My mother is my biggest inspiration: Kanhaiya

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar during an interview with The Hindu on the campus in Delhi.— Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

Sitting on a bench in front of the Brahmaputra hostel in Jawaharlal Nehru University, dressed in a modest kurta-pyjama, firebrand students’ leader Kanhaiya Kumar credits his mother for being the “biggest inspiration” of his life.

The 28-year-old PhD student, whose arrest and later release on interim bail in a case of sedition triggered a national debate, is now waiting to meet his mother who lives in Bihat village in Begusarai district of Bihar and share his experiences with her.

“My mother is my life’s biggest inspiration for the way she has struggled in her life and is still struggling. She completed her studies till Class XII after she got married and gave birth to my elder brother. She managed the house, her children and her studies, everything together. Now she has a job at Anganwadi. Though she gets only Rs. 3,000 as her salary, she continues to work hard,” Mr. Kumar says.

His popularity on and off campus seems to have only added to his humility. With a smile, the young student leader greets everyone who comes to meet him or passes by.

Recalling his early life, he says: “Since my school days I have been a bright student, which is why my teachers asked my father to send me to a private school. But we were not financially sound and my father could not afford it for more than three years. Apart from classes V, VI and VII, I have studied in government institutions all my life.”

“This is the reason, I realised very early in my life that I will not be able to pursue science education and hence started reading literature. I have read a number of authors from Maxim Gorky to Munshi Premchand. I was interested in Marxist literature and that is how the seeds of activism were sown in me,” he adds.

All the reading about Marx and the teachings that he had acquired from his family finally took shape when he joined the College of Commerce in Patna for his graduation. There, he got associated with the All India Students Federation (AISF) and became actively involved in students’ politics.

“In 2009, I came to Delhi with the aim of pursuing civil services exams and got enrolled into a coaching institute. But in 2010, CSAT was implemented and the exam pattern changed completely. I did not have the money to join a coaching centre all over again, since, in all these years, my family’s financial condition had not improved. My mother was the only earning person in the family. So I decided to join JNU,” he adds.

With a glimmer in his eyes, Mr. Kumar says: “JNU is the best thing that has happened to me, because had it not been for this university, I would have never been able to pursue PhD.”

Mr. Kumar, who ranked first in the JNU entrance exam in 2011, values the university and his friends here more than anything else.

One of the best speakers in the university, this 28-year-old is equally good when it comes to making friends. Before his presidential speech during the students’ union election, not many in the university knew him. But the 10-minute-long speech made him so popular that he won the post of JNUSU president, securing 1,029 votes.

Today, his fiery speeches have captured the imagination of the country’s youth, and made him an icon for many. While certain sections continue to debate the charges on him and his role in “anti-national activities on campus”, the entire student fraternity of JNU, irrespective of party affiliations, is standing by Kanhaiya Kumar.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 9:49:15 AM |

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