February is a beautiful time of the year in Delhi. It inaugurates Basant, spring, the season for love. And it is made more beautiful by an incandescent, insurgent spirit, that spreads in the air like a loving contagion, especially around what the Hindu Right rehearses for months on end to spoil – the new found festival of Valentine’s Day.
Traditionally (or at least since as long ago as the late twentieth century CE), on Valentine’s Day, the loony Hindu right goes looking for lovers in the parks of Delhi and tries to ply its own line in the extortion trade. This time, they have been joined by some big guns. The Delhi police descended on some young people belonging to a theatre group who had stepped out to have tea during a poetry reading at the IGNCA on the grounds that they ‘looked like they were JNU students’. Meanwhile, their boss, the Honorable Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (who deserves a Bharat Ratna all by himself for skills as a performance artist) regaled a press conference with a poker faced comic act – his revelation of the Lashkar e Taiba’s links to the JNU protests on the basis of the discovery of a fake twitter handle. The fact that Rajnath Singh still has his job is because his boss Narendra Modi, our ‘dear leader’, is the chief architect of the ‘Fake in India’ campaign.
One needs love, and laughter, plenty of laughter, to survive these times, and the antics of these men. Over the last two days, it is love, laughter, sorrow and rage, in equal proportion that have been most evident in the JNU campus in Delhi. Their signs were evident again, appropriately, yesterday, on Valentine’s Day. A student population of thousands has been able to transform its rage at the capitulation of the recently appointed vice-chancellor and his cronies to the diktats of an incompetent home minister and his minions in the Delhi Police apparatus into a deep and abiding sense of good humoured solidarity. This is demonstrated by the support that they have readily offered Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of their students union, who is currently detained, facing ridiculous charges of sedition, and several other students, including some JNUSU office bearers, who the police are still reportedly hunting for. The hashtag #StandwithJNU has gone viral, spreading, connecting, bringing people together like the sudden awakening of spring after a cruel winter. What better way can there be of celebrating Valentine’s Day than to declare, en masse, a love for liberty, and for learning?