Even as the Narendra Modi-led BJP government completed two years in power, members of the JNU students' union spoke at the "Idea of India" Conclave in New Delhi.
Kanhaiya Kumar concentrated on the politicisation of education, comparing the disparities between India's defence and education budgets. When asked about his political future, the JNUSU president said, "I am definitely not going to be a prime ministerial candidate in 2019. Finishing my PhD has not only becoming an academic responsibility but also a political one because so much has been made of the subsidies JNU students receive."
"The fact that students are chairing this session is unprecedented. Normally, we would be sitting in the audience and listen to you all speak. Perhaps, everyone has understood why it is important to hear us out. Because only after our stories are heard, in the wake of the attacks that have happened on us, we will realise what we must add to the idea of India."
He continued "On the basis of what is happening in the country, we can say with certainty that bourgeois democracy is in danger in this country, and there is no sign of socialist democracy."
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech during the World Culture Festival in India Kumar said, "There can be two ideas of India, either 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' or the idea that India must be the most powerful country in the world. The current government supports the second idea and so they are buying planes and tanks worth Rs 6000 crore. We reject this idea of India. We want the idea of India that begins, 'We, the people of India'"
Kumar spoke about the great period of inequality in the country and stated that the Idea of India shouldn't be decided by the educated rich but by the poor disenfranchised farmers in the heartlands where "electricity hasn't penetrated but Coke has succeeded", he added,"My political vision is simple. Either give everyone a rasgulla, if you have the money, or let everyone have a sukkhi roti, what is the problem in that?"
"RSS and BJP are not against the minority, they are against the majority, because the majority belongs to the poor, backward and Dalit communities."
On being asked about the road that the student movement will take in the future, Kumar said "We are not going to look for an alternative in the current political system. We want to talk about alternative politics." He reiterated that only 31 per cent of the country voted for Modi, and the only way to not waste the 69 per cent of votes is to question the existing system and have more proportionate representation in Parliament.
Kumar concluded by saying, "If Modi is a tiger, then put him in a jungle or keep him in a zoo, if you don't do it, then we will do it. That is our commitment. I have been campaigning all over the country and our biggest victory has been that we have received the most support from Dalit and Muslim communities."
Umar Khalid spoke about the suppression of dissent and the constant "Theatre of War" that has existed in the country.
"In the last 60 years, we have become independent but the ghost of Macaulay still looms large over us," he began. According to Khalid, the Modi government has made no attempts to develop research or anything that will make people into "thinking beings". "They have a problem with the 'idea' part of the 'Idea of India.'"
He read a few points from a circular sent out by the UGC before the #OccupyUGC protests, "Increasing boundary walls and fencing the university with barbed wires. Setting up CCTV cameras and armed guards at various entry points in and around the campus. Several security checks manually or through metal detectors. Code of conduct for students, installation of biometrics for compulsory attendance and teachers giving feedback to students. Inculcations of perspectives regarding healthy relationships and sexuality. Setting up a police station within the University premises.
"In the name of security, our campus is being militarised. There was also a circular sent to the Hyderabad University that the Hyderabad police would have an outpost inside the HCU."
"Along with the systematic destruction of public institutions, there has also been one of student unions as well. They do this, because, in consonance with World Bank policies, they want to minimise resistance and criminalise it.
"There is a saying that goes that what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. So the RSS goons that attended a conference of mine in Kolkata said, 'JNU ka hyena, go back to China (Hyena from JNU, go back to China)'. It made me glad because at least they gave me political agency to be a Communist and did not identify me as a Muslim.