The leader of a student protest movement in India, who spent the last three weeks in jail, wanted to make one thing perfectly clear when he was released on bail Thursday night in New Delhi. When he called for “freedom,” or “azadi,” at a protest before his arrest, Kanhaiya Kumar told supporters, he was talking about freedom from a range of ills plaguing Indian society, not independence for the state of Kashmir.
“We are not asking for freedom from India, we are asking for freedom in India,” he said in an impassioned speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he is the president of the students union.
His classmates, and supporters around the country who have demonstrated for his release, were already well aware of this distinction, but Kumar had good reason to explain himself. Since his arrest, the student activist has been the victim of a social media smear campaign, with doctored clips circulating online, and broadcast on television, that distorted his remarks at a protest last month. One channel even broadcast apparently fake footage that had Kumar shouting “Long Live Pakistan!”
Late Thursday, Kumar blamed ultranationalist supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the fakery.
While he was in jail, the case for Kumar’s innocence was perhaps most persuasively made by a DJ in Chandigarh, Dub Sharma, who remixed the activist’s calls for freedom — from hunger, feudalism, capitalism, and caste-based discrimination — at a protest the day before his arrest, and set them to a catchy dubstep beat.