Unheard of until recently outside the hallowed yet tumultuous precincts of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the comet that is Kanhaiya Kumar is streaking across India’s expansive spectrum, setting new rules of political engagement. Bracketed as ‘seditious’ in contemporary narrative, Kanhaiya’s academic interest lies beyond the narrow domestic walls. A student of international relations, Kanhaiya is pursuing his PhD in African Studies at JNU’s School of International Studies. Kanhaiya, in a “tête-à-tête with Abhinav Raj, shares his thoughts on a host of issues both domestic and those that cut across the borders
You say Rohith Vemula is your icon. Can a person who committed suicide instead of fighting against injustice be treated as an icon?
Rohith was a victim of institutional murder, and I don’t term his death as a suicide. So I don’t find it relevant to answer the next part of your question. Since he has been murdered, the killers of Rohith must be brought to the book ... and the ones who killed Rohith are trying to kill the democratic space across the country. Therefore, the enemies of Rohith are our enemies. They are constantly trying to divert attention from poverty and corruption with issues that are diluting democratic space of the country.
I will add one more thing. Rohith didn’t know me but he shared my presidential speech on social networking sites in last September. I went to Hyderabad after his death ... I want to emphasize that despite not meeting Rohith, we had supported each other as our purpose has always been the same.
I am not doing politics post Rohit’s death. He shared my speech without knowing me and we all share a common dream.
Left is against democracy. It believes in capturing the State by force. Do you support such line of thought?
Without democracy, there can be no socialism... I am quoting Lenin, “Democarcy is indispensable to socialism.”
Some people try to cite wrong examples of China and North Korea in order to malign the image of Left. Progressive forces can rise only when there is democratic pace. Without democracy, progressive forces cannot survive.
Will you campaign for the Left political parties in West Bengal polls?
As of now, I won’t be campaigning for anyone. I am a student, and will take up causes of the students. I will campaign for youth like you if you contest polls for change. My primary concern is to address the concerns of youth than the concern of any party. I will like to take to the streets for the welfare of women, Dalits and Adiavsis.
What is your stand on Kashmir?
I have complete faith in my Constitution which considers Kashmir to be integral part of India. A State is made up of its people and land. It depends on the people of Kashmir to decide on the fate of Kashmir. There are many across Kashmir who never talk of separation from India. Our Government should positively engage in dialogue with local people to quell distrust among people that has been on the rise in recent times. The Government should encourage people across Kashmir to actively participate in the democratic process.
As a student pursuing Ph.D in international relations, what’s your opinion about the Modi Government’s engagement policy with Pakistan?
In the times of globalisation, cross border exchange of labour, products and trade becomes inevitable. So there is very little room for inter-country disputes irrespective of whosoever is in power.
The major problem plaguing contemporary times is the creation of fake discourse regarding hostile relations between India and Pakistan. On the contrary, the market which dominates the geopolitics of contemporary times doesn’t advocate hostility between two nations.
Despite border disputes, economic relations between the two countries will remain normal irrespective of whoever comes to power as polity today is determined by the need of market. Indian products will be sold in Pakistan, and products of Pakistan will be sold in India, and for all of that, relations are bound to be normal.
While disputes may remain, it would not surpass a certain level where economic policies are hampered. Prime Minister Modi will have to visit Pakistan as market demands him to go irrespective of whether he likes it or not. Currently, foreign policy of any country is determined by economic policies where the corporates have larger say, animosity between the two neighbouring countries is played up, which in turn fosters the trend of pseudo-nationalism.
In the past two years, India’s Eastern border has witnessed a near peace; China has not intruded into our land. Should it be attributed to Modi’s pragmatic foreign policy?
Many a times, we read about cross border disputes and skirmishes in newspapers and media channels. They may be true, but they are not the final truth. My relatives are in armed forces; they tell that many a times border skirmishes take place but the citizens of the country are not made aware about those.
Many a times, border skirmishes are not highlighted in order to avoid hampering of economic ties between the two nations. So, economic ties are the foremost determining factors of bilateral relations today.
Border dispute is a political issue but it is not isolated from economy. So, inter-state relations are determined by bilateral trade relations.
In the times of neo liberal policies, economic relations outscore minor border disputes as no state wants to bear loss for the sake of minor territorial disputes.
As a student of International studies,what is your take on Donal Trump?
As far as I can tell, there is deep rooted conspiracy across the world to bring authoritarian governments to power in order to impose neo liberal policies. We can see that conservative forces are on the rise all across the globe. A government of the RSS can also be seen as one such example of rise of conservatism across the world. The United States which has been talking about globalisation is also today talking about tightening immigration laws. We can see that the United States is moving towards conservatism only to bail itself out of escalating economic crisis.
However, I will admit that Barack Obama’s party is more liberal than Donald Trump’s party.
Do you believe in good terrorist and bad terrorist?
No, any sort of violence cannot be tolerated. Terrorism is wrong. It cannot be good or bad. However, definition of terrorists changes according to situations. Under British rule, Bhagat Singh was termed as terrorist, but today he is our hero. So, the definition of terrorism should be broadened keeping in mind the context and prevailing circumstances. The buck shouldn’t stop only with people who plant bombs, but the people who make bombs and who hatch conspiracies to plant them should also be addressed.