Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha said Gauri has become a symbol of bravery and freedom over the past one year. “I am overwhelmed by the crowd at this event. Her movement, which has so far remained an ideological one, must now be transformed into a political one,” he said, even as the crowd chanted ‘Nanu Gauri-Naavelluru Gauri’ (I am Gauri, we are all Gauri), and ‘Gauri amar Rahe’ (Long live Gauri).
Echoing Agnivesh’s views, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani said a political movement is the need of the hour to fight the incumbent government at the Centre.
“That there is a threat to the aspirations of democracy from the present government is apparent,” Mevani said. “There have been a lot of instances, including Supreme Court judges holding press meets against the interference in judicial system that bear witness to this,” he said.
Criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet for remaining silent despite two attacks on him, Agnivesh said: “I was attacked and assaulted when I went to pay tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but even then there were no arrests made in this case.”
JNU student leader Umar Khalid said that there is an organised team that is defaming and maligning the image of people who question the administration. “It has been more than two and a half years since I have been branded anti-national,” he said. “I might not have a 56-inch chest but I have the spine to question the administration, but the PM is spineless.”
Several participants used the event to register their protests against the arrest of five activists last month fr their alleged links with Maoists. Renowned writer Girish Karnad, who even had a placard that read ‘Me too urban Naxal’ around his neck, was present despite being unwell.
“What is horrifying is that the police are also accusing them of being ‘urban Naxals’, which is unfortunate,” Karnad said. “But the directions for police were from the politicians.”
Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, said the system would have even named her late father P Lankesh an ‘urban Naxal’ had he lived today.
Mevani alleged that using the term ‘urban Naxal’ is a modus operandi of Modi to gain sympathy ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
“After the 2002 polls, they planted the news that Jihadis were attacking Modi to gain sympathy. Today, the Ambedkarite movement is being portrayed as Naxalite movement,” he said.
Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar said the government was simply naming anybody, who is educated enough to question the government, as ‘urban Naxals’ and even ‘anti-Hindu’ to divide and rule.