Listen up, Opposition leaders! We want you to be fearless like Kanhaiya, not frivolous like Rahul

He was put in prison for 21 days.

He was beaten up by goons dressed as lawyers at the Patiala House court premises in New Delhi.

He was vehemently criticised by certain sections of the media over a video in which he was shown shouting anti-national slogans — it later turned out to be a doctored video.

Despite all of this, Kanhaiya Kumar spoke his mind, without hesitation — he spoke out against the Narendra Modi government, BJP, RSS, ABVP, the Delhi Police and the hooligans who attacked him. Kanhaiya's speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Thursday night was both powerful and witty.

File image of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

File image of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

If there is one word that can be used to describe the JNUSU president, it is 'fearless'.

Through his words, the beleaguered but brave JNU student told all his critics that he will not be scared or intimidated by hooliganism, false propaganda or frenzied media trials. "We are not asking for freedom from India. We are asking for freedom in India," he thundered.

This statement is especially important because it came on the same day that a Delhi government-appointed magisterial probe concluded that Kanhaiya had not raised anti-India slogans at the controversial event in JNU. According to the probe report, anti-national slogans were shouted at the campus and JNU administration has already identified a "few faces" who were "clearly" heard raising them, PTI had reported. The probe panel had said that their whereabouts must be located and their role must be investigated.

However, the same report had also said that "nothing adverse" could be found against Kanhaiya and that no witness or video was available to support allegations against the JNUSU president.

And in his speech, Kanhaiya made amply clear what his fight was actually about. "Whether it is the person working in the field, whether it is the person fighting for us in the army, or whether it is the person fighting for freedom in JNU, we will not stop fighting for them," he said.

"We fight for equality. So that a peon's son and the President of India's son can study in an equal environment," said Kanhaiya, "We are asking for freedom from poverty and social oppression. And we will get that freedom through this institution. This was also Rohith's dream."

Of course, it is a different debate altogether whether Kanhaiya actually meant those words. We would like to believe he did, but such conclusions cannot be drawn from a single speech.

The conclusion that can be drawn, however, is that Kanhaiya was trying to tell the people that the alternative to the NDA government need not necessarily come from the Congress or AAP. He was trying to tell the people that it can come from a section that claims to fight for the poor, the downtrodden and the backward minorities.

"We will help establish a government which truly works for 'sabka saath, sabka vikaas'," Kanhaiya said in his speech.

Compare Kanhaiya's speech at JNU to Rahul Gandhi's flippant and frivolous speech in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, and you will realise the tragedy of Indian politics today.

That a university student can make a better, and more importantly, more substantial speech than the vice-president of arguably the most significant party in the Opposition today.

"I come from a backward place. I come from a poor family. In the police too, most of the people are from poor backgrounds," said Kanhaiya. This statement about empathising with the police came from a person who had been beaten up because of the alleged negligence of the Delhi Police.

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi joked about 'Fair and Lovely yojana' and obsessed over 'babbar sher' in his Parliament speech.

Of course, Kanhaiya's speech was also full of witty remarks. The difference though is that his witty remarks and puns were aimed at highlighting something deeper.

"My mother told me that she was not making fun of Modi. She said that it was the government that was making fun of them," Kanhaiya said, adding that the government was not listening to the poor and weaker sections of the society.

The wry wit in Kanhaiya's speech was based on actual serious problems in our society, not just criticism of the government for the sake of criticism. Rahul's speech seemed frivolous because it looked more like a stand-up comedy act aimed solely at taking digs at the government.

Perhaps the most crucial — and tragic — difference between the two speeches was that while Kanhaiya appeared to be trying to push things forward, Rahul seemed more intent on stalling an already gridlocked political process in our country.

Kanhaiya not only showed his fearless character through his speech at JNU, but also set an example for weak Opposition leaders in the country.

They should watch his speech and learn.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2016 08:47 AM

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