Umar Khalid should do his homework before comparing Burhan Wani to Che Guevara

These days one is used to individuals making crazy comments in the hope that the train of publicity will bullet through all the social platforms and disgorge their nonsense at each stop.

So, JNU student Umar Khalid, already facing a case of sedition and out on bail, has decided to up his ante with a comparison of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujhadeen leader, who was killed earlier this week, to the saga of Che Guevara.

At the very beginning, Umar announces, most grandly, that Burhan was not afraid to die. How he knows this little nugget of information, no one can say but let’s grant him that insight.

Where it all goes wrong is that to most of these ‘up the revolution’ students, Che Guevara is a monochromatic T-shirt icon who is also the most successful commercial success with that graphic. It has sold millions.

Where Umar and his ilk go wrong is that they do not do their homework. They skate superficially on data that is in their face, but do little in-depth study. Che was not a Cuban but an Argentine doctor with five children, who exported revolution and wanted to bring the US to his knees.

Che was not a Cuban but an Argentine doctor with five children who exported revolution and wanted to bring the US to his knees. Reuters.

Che was not a Cuban but an Argentine doctor with five children who exported revolution and wanted to bring the US to his knees. Reuters.

These are the tender, gentle words of Che Guevara:

Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!

It is still not sure who killed him. Whether it was the Americans or the Bolivians, where he had started stoking an uprising, is uncertain, but it is pretty much accepted that it was the Bolivian government who wanted Che Guevara dead. And the US wasn’t averse to it.

There was also a dark side to him that garment manufacturers romantically covered up and few even know of it today. Che was cold and ruthless. After Cuba had come under Castro in 1959, Che was placed in charge of La Cabana, and old and decaying prison off Havana where scores, if not hundreds of ‘war criminals’ and ‘political dissidents’ were executed ostensibly under his orders.

Legend has it that even Fidel Castro was appalled and this might have been a contributing factor to their falling out, another point that people forget.

Just like they do that for Che Guevara it all began in the Congo when he was suspected of organising a rebellion there. That did not work out so he fled to Bolivia and began fomenting trouble there.

In his book The Hidden Face of Che, the author Jacobo Machover, gives a macabre definition of the folk hero.

Che was assiduous in keeping a diary. He wrote extensively of his role as an executioner. In one passage, he described the execution of Eutimio Guerra, a peasant and army guide. Here is an excerpt that has been quoted in various articles that de-romanticise the Che myth.

"I fired a .32 calibre bullet into the right hemisphere of his brain which came out through his left temple," was Guevara's clinical description of the killing. "He moaned for a few moments, then died."

Over 200 people were killed in cold blood, many on mere suspicion. Machover says: "He would climb on top of a wall... and lie on his back smoking a Havana cigar while watching the executions." Dariel Alarcon Ramirez, one of Guevara's former comrades in arms, has been quoted as confirming this scene because the presence gave the execution squads comfort.

Machover continues. Jose Vilasuso, an exiled lawyer, recalled Guevara informing his "court" in the prison: "Don't drag out the process. This is a revolution. Don't use bourgeois legal methods, the proof is secondary. We must act through conviction. We're dealing with a bunch of criminals and assassin."

So, if a student in a New Delhi ‘free thinking’ university cannot see beyond his T-shirt and the poster on his wall, it is largely an expression of ignorance when he makes comparisons. He is lucky Indian courts still use bourgeois systems, which is why he can inhale the oxygen of freedom.

I don’t know what Burhan Wani’s agenda was, but if it reflected any of these Che Guevara's ‘warm and friendly’ traits then okay, Mr Umar Khalid, you may be more right than you know.

Now go back to class, the bell is ringing.

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Updated Date: Jul 11, 2016 19:20:20 IST

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