Kanhaiya Kumar’s programme at Kolkata Lit Fest cut short due to protests

Kolkata: A literary session being addressed by JNU student activist Kanhaiya Kumar had to be cut short at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) here on Saturday after ultra-Left activists raised slogans against him and the sponsors.

Kumar, who has penned a book ‘Bihar to Tihar’, was addressing a session of the KLM at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium here, about five km from the main venue Victoria Memorial.

About half an hour into the session, as Kumar was answering queries from the moderator, Mudar Patherya, some young activists holding aloft posters decrying the meet stood up and demanded the student leader reply to their posers.

Kumar tried to pacify them, saying he would reply to all the issues raised by them during the question-answer part of the session.

However, the activists – under the platform of Bastar Solidarity Network India – raised slogans against the former Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Students’ Union president for attending a literary meet organised by a corporate and “accepting corporate hospitality”.

Slogans like “Kashmir Maange Azaadi” and “Maqbool Maange Azaadi” were also heard, as the protesters held aloft the placards blocking the view of the audience..

After some time, Kumar managed to pacify them saying “This is a new form of protest. I shall use it in my JNU also.”

There was more disturbance about 20 minutes later as the protesters raised their voice demanding an explanation from Kumar as to why he was there.

The policemen guarding the stage and the organisers threw a protective ring around Kumar, who continued to plead with the radical leftists to allow the session to continue.

But some of the protesters mounted the dais and tried to put forth their point of view to Kumar, who asked one of them whether he was a Communist.

“Yes,” the young activist answered.

“Which party?” Kumar asked.

“I don’t have any party,” the activist said.

“Then you are not a Communist. Go and learn Marx and Lenin properly,” Kumar said.

The organisers and some of Kumar’s associates repeatedly requested the activists to sit down, but the latter were in no mood to listen.

“Kumar is behaving like a bourgeois. He talks a lot about the plight of the adivasis (tribals), but sides with those who oppress tribals. We have come here to protest against the meet and Kumar gracing it,” said a female protester. “Some of the protesters are students, and some others activists. We do not belong to any particular party”.

There was more chaos as some senior members of the audience sharply criticised the protesters.

But as the commotion and slogan shouting continued, he was forced to cut short the programme.

“I apologise to the audience . I would have loved to answer their queries, but these friends will not allow me to speak.

“I did not expect this to happen in Kolkata,” he said as the organisers and the police took Kumar away by throwing a cordon around him.