At a time when most parties are leveraging the popularity of JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar for their own political ends, another round of controversy erupted when Congress leader Shashi Tharoor compared Kumar to Bhagat Singh during a lecture at JNU on 20 March.
Tharoor said, “Bhagat Singh was a young man in his 20s with Marxist beliefs who had great passion for the Motherland. Kanhaiya has same qualities in common.” This statement, which was part of a 43-minute lecture and was made in the context of sedition charges put on people under the British rule, opened a can of worms with the BJP and the Twitteratti issuing counter-statements and politicising the idea of nationalism and love for the country.
While Tharoor later clarified that he had no intention of comparing the two young men, a political figure of his stature should have refrained from needlessly exaggerating and appropriating history and historical figures to suit his political agenda. Sure, Kanhaiya has gone to jail and given a rousing speech upon his return on campus. But how does that compare to a man who took up arms against the British for India’s freedom and was hung to death for it?