Kanhaiya Kumar = Bhagat Singh. Really, Dr Tharoor !

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Congress leader Shashi Tharoor was all praise for the student movement that began at the Jawaharlal Nehru University on 9 February and congratulated the student body after it initiated a dialogue on the “meaning of nationalism”. He addressed the students at the campus’ administrative block on Sunday.

Tharoor is known for his oratory prowess—on the occasion, he quoted Jawaharlal Nehru, pointed out intolerance in India in the recent past and even took a few jabs at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the growing intolerance in the country.

What backfired though in the impressive speech was the statement in which he compared JNUSU’s president Kanhaiya Kumar (who was charged with sedition) to Bhagat Singh. “Bhagat Singh was Kanhaiya Kumar of his times,” he said.

Though the audience applauded his statement, he was heavily criticized on several platforms including social media for his daring statement.

Many even saw this as Congress’ move to woo Kanhaiya and use his gaining popularity to its advantage. BJP reportedly said that Sashi Tharoor insulted the national hero Bhagat Singh through the comparison.

Tharoor said, “This university has been at the centre of a very important debate. That debate is about what the idea of India is, and what nationalism means. We must all have a conversation about this, because diversity of opinion and culture is what India stands for.”

He added that India is not just ‘Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan’ and called for a diverse India, and said that diversity was always a part of the Indian tradition throughout history.

In his 40-minute long speech, Tharoor also spoke about the recent controversy over chanting the ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan. “Today nationalism is decided by whether or not one can say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. I am happy to say it, but should I also oblige everyone to say it?” he said.

“Our Constitution gives people the right not to say it just as it gives people the right to say it as well. I will choose when to say it and that’s democracy,” Tharoor added.

“India is not just Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. We want an India with both Krishna and Kanhaiya Kumar. We want in India people from every corner of this vast land an equal stake in our future. If we understand that the Indian civilisation allows many religions, celebrates range of opinions and is today sustained by constitutional democracy which stands for certain values that all of us claim as our own, if this is the Indian legacy we can live, then we can all stand under that flag and celebrate,” he said to the students.

Tharoor also said, “You may have come here for education but you are also educating the nation. What is happening here has given the whole nation an education in the vital issues of dissent and democracy, sedition and of course of ‘azaadi’ (freedom).”


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