The presence of Leftist politicians, especially those from the CPI, has diluted the popularity of JNU students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar in the University of Hyderabad (UoH), where he came to address a public rally on Wednesday. A large number of students and almost all non-teaching staff stayed away from Kanhaiya’s two- day tour of Hyderabad.
This is also the reason why there was no wave of support for Kanhaiya from inside the UoH when he was prevented from entering the campus by the university’s security staff. Kanhaiya was accompanied by CPI national secretary K. Narayana and a battery of other CPI and CPM leaders. Some National Students’ Union (Congress’ students’ body) leaders and Congress leaders too followed him in the convoy.
However, Kanhaiya returned from the main gates after delivering a brief speech where he vowed to continue his fight till a “Rohit Act” was enacted to strive to end all forms of discrimination against the downtrodden students. He also demanded the setting up of a statutory grievances body for the benefit of the students. Only a few hundred students came out of the campus to hear him, unlike the thousands that thronged him two months ago.
He told a group of media persons including this newspaper that he would visit UoH again sometime later and that he was not disappointed with the authorities’ decision not to allow him inside. “I am a student and I can visit this university at any time I want. I will continue to visit all varsities in the country,” he said at the Chandra Rajeswara Rao Foundation, run by the CPI.
Kanhaiya’s visit to the UoH was on the cards ever since he was released on bail in New Delhi last month.
He was expected to rekindle the agitation that flared up after the suicide of Rohith Vemula two months ago. In fact, a majority of UoH students belonging to Dalit and radical Left sections wanted to hear Kanhaiya following his famous “azadi speech” in New Delhi where he declared Rohith, and not Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, as his icon.
The organisers of Kanhaiya’s visit had expected a large number of students from all sections to rally behind him, thus enabling them to float a platform to fight against the educational policies of the BJP led NDA government at the Centre. They wanted to take along all non-BJP student groups with them in the process.
Kanhaiya’s visit was coordinated by the CPI leaders at the Makhdoom Bhawan in the city.
Though a handful of Congress leaders turned up to back Kanhaiya, a majority of NSUI students stayed away, while the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi completely distanced itself from the efforts to revive the stir on the campus.
Kanhaiya’s evident leaning towards the CPI distanced him from the dominant non-teaching employees association of Hyderabad University, the UHNTEA, which played a major role during the agitation over Rohith’s suicide. In fact, some of the UHNTEA members raised slogans against Kanhaiya.
The UHNTEA, which has a strength of around 1,100 members, has decided to shut all hostels and messes from Tuesday as a protest against vandalism and attack on its members by some students who opposed the return of Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile early this week. “We cannot welcome Kanhaiya who has a specific political agenda,” UHNTEA president R. Ganga Raju told The Sunday Guardian.
A section of the teaching staff is also of the view that Kanhaiya Kumar should have come to the university as a student leader without the company of CPI and CPM leaders. The 500-member strong teaching staff, which supported the students’ agitation two months ago unanimously, now feels that the stir is being steered by the Left leaders. Some Dalit groups’ leaders are with Kanhaiya, but the majority of Ambedkar Students’ Association, which includes people of diverse political leaning, including the radical Left, is sceptical of Kanhaiya’s role. “After all, he is being guided by the CPI and CPM leaders in New Delhi. We are not sure of his next step,” G. Harsha Vardhan Reddy, a PhD scholar, said.
Kanhaiya’s meeting at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram in the heart of the city on Thursday too was a small affair, with only CPI and CPM activists attending it.
Senior CPI leaders including Narayana had to push out two youth—Pawan Kumar Reddy and Naresh Kumar—who threw shoes at Kanhaiya and raised slogans against him.
Even in Vijayawada, where Kanhaiya addressed a rally organised by the Andhra Pradesh unit of the CPI at IV Palace on Thursday evening, drew supporters of the Left parties. The participation of general students was minimal.