all.
14. What exactly do you pay for your board and lodging every month? The media has put out do many versions about freeloading, should you not clear the air?
15. Your affection for farmers is exceptional and should be lauded. As an example to all those people out there who take farmers for granted could you be a beacon to guide them by listing your personal efforts in these past 8 years to help them.
16. I am giving you a big, fat juicy opening because here is a chance for you to share your good deeds... you see I am not fighting you, I am only trying to understand you, so tell us please all your sagas in helping any farmer. Be the inspiration.
17. By the same token have you ever taken groups of JNU students or your other friends on field trips and sponsored or spent days in villages just helping out. There are scores of NGOs who spend their lives doing that. I am sure you have and if you tell us some of these tales with time and dates may be it will help a lot more of us to join you.
18. Have you ever thought of taking up farming yourself and retraced your footsteps to the rural grandeur. If you were a farmer what would be your priorities.
19. Has JNU ever adopted a village on your watch?
20. Since your professors have labelled you as brilliant can you tell me as a young girl which of your ideas or concepts in any field have been implemented and how successful were they. Nothing is too insignificant. Hybrid seeding, solar power, urban green lungs, crop rotation, fighting against disease and poverty by simply being there. Even if you go to the hosiptal in your free time that is good.
21. If you notice I am not touching politics at all though my praise for Mr Modi might have given you the impression that I will stridently battle for him. No, no ,no, I just want to know the real you, not the figure created by media and mass com.
22. Do you play any kind of sport as in a healthy body is good for a healthy mind?
23. Why do you need official personal security? You sound like those Z security ministers you loathe. How can you place your safety in the hands of the enemy? You should hire your private army.