The Rohit storm that gripped the nation was slowly subsiding only to be struck again by Hurricane Kanhaiya. Free speech has been taken for a ride, the extreme right tried stifling it in the name of their bigoted patriotism, anti-social fringe groups joined the band wagon like fare-evaders and the extreme left opportunely embarked on this gravy train with their usual insouciant leftist-jingoism.
Within a transient period of few weeks, heroes and villains have emerged from the dust-bowl of government’s high-handedness, pervasive yellow-journalism and slapdash social media. The aftermath left a wreckage of impaired vanity and introspection, leaving behind a litany of unanswered questions. From this debris popped out Mr.Chauhan, a sombre villain, a lawyer turned judge, jury and executioner. His nausea-inducing antics on the day Kanhaiya Kumar was presented before the magistrates should sound as a death knell and chilling reminder of dogmatic nationalism that is engulfing this secular nation. Draconian use of sedition charges on a student instigated a debate in both the houses; cornered and confronted rose another protagonist, Smriti Irani with her fiery and emotional counter-attack dismantling her unwary rivals with an incendiary commotion, if not, reason. The dust barely settled and from the rubble, exploded rejuvenated Kanhaiya, freshly bailed yet bizarrely admonished as diseased by the Judge. And oh! My gracious me, this boy can talk.
My first impression of him when he took stage was that of a meek and gentle pupil caught up in a skirmish that might have puffed up into a serious agitation, possibly fanned by opposition student wing into a political fist-fight and ultimately framed into an act of sedition by administrative muscle of HRD ministry. That may well have been the case, but ten minutes into his tirade the sheer eloquence and uncompromising diction of his speech has laid bare my naïve misjudgment of his personality. This youngster is a seasoned raconteur, influenced by left-wing idealism and hardened by torment meted out to him by the establishment, reinvigorated by the support he received from the liberal academia, he turned his resentment towards Modi and his cohorts, understandably and rightly so. His speech was impressive and free indeed, free-flowing, freely publicized by the free press, “Freedom in India and not from India” was his expedient swan song.
Unrelenting and unabated, he enthralled, captivated and fascinated his university peers by his unrestrained flow of ideas. Amidst the euphoria, I was still struggling to unravel any pieces of wisdom from his passionate discourse that I could muster. Invoking many of Modi’s tag lines, his harangue was evoking and mildly provoking, bordering marginally on light-hearted demagoguery and cheerful rabble-rousery but devoid of any tangible intellectual content. I was waiting for him to illuminate his countrymen on why he chose Afzal Guru’s anniversary as his day of emancipation to drumroll his version of “Azadi from hunger, corruption, discrimination and backwardness”. He vividly talked about Jumlas(Gimmicks), the parables and metaphors were exemplary, but his speech was appealing to emotion and not to intellect. His seamless change of tack from soldiers to farmers’ suicides and from caste system to equal right to prosperity, reminding the nation of his family’s modest income and humble beginnings bore all the hallmarks of Modi’s pre-election campaigns: replete with empty rhetoric and infectious orotundity, mishmash of passionate idealism and euphonous obscurantism, alluring to the concomitant dissents of the lower and middle class India; Modi has finally met his match.
An hour of random reflections, cliché musings and Modi bashing constructed with magniloquence makes a great performance, not a consciousness-raising speech. This is unrivaled entertainment and its over and if you happen to be a purveyor of more intellectual stuff, start looking elsewhere; listening to the likes of Dr.Jayaprakash Narayan would be a good start.