Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2019 > Kanhaiya values Prajita’s love

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 21 New Delhi May 11, 2019

Kanhaiya values Prajita’s love

Tuesday 14 May 2019

by Chandrasekhar Bhattacharjee

It was August 23, 2017. The All India Students’ Federation and All India Youth Federation were organising a long march, much before the Farmers’ March in Maharashtra, from Kanya-kumari to Amritsar via Kolkata and Delhi. Kanhaiya, a leader of the march, was only the JNUSU President. The day before the marchers reached Serampur, a sub-divisional town of Hooghly district on the road to Howrah, a young girl, Prajita Dutta (12), asked her parents, “Tomorrow Kanhaiya uncle will have lunch with us. What can we gift him?”

The Dutta family is a known CPI family and her trade unionist grandpa is an ex-State Secretariat member of the party. Then, surprising them Prajita asked, “What if we gift him a painted portrait of Kanhaiya?” And to keep her enthusiasm alive, her father browsed the internet to download an image of Kanhaiya. Prajita devoted her efforts till late night and the next day the painting was framed. Prajita herself handed over her gift to her Uncle Kanhaiya after lunch before they resumed their march in the afternoon. But, the Dutta family still cherishes that auspicious memory.

After Kanhaiya’s nomination, NDTV’s Ravish Kumar visited Kanhaiya’s ancestral home for an exclusive interview. Ravish was sitting at her mother’s room and the cameraman was panning the rooms. While watching the show at NDTV, the Dutta family was astonished. Prajita’s father Saurabh said, “Suddenly we find Prajita’s painting on the wall of Kanhaiya’s room. The painting could have been lost or ignored, but it wasn’t. It’s because of rare values—which we do not witness usually, but not lost forever... because there are Kanhaiyas.”

Kanhaiya is contesting from Begusarai at the age of just 32, against veteran Union Minister Giriraj Singh of the BJP and three-time MLC Tanveer Hasan of the RJD, the Opposition party of the State. Yet he created a history leading a five km long procession of red-flag-waving youth. Bihar never witnessed such a long procession, not of any party, leave aside the Communists. The mother of Najib—the student of JNU, mother of Rohit Vemula, the Dalit leader, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, actress Swara Bhaskar, Gurmeher Kaur, student leader from Kashmir Shahla Rashid and several other dignitaries were in the procession. Several other prominent personalities including film director Prakash Raj, lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress Shabana Azmi, convenor of Swaraj India Yogendra Yadav, a musical warrior from Goa campaigned for Kanhaiya on their own.

Kanhaiya stands totally alone in this year’s election scenario. Pitted against millionaires and billionaires, Kanhaiya’s net worth is only Rs 8.5 lakhs, a major chunk of which he has earned from the sale of his book— ‘Bihar to Tihar’. The market value of the small piece of 1.5 decimal land, on which his deceased father built the small home, is Rs 2 lakhs. Kanhaiya, a Doctorate from JNU, India’s best university, has Rs 3,57,848 in his bank account and other savings and Rs 24,000 in cash. “This is just less than a tip of snuff to contest a seat in Bihar. You need a minimum of a few crore rupees to contest,” said Lachhman Prasad, an activist of the Lok Janashakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan. He was all set to vote for Kanhaiya.

Well aware of his financial constraints, Kanhaiya, the poster-boy of “Azadi” charted the path of ‘Notetantra nehi, Loktantra’ (Not the rule of cash, but Democracy) and asked for crowd-funding. For the first time in India, a serious contender chose to contest with people’s funding. His call to donate Rs 1 through a website disc caused havoc by gathering Rs 30 lakhs in a day. Conspirators hacked the site the next day for a day, but it was in vein. The site resumed after two days and the required Rs 70 lakhs accumulated with him in a few days.

Kanhaiya’s slogan for Azadi with a micro-phone in hand is highly popular today. He has taught the youth to dream of Azadi from poverty, unemployment, Manuvad, repression of capitalism, casteism, religious fanaticism. Time and again he raised above all the evil designs, repression and divisive politics of Narendra Modi and the RSS. Whether it was the case of the Gauri Lankesh murder or forced suicide of Rohit Vemula due to the conspiracy of the institutional hierarchy, or the still untraced JNU student Najib’s case, Kanhaiya led all the struggles through his sharp logic. His logic is so invincible and unbeatable, even though spelt out in commoners’ language that his opponents are forced to admit that. Co-inmates and warders at Tihar jail used to flock to him to listen to his words on various issues. He has been on the RSS radar and was targeted several times, but he never budged. Two years back, while he was leading the Students Youths’ Long March, a number of efforts to malign him were thwarted by his comrades in Kolkata, Hooghly and Howrah.

For several such reasons like his sharp logical counter-attack against the RSS-backed Ghar Wapsi to Co-Vigilante movements, he turned out to be the most effective symbol of resistance against Modi and his cronies. The regime tried to put his career in doldrums putting him behind bars, yet the poor villager of Bihta under Begusarai completed his Ph.D before the stipulated period ended. Nothing could hold him back. During this period, he also toured nearly all the Indian States for political debates and seminars, participating in people’s struggles, yet remained focused on his research. He became ‘apna Gaon ka izaat, apna Gaon ka shan’ (Honour of our villages, our pride). To the Begusaraians, going against Kanhaiya means betrayal to our own kin.

This is how the tricks of the RSS-BJP were defeated. In 2014, Bhola Singh (now deceased) won Begusarai with a strong Modi-wave getting only 39.75 per cent vote. His closest opponent Tanveer Hasan secured 34.32 per cent votes, while CPI candidate Rajendra Prasad got 17.89 per cent votes. But, this data is old and obsolete for the people of Begusarai this year.

As many as 4.5 lakh Bhumihars and nine per cent Muslims are two dominant factors in the social composition of Begusarai. Apart from these two, 18 per cent Scheduled Castes, 11 per cent Yadavs, five per cent Brahmins, Dhanuks, Koiris, Tantis, six per cent Dushadhs and four per cent Chamars are there. Till date, Begusarai has been playing to the socio-caste-religious tune. But, Kanhaiya’s Azadi call has swept those formations out and made them redundant. Issues like unemployment, farm crisis, irrigation, dearth of education, absence of minimum health facilities, demonitisation, utterly failed GST have surfaced before the public pushing aside the high-voltage communally surcharged campaign of Giriraj Singh. Kanhaiya also led Begusarai to his call for Development which includes a University named after noted Hindi poet from Begusarai, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, AIIMS-like hospital and stress on industrialisation. All the people-friendly issues have brought Azadi from the Sanghi issues.

But, Kanhaiya is no Avtar. He is a man of flesh and blood, who is a product of contem-porary society and revolutionary parantage. Some used to call him as the ‘Deshi Che’, as Begusarai is commonly known as the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’. Bihar’s small farmers and landless farm-labourers, under the able leadership of Swami Sahajananda Saraswati, Rahul Sankrityayan, revolted aginst Mahant Zamindars about 90 years back. That farmers’ movement paved the way to the birth of Communist Party in Bihar. Comrade Chandrasekhar Singh was a bright asset of the CPI from Begusarai, who first won from Teghra as an MLA. Teghra is one of the Assembly segments under the Begusarai Lok Sabha seat. Since then till 2010, Begusarai remains under the CPI fold. Revolutionary peasant leaders like Surya Narayan Singh, Kedarnath Singh, Shatrughna Prasad Singh, Ramvinod Paswan, Chandrasekhar Singh, Karyananda Sharma, intelectually rich leaders like Rahul Sankrityayan, Jagannath Sarkar, Indradeep Sinha, Yogendra Sharma and trade union leaders like Purendu Majumdar, Kedar Das and mass leaders like Chaturanan Mishra and Bhogendra Jha built the strong foundation of the grand old Communist Party of India. Bhogendra Jha, Chaturanan Mishra, Indradeep Sinha were repeatedly elected to Parliament from different constituencies. Chaturanan Mishra was the Union Agricultural Minister during the United Front Ministry.

One of the bases of Communist Party’s farmers’ movement, Begusarai also is the home of industrial workers. Adjacent Barauni having a Fertiliser factory, Thermal Power Station, Oil Refinery, Diary and host of ancilliaries. Due to this, a good number of labourers from organised industries consist a considerable part of its populice. The CPI has been successful to spread the Marxist theory of class struggle to some extent.

Kanhaiya was born here in a partisan family. His grandfather was a bosom friend of Chandrasekhar Singh, who also hails from the same locality. Kanhaiya was brought up in this ideal revolutionary atmosphere, engaging himself in socio-political discourses since his early days. The teachings helped him to call for “loot aur jhoot ke khilaf haq aur sach ke larhai”. Kanhaiya named the village library after Bhagat Singh, instead of Karl Marx. When asked, he replied, “Bhagat Singh is an Indian revolutionary who needs to be more publicised among the youth, so that the ideas of the Indian Left-minded revolutioaries spread well.” He held his head high, much above any narrow partisan outlook. This is why the upcoming Indian youth leadership like Jignesh Mevani, Shehla Rashid left the elections in their respective constituencies and remained active at Begusarai for weeks together. This is why parties like AAP or NCP extended full support to Kanhaiya, eminent socio-political analyst Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India threw his weight behind Kanhaiya.

Several other news stories from ground zero say that even the youth attached to the RSS will vote for Kanhaiya, because he dosen’t pretend and says what is the truth. The RJD’s effort to gather Muslim and Yadav votes, what they call as ‘MY equation’ also got frustrated. A good number of Bhumihars, the vote-bank of Giriraj Singh, has been dented. Youth, cutting accross party-lines, are behind Kanhaiya and his ‘Vision for Begusarai’.

But, Kanhaiya still keeps his feet on the ground, mingles with commoners and despite being the candidate, stands in the queue for half-an-hour to cast his vote. He still remembers the little girl Prajita Dutta, who gifted his portrait, drawn overnight. Blessed with the wormth of the Begusarai residents, his eyes may be on Parliament, awaiting for the final verdict on May 23, but Prajita’s painting will adorn his room, which he considers ‘too valuable’ as this child’s love.

The author is a senior journalist based in Kolkata.

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted