Is Kanhaiya Lying About “Misrepresentation” of 1984 Riots Remark?

Kanhaiya Kumar said that his remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riot have been “misinterpreted and misrepresented”.

3 min read
JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. (Photo: YouTube Screengrab)

After coming under severe criticism following his remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar said he was “misinterpreted and misrepresented”.

Speaking at an event on Jashn-e-Azaadi at JNU on Monday, Kanhaiya said there is a difference between 2002 riots and 1984 Sikh massacre as the Gujarat violence was “carried out through state machinery while the other was caused due to mob frenzy.”

He had also compared the alleged onslaught on varsities with the Gujarat riots, alleging that both of them were carried out “with support” from state machinery even as he stressed that there is a fundamental difference between “emergency” and “fascism”.

He later said, 

I have been misinterpreted and misrepresented yet again. There isn’t an iota of doubt that Emergency represents one of the darkest periods of Indian democracy. My organisation AISF strongly opposed and fought against state repression during Emergency. Both 1984 and 2002 were indeed state led pogroms for which justice is still awaited. The current Central government is relentlessly carrying forward its fascist agenda using state power, as visible in the recent authoritarian actions against students and all voices of dissent across the country. What we now witness is unprecedented – a form of undeclared emergency.
Kanhaiya Kumar, JNUSU President

Many, however, did not buy his justification.

In a post on Facebook, CPI(ML) Politburo member and former JNUSU President, Kavita Krishnan, who has been vocally supportive of Kanhaiya ever since his arrest under charges of sedition said:

Kanhaiya corrects his stand on 1984 and Emergency. Good. But it would have been better had he honestly admitted he was wrong, rather than claiming he was misinterpreted and misrepresented. I heard his speech myself - but now the speech video is marked ‘private’ and can no longer be accessed on would have been more graceful for him to admit what he said was wrong, instead of saying we all misunderstood him.

An existing recording of his speech from the event shows him saying that the 1984 riots was a “mob-led massacre”.

Emergency aur Fascism mein fark hai, Emergency mein ek party ke gunde gundagardi kar rahe the, isme poora state machinery kar raha hai. 2002 ke dange me aur 1984 ke Sikh riots me fark hai; ek mob ka kisi aam insaan ko maar dena aur state machinery ke dwara logon ki hatya kar dena dono me buniyadi fark hota hai. (Emergency and Fascism are two different things, during Emergency vandals and vandalism was seen, while in 2002 riots the whole state machinery was involved in the act. 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Sikh riots are totally different, (in 1984) a mob attacked common people but (in 2002) the state machinery was utilised to kill people. There is a big difference between these two. )
Kanhaiya Kumar

Further, the mention of All India Student’s Federation’s stance during the Emergency in Kanhaiya’s statement appears to represent only the partial truth.

According to an AISF leaflet, the party had initially supported the Emergency only to criticise it later.

It (AISF) organised several types movements as far as were possible within the limits of the situation.  But the AISF had made the mistake of thinking that the Emergency was all along directed against reaction, and extended its support.  Later the AISF came out against it and criticised it.  It considered that the support to Emergency was wrong.
Excerpt from AISF leaflet

Kanhaiya’s comment was criticised by his fellow JNU scholars, AISA president Sucheta De and JNUSU vice president, Shehla Rashid.

Sorry Kanhaiya, can’t agree. Left and progressive student movements that have emerged today in India, will not give a clean chit to the Congress for the 1984 pogrom. Why should a left leader try to defend the Congress government’s role in the anti-Sikh riots, something that even Rahul Gandhi and his party cannot defend?
Sucheta De, AIS President
I would just say that both 1984 and 2002 were acts of state sponsored violence and we must not draw contrasts between two human tragedies. We have equally spoken up against state sponsored violence, be it by the Left front government in Bengal, the Congress government or the BJP governments. That is what makes us “Left”. The survivors of 1984 state-sponsored communal pogrom deserve all our support and we must refrain from making any statement that undermines their struggle for justice.
Shehla Rashid, JNUSU Vice President

(With inputs from PTI.)

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