Azadi. Freedom. The word had been turned into something dangerous, even illegal, by the government and news channels that fulminated about anti-nationals spilling out onto Delhi's streets over the last week. As of Thursday, it had been reclaimed, and how.
Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar – freshly released from jail – led a chant amid hundreds of students in his first public speech after being arrested on charges of sedition.
"We fight for equality," Kumar said, to cheers at JNU's administrative block. "So that a peon's son and the President's son can study in an equal environment... We are asking for azaadi from poverty and social oppression. And we will get that freedom through this institution. This was also Rohith's dream."
Earlier in the day authorities had released Kumar from Tihar Jail, where he has been lodged ever since his arrest in February on charges of sedition. The JNUSU president is accused of having participated in an allegedly anti-national event, where seditious slogans were raised, although investigation has revealed that there is no evidence of him saying anything that could amount to sedition.
On Thursday, in fact, the Delhi Government had also published a report asserting that there was no video proof of Kumar having raised any seditious slogans. Nevertheless, a few TV channels have spent the last few weeks fulminating about Kumar's words and actions, with some even airing doctored videos that attempted to show the JNUSU president shouting allegedly seditious slogans.
"I thank those great people in Parliament who decide on what is right and wrong. I thank the Delhi Police," said Kumar, who was arrested after being accused of sedition. "I thank those TV news channels. To insult JNU, they gave it place on prime time."