In an article aptly titled 'Rage of the Uncles', journalist Shekhar Gupta advised the government a few weeks ago to cut its losses, eat crow and let Kanhaiya Kumar go with an apology.
Led by its drumbeaters, swayed by warcries of irrational supporters, whom R Jagannathan described as 'kambakhts' while writing for Firstpost, the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to brazen it out. Now, it seems, all the crows in all the world would not be enough for its embarrassment.
On a day when the prime minister gave a rollicking speech in Parliament, the Election Commission announced dates for polls in five states, a former Lok Sabha Speaker died, Kanhaiya dominated headlines in India, trended worldwide and 'broke the internet'. His defiant speech resonated across millions of homes at midnight, chants of azadi echoed in every corner of India.
A mere student destroyed the hubris of the arrogant.
Rightly, when you try to silence one Kanhaiya, ghar-ghar se Kanhaiya niklega.
When you first create a straw man, brand him as an enemy that needs to be vanquished, marshal all your available armies, launch a silly war and then get humiliated, it hurts. Especially when you lack the humility to accept your folly.
It hurts when a young man you wanted to just shut up, comes out and speaks the very lines you do not want to hear. It hurts when he takes potshots at the prime minister and cracks jokes at those who reacted too quickly and too early on the basis of "farzi (fake) tweets". It hurts when anchors chase him for soundbites, it hurts when the media allows him to dominate footage, cuts live for every word he says.
There is a phrase in Hindi that cruelly captures the feeling: chhati pe saanp lotna. (Literally, to helplessly watch snakes crawl on your chest).
But, who is to be blamed for the heartburn of watching Kanhaiya Kumar turn into a hero?
A month ago, Kanhaiya Kumar was just an obscure student in an university.
Left alone, he would have tired of his speeches, azadi slogans, completed his PhD and joined the millions of men who eventually grow out of college idealism and take up a job to earn a living.
He did not ask cops to arrest him on charges of sedition based on flimsy evidence.
He did not ask TV channels to broadcast doctored tapes to label him 'anti-national'.
He did not ask Vikram Chauhan and his gang to beat him up in the presence of cops.
He didn't ask the government to cry, "Hafiz Saeed's armies are coming!" on the basis of a parody account, to count condoms and cigarette butts in the JNU dustbins.
Why begrudge him his hour of triumph when he refused to just roll over, to become a willing victim to a lynch mob, to satisfy a nation's crazed conscience?
Kanhaiya did exactly what anybody in his position would have done: Fight for survival, fight for his honour.
Now, don't envy him just because he lived to recount the tale.
Rejoice instead that Satyamev Jayate is still not an empty slogan in India. Find solace in the fact that we are still not a banana republic where anybody can be put behind bars without evidence, that Newshour debates have still not replaced courts and their anchors are not arbiters of our destiny.
Celebrate that while the uncles fly into a rage, this country's youth still has the courage to stand up to the establishment when it does something wrong. Be grateful that the future of the country is in safer hands.
Calm down because Kanhiaya will not go on to become the prime minister's challenger. People did not rally behind him because they were looking for a political alternative. Indians supported his fight because their conscience demanded they stand up against injustice, speak up for a young man who was wronged. Those who could see beyond the smokescreen of propaganda, stepped out of their echo chambers and asked themselves, "What if I was Kanhaiya?"
Stop envying him because unless something miraculous happens, Kanhaiya will soon fade away from headlines and TV channels. He will go back to where he was before the government thrust greatness upon him: Being a chhatra, shouting his slogans before stepping out in a world where jumlas mean nothing.
Only the moral of his story will continue to inspire those who can grow out of their puerile rage.
First Published On : Mar 6, 2016 08:15 IST