Rahul Gandhi, AICC General Secretary and MP, Lok Sabha was in the JNU campus yesterday [29 September 2009] to address a public meeting on the topic ‘Youth, Politics and Development.’
It was definitely not an ordinary meeting and a lot happened before and during the meeting. This is a first-hand report of the meeting with the full audio of the meeting and some photos.
Media was not allowed in the premise [one journalist rightly called it an "absurd" regulation] and neither were the cameras! Some people [including those wearing the NSUI tags] did successfully carry the cameras inside while some like Theresa [JNU Student from Germany] were not even allowed a hair band-cum-torch! Entry was strictly by JNU I-cards only and that was certainly a dampener [and an irritant] for about 30 per cent of the ‘garrisoned premise’ remained unfilled [[families and relative of non-teaching staff in the campus had thronged to hear Kalam and Manmohan in the JNU campus in the past but were not welcome for Rahul, alas!].
The Rahul Gandhi sketch here is by late Aishvarya Agrawal who died recently due to lack of medical facilities in JNU campus and an insensitive JNU administration. Click here to visit Aishvarya’s Sketch blog ‘STROKES’.
Protest Pamphlets before his arrival
Pamphlets against his visit were conspicuous on JNU walls [click on the image on the left to enlarge it 'Shehzada-e-Hind ka Riyaya ke naam ek farmaan'].
See the following SFI poster ‘Some Questions that Mr. Rahul Gandhi should Answer’:
The Meeting starts at Kendriya Vidyalaya [KV], JNU campus
There was a power cut for about 40 minutes before the meeting and people were jokingly suggesting conspiracy theories [either it could be AISA to depress the mood or it could be the NSUI to get people out for the meeting!] as patriotic songs played at the venue.
There were serpentine queues for the entry on the two entry points [not because the crowd was really extremely overwhelming but because of the maddening security check. The crowd inside must be more than 1000 but definitely not 3000 as IANS has reported.
Rahul came to the meeting at about 9.40 PM [with Meenakshi Natarajan] while people were still trickling in thanks to the the tight security! Rahul went in a hand-shake mode upon arrival and traversed the barricade from point A to point B to please his fans and admirers ["Rahul may be a bachelor but he'll NOT choose a partner from JNU campus" was the comment from someone in the crowd about the excited girls!].
The initial formal speeches from local NSUI activists bored students [NSUI JNU president Sunil Jhajharia rolled his sleeves in style as he came to the dais only to invite a lot of laughter] while one speaker was almost booed off by the audience but he did not understand it [and instead suggested a cameraman to move presuming people were shouting because he was obstructing their view!]. The NSUI people did not bore much and Rahul was brought to the fore in no time!
Black Flags greet Rahul Gandhi but without much impact
No sooner Rahul started ["the moment we had all waited for"], black flags and slogans were waved by some PSU and DSU activists in the audience! Rahul, as if absolutely prepared for it, fired this opening salvo [20th minute in the audio]:
Come, Come Come here, Come and say hello! Come and say hello! Let them speak, let them! I can do one or two things: I can speak from here or I can go down there and speak…. [steps down from the dais and goes near the barricade].
He spoke for about 3 minutes from the ground and then feeling the public mood went back to the dais. He said the debate in JNU was limited by two things: that it was an “old debate, the discussion was the same discussion that has been taking place for a long time” and that it was “not an open debate!”
I’m not here to tell you but listen (to you) and understand what you are going to do. I am not the solution to all your problems; you are the solution to your problems. So I would like to open the floor to anybody who would like to ask a question and towards the end I would like to say a couple of words about how I feel about this (you?). So please anybody who wants to ask a question including the young ladies with the black flag! Let’s start with them, Why don’t you ask me a good question. Bhaiya[ to the micwalla], give the opposition the voice first.”
The Question-Answer session
The Q-A sessions was very very interesting. Rahul was willing to take questions from all and the leftists got to ask the maximum number of questions and follow-up questions.
Vibha of PSU [PhD student, CESP] began the Q and A session with a pointed question on education, among other things. She lamented that only 3 per cent students reach the university stage in India while the concessions given to the corporate sector was more than 4 Lakh crores [and 77 per cent of the population was below the poverty line!].
Some other questions and observations related to the conditions of sugar mills in UP [by Vijay], Rahul Gandhi’s claim to being a ‘youth leader’ ["what struggles did he face in life", if any by PSU activist Samar; an obvious reference to his dynastic passport], the deplorable conditions of the Muslims and reservations for them [by Mehmood Alam, a one time JNU NSUI office bearer], how youth can join politics by Monica Chauhan [Rahul called her a "capable lady"], on the US-tilt in foreign policy by Prakash Ray, on the idea of the left by Roshan Kishore [he vehemently defended the left], corruption in India, why there were no jobs in govt. sector [by Ghanshyam Das, M.Phil Philosophy student; this one resulted in a lot of laughter; he became extremely emotional and excited and was even called on the stage by Rahul], recent MHRD guidelines on fee regulation, on the Right to Education Act [voucher system], on the Lyngdoh committee regulations, how to save the nation from Naxalites, on the Tribal Land Acquisition Act etc.
This was the general thrust of Rahul Gandhi’s answers to various questions: that the model of growth and distribution which was the policy of the government was a suitable one [the left had no answers on where will the money come! "What is your model? Money doesn't grow on trees!" He became insistent on getting an answer from the opposing students on this and for some moments it had become very embarrassing for the left camp who were speechless and visibly irritated; "there is already enough money in the country Mr. Rahul", Roshan once frustratingly said]; that RTI, UID, intra-party democracy were antidote to corruption; that it was not ‘his government’ but the ‘government of the people,’ that NREGA has brought resources to dalits and poor [when asked how "Rahul bhai" gets food in Dalit homes in these days of skyrocketing food prices]; that JNUites had overlooked his capabilities when they pointed his dynasty tag; that his view on reservation is that the “greatest problem is limited supply of education” and expanding universities;that people are uncomfortable and ask questions when he visits Dalit homes but never question those who do not; that he had “not gone into the detail of the particular clause” [the voucher clause] in the RTE Act [this was certainly embarrassing]. Meenakshi Natarajan sitting with a small repository of Planning Commission and other official data came in handy whenever Rahul Gandhi wanted his speech bolstered by documents.
Rahul Gandhi was in mood for debate but such a setting has its own limitations. To be fair to him, he did not shy away from taking questions and gave enough mic time to the leftists who were fiercely opposing him and earned a lot of brownie points and surprised people. The leftists too were getting raucous approvals occasionally from the public whenever a troubling question was posed. It was a lot of exci-tainment full of smiles and laughter and after some time, people had become blasé about the black flags. One JNU blogger has a far-fetched title to his Hindi post on the event “Jab Raju Srivastava JNU aaye“! Rahul may have “said so many things and answered nothing” as one individual said on mic but still it was way above expectations. Rahul’s Q and A lasted for more than one hour and the full programme lasted for about 90 minutes.
As he was leaving, the leftist student shouted slogans:
Sonia Gandhi ko bhejo mail, Rahul Gandhi ka ho gaya tel!
Manmohan ko bhejo mail, Rahul Gandhi ka ho gaya tel!
Chaurasi ke dangaiyon ko, ek dhakka aur do!
Amrika ke dalalon ko, ek dhakka aur do!
Bhag gaya bhai bhag gaya, Rahul Gandhi bhag gaya!
It was only after Rahul Gandhi left that NSUI students also joined the bandwagon:
AAAaaaaaaaaaaWaaaaaaaaaaaaJ do , hum EEEEk hain!
Rahul Gandhi zindabad!
Click here to download or listen to the audio of the meeting [it's not good quality though]. BTW, Rahul Gandhi had dinner in Jhelum hostel mess in JNU campus before coming to KV grounds! Also read Voice of JNU’s: Quality of questions exposed the intellectual image of JNU.
Click here to see more photos of the event.
Late Edit: Some media people were allowed inside such as Parul Sharma [Hindu] and Deepu [IE]. Thanks to Deepu for pointing an error on this post.