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By Nazarul Islam, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: The name of Bihar’s village, Begu Sarai, has sounded so familiar to me. I had heard this name quite often, from my grandmother, Zainab who had a habit of recalling the bitter-sweet memories from her exciting life in India—before the great Partition! She was born in 1900, in the neighboring village of Asthawaan. My Dadi had lived long, and passed away in the year Kanhaiya Kumar was born.
Who is this revered Kanhaiya, sweeping across India’s high profile media, and TV screen today?
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A Bihari Ph.D. or India’s loved and loathed student leader…set on track, to be the nation’s choice one day, for the office of Prime Minister. No one has made such an electrifying political debut in India’s recent history. In March 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar the president of the JNU Students Union was arrested on charges of sedition, locked up in Tihar Jail and beaten up by lawyers in Patiala House court.
He came out of the crisis as a young political star, dubbed by the BBC as ‘India’s most loved and loathed student’. This is an amazing story—from his childhood in rural Bihar, college days in Patna, to his political coming of age in Delhi. And it is told in his extraordinary voice—colorful, witty, eloquent, and raw.
From Bihar to Tihar is the story of a young political star— in the making, and projecting the light on a rare window; into the lives of small-town young Indians, who live through their dreams and aspirations.
This is also the story of Kanhaiya’s incredible journey from a village school, his deepening involvement in student politics, his controversial arrest on charges of sedition and its aftermath.
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‘Bhagat Singh had said it is easy to kill individuals, but you cannot kill ideas. I don’t know where this fight of ours will take us, but I thought our ideas should be permanently etched in history as a book. I want to write about the inherent contradictions of Indian society through my personal experiences and to reveal the hopes, despair, and struggles of the youth of this country,’. These words have echoed Kanhaiya Kumar, faith in his followers.
‘This will be a defining book of our times’, Kanhaiya’s is a voice that everyone has loved to hear and we at the Juggernaut are very proud to bring it to the widest possible readership,” says Chiki Sarkar, a well known Indian commentator. His writings have depicted the actual problem in India. Generally, we polish our egos by saying that India is a Holy Country. Countries aren’t holy, people who live in and nurture its freedom make it holy.
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I had not followed the whole Kanhaiya story on media. However, he kept cropping up during discussions in several forums. And, managed to pop out of handheld portals. All that intrigued me. I picked up this book to understand the whole issue closely.
His perspective on politics and activism surely strikes a chord with me, though I wish I could get the first-hand perspective of the other side too. Nonetheless, the writer makes some exceptionally brilliant and valid points about India and the majority of Indians.
“To be able to understand exploitation, one must be exploited; for the privileged, the stories of exploitation are just a fairy tale”
In the current situation, we are all living in an open jail. We are scared in our own houses, we are scared of going out in night, we are scared to talk, where to talk and how our opinions will be manipulated. We feel insecure and yet on 15th august every year we congratulate each other and Say Happy Independence. We have forgotten what independence means, what it true independence is what we need to discover now. It is lost in divisive religious and dirty politics of this country.
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Human values and equality needs to be defined again and restructured for a free India, for a free world.
Further down, Kanhaiya made his point: ‘one must compare with oneself. There can be no real competition between two different individuals, as their situations and opportunities can’t be similar.’ He is a little boy then studying in school and trying to be the best that he can be.
Has the time arrived, to make situations and opportunities equal for all Indians and also in the whole world. This is the big picture, he is looking for.
Many of us in the writers’ community believe that in a nation desperate for heroes and soaked in a febrile media culture, adept at myth-making and instant vilification, Mr. Kumar has been thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight by a fumbling and offensive government and a clutch of hostile news channels. So does he feel that he is an accidental hero?
One thing for certain, Kanhaiya does not suffer from any false modesty. He hasn’t become famous overnight, he says. It has been a “gradual process” since he first arrived at JNU from his village in Begusarai in Bihar. (His father, a small farmer, cannot work any longer as he is paralyzed after a stroke and his mother is a government childcare center worker.)
Students say his rousing performance in November’s presidential debate-a town-hall discussion, a day before the union election – made him a name on the campus. A Kumar speech, delivered in fluent Hindi, is usually an animated performance of oratory, rhetoric, wit and gladiatorial mojo!
Mr. Kumar has pounded upon his critics – mostly irate, older urbanites – who describe him as an amateur in politics—they do forget, that he was initiated very early when he was studying at a college in Patna.
‘I was part of a group in college which spoke out about why classes were not being held, why women were harassed, why sons of politicians were misbehaving on the campus’. All such journeys begin with the thoughts provoking the leader, to take his first step into glory!
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Despite the events of the last month, Kanhaiya Kumar has looked unusually calm, and self-controlled. He is not easy to provoke. It is difficult to figure out whether he’s being cheeky or earnest when he names Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal, two Bollywood actors, who openly back Mr. Modi’s BJP aggressively, as his favorites.
So there is also a life beyond politics. Days before he was put behind bars for shouting slogans – reports say some of the videos of his speech telecast by some channels were doctored – he discovered Leonardo DiCaprio.
‘I am brushing up my English, so we went to watch The Revenant. I loved it, mainly because of Leo. My friends were telling me that he should have won the Oscar much earlier. I had no idea about his previous work.
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‘When I was in jail I heard that he had won the Oscar. I felt very happy.’
What does India’s future hold for this young celebrity? It depends. At his vulnerable age, if the demands of corrupt practices and dark politics, do not overtake him—he is likely to lead India and win hearts. May good fortunes embrace you, KK!