The campus of Jawaharlal Nehu University, New Delhi, saw another round of celebrations as news broke of interim bail granted to Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. At the same time, actor Anupam Kher made an appearance on campus for the screening of his film Buddha In A Traffic Jam part of the series of cultural evenings, on Friday organised by the BJP’s student wing the ABVP.
Khalid and Bhattacharya have been in jail on charges of sedition since 13 February when they surrendered to the police. As news of the bail reached JNU at 4pm, students came tumbling out to the Sabarmati Dhaba. Chanting their now famous slogans of azaadi, they covered each other in gulal, marking holi with victory for students. Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU student union president, also out on bail after being jailed on similar charges, expressed his happiness but reminded students that their fight was a long one.
Then dancing commenced to the dubstep remix of Kumar’s azaadi speech, created by Chandigarh-based music artiste DubSharma when Kumar was in jail. Both students were released from Tihar by 9pm on Friday night, as the campus announced a unity march for them.
In perhaps the best demonstration of inclusivity, hundreds of students also turned out to listen to Anupam Kher and watch his movie. Kher, in his speech, took multiple jibes at Kumar, Khalid and Bhattacharya, saying that those who returned to campus on bail weren’t “Olympic winners”, they weren’t “Sachin Tendulkar or even Saina Nehrwal”. “Heroes are those who speak good of the nation, not those who speak ill,” he added.
In an attempt at self deprecating humour, he said that he had never been smart enough or had enough marks to be in JNU, but his education had ensured he learn to love his country. “There is no intoxication like that of desh bhakti,” said Kher.
Some audience members laughed, most waited patiently for the movie to start and a handful protested against his presence on campus. “Anupam Kher se azaadi” chanted some 20 students at the back of the crowd.
Defending his tweet where he said that chanting “Bharat Mata ki jai” the only slogan to prove one’s nationalism, he raised the slogan again as four tricolour flags waved behind him.
The movie itself was greeted with a big round of applause. However, the post screening interaction had little to do with questions specifically about the movie. Students bombarded Kher with more ideological questions and arguments, on the concept of bharat mata, on extremism in both the left and the right. The actor tried to field them as best as he could.