One can tell that spring is returning again to JNU when one sees the profusion of bougainvillea blossoms which litter the roads, lanes, and by-lanes of the sprawling campus. It is also the time when the trees begin to shed their leaves in great quantities, as new buds begin to sprout out of old branches. Since Kanhaiya Kumar had been jailed almost three weeks ago, the refrain on everybody’s lips was the famous line from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem: chale bhi aao, ke gulshan ka karobaar chale. And when he finally returned to the campus last night, one could feel that the business of spring was back on track again.
He began his speech with the very same slogans that had been doctored to send him into prison- he called out again, and again, for azaadi, from manuvaad, from the RSS, from hunger, from poverty, from social hierarchy. Media channels broadcast his hour-long speech live across the nation; they broadcast his words of gratitude, not just to those who had stood up with him, but also to those who had put him in jail in the first place.
It cannot be denied that in their haste to silence his voice, they made it even louder and more fearless than it already was. Kanhaiya spoke of his experience in jail, his conversations with police constables, his belief in the Indian Constitution, his desire to speak to the common man about the problems plaguing the nation. But most of all, he spoke of freedom, not from India, but in India.
It is a testament to the democratic spirit of his speech that when he spoke of the ABVP, he called them his opposition, and not his enemies. There was no hate in his voice, only a profound sense of joy that thrilled and infected all of us listening to him. As thousands joined in with the slogans for azaadi, the place itself was transformed into a site for the struggle for freedom. The Azad Block, is what I would like to call it from now on, as a testament to the spontaneous revolution that has crept up on us almost unawares, like spring itself. But as Kanhaiya said, a long struggle still awaits us all. It is up to us to make sure that this business of spring continues.
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