“देखो दोस्तों कैसे राहुल गांधी का यार कन्हैया कुमार सबके सामने हिन्दू धर्म की बुराई कर सबसे इस्लाम अपनाने की अपील कर रहा है…(See friends, how Rahul Gandhi’s friend Kanhaiya Kumar is bad-mouthing Hindusim in front of everyone and appealing people to embrace Islam),” read a caption to a video circulated by one Ambuj Shukla on Facebook. The video, posted on November 3, 2018 has 4,800 shares and over 1.25 lakh views.
देखो दोस्तों कैसे राहुल गांधी का यार कन्हैया कुमार सबके सामने हिन्दू धर्म की बुराई कर सबसे इस्लाम अपनाने की अपील कर रहा है….
जो लोग कांग्रेस का समर्थन कर रहे हैं शायद उनकी भी मानसिकता धीरे धीरे इन्ही की तरह होती जा रही है…
Posted by अम्बुज सरोज शुक्ला on Friday, 2 November 2018
In fact, the video is viral on Facebook.
On Twitter, several individuals have made identical assertions about the JNU student leader by sharing an article by fake news website Dainik Bharat which is titled – “Hinduism is bad, Islam is good. Allah is powerful, convert to Islam: Kanhaiya Kumar (translated).” Among those who have circulated the article are those followed by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s Office. Twitter user Yashveer Yadav termed the alleged statements by Kumar as “leftist agenda against Hinduism.”
Since January 2020, the clip has been circulating with a similar claim that reads, “Kanhaiya Kumar disclosing his real identity of a converted Muslim in a closed door. He needs to be exposed.”
Kanhaiya Kumar disclosing his real identity of a converted Muslim in a closed door. He needs to be exposed . pic.twitter.com/44Kqcqg8Us
— Yajathri.U (@yajathri) January 16, 2020
In the viral video clip, Kumar can be heard saying, “”Our history is attached to this country. Not all of us have walked from the Arab world but were born and brought up here. People left the old religion and embraced this religion (Islam) because there was untouchability in the old religion. This religion talks about peace and equality. There is no discrimination in mosques. This is why we have embraced this religion and will not leave it. We will save ourselves, our community and the nation. Allah is very powerful, he will protect us.””
What is the truth?
Alt News searched the keywords ‘Kanhaiya Kumar Muslims’ on YouTube and found the original video posted by One Channel. This video is 34:31 minutes long and from the 11:50th minute, Kumar can be heard making the statements viral on social media. A clipped version of the full-length video was posted to make it appear as if Kumar made the above-mentioned statements, when, in fact, he was quoting Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Kumar was speaking at an event ‘Dialogue with Kanhaiya’ held earlier in August in Nanded, Maharashtra. The event was organised by All India Tanzeem-e-Insaf on the topic – ‘Minority issues and their solutions’ – and Kumar can be heard making statements in the first person several times. Some users on social media inferred this as Kumar converting to Islam or asking people to convert to Islam when he was actually talking on how minorities can counter the diatribe against them.
Addressing the crowd at the occasion, Kumar also quotes Azad and says, “Standing on the stairs of Jama Masjid, India’s first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad said that this nation belongs to us all. We will not leave just because someone asks us to, because this nation’s soil also has our blood and sweat. Our history is attached to this country. Not all of us have walked from the Arab world but were born and brought up here. People left the old religion and embraced this religion (Islam) because there was untouchability in the old religion. This religion talks about peace and equality. There is no discrimination in mosques. This is why we have embraced this religion and will not leave it. This is when Indian Muslims decided to stay in India (translated).“
However, the clip viral on social media was joined with other parts of the video where Kumar says – “We will save ourselves, our community and the nation. Allah is very powerful, he will protect us.” He makes these statements in the first person not because he had embraced Islam, but he is actually talking on how minorities can counter the diatribe against them.
At 15:03 he begins to say, “If someone comes to you in the guise of a saviour of your community and says that he will protect your religion, give them a fitting reply and say – Allah is very powerful, he will protect us.” This was conjoined with the part where Kumar was quoting Azad and made to appear as if he is speaking as a Muslim.
In the original video, Kumar talks about “old religion” which practised untouchability. This can be only inferred as a reference to Hinduism because of the prevalent caste system. Addressing the audience, Kumar said that Azad told his Muslim supporters that Islam professed equality, while the practice of untouchability was pervasive in Hinduism; for this reason, people forwent Hinduism and embraced Islam.
But this further raises questions.
Did Azad ever make the statements quoted by Kumar?
India’s first education minister and a leading figure in the independence movement, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, did address a crowd in Jama Masjid. The speech referred to by Kumar is one of Azad’s most famous speeches made on October 23, 1947, and is easily available online in both English and Hindi.
At face value, the transcript of the speech does not match completely what was said by Kanhaiya Kumar. Alt News contacted Syeda Hameed, Indian educationist and biographer of Abul Kalam Azad, to confirm. Hameed has penned two books on Azad and was also the chancellor at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad.
“While Azad did say that Muslims are a part of this nation, he did not say that people embraced Islam because of untouchability in Hinduism,” said Hameed.
“What he really said was that we have over the years imbibed the culture and have become parts of a composite culture of Hindus and Muslims. In fact, in his explanation of the Quran, he talked about the importance of Hinduism, Vedas, Puranas. He was a person who spoke about Hinduism with the same respect and regard for Islam,” she added.
In 1947, Azad addressed a gathering of Indian Muslims in Jama Masjid, Delhi who were left homeless after the partition. Azad professed his dismay at the division of the country, spoke about the significance of unity and how India belonged to every Indian – “The partition of India was a fundamental mistake. The manner in which religious differences were incited, inevitably, led to the devastation that we have seen with our own eyes.”
Alt News contacted Kanhaiya Kumar who claimed that he wasn’t quoting Azad when he spoke of untouchability in Hinduism and acceptance in Islam. “The Bhakti movement was started as a protest against India’s Brahmanical system. Even the book ‘The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier 1204-1760’ by Richard M. Eaton provides the central argument that the varna system discluded a lot of people, leading them to embrace Islam. The book rejected that people were converted to Islam at the might of the sword,” he said.
The original video of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech was clipped to portray that he converted to Islam or was appealing to the audience to embrace the religion. The Times of India fact-checked the viral claims and concluded that he was quoting Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. However, Alt News found that the statement itself was never uttered by Azad. While Kumar clarified that the opinions were his own, the same is not apparent in his speech.
[Update 1: The verbatim for the clipped portions of the video has been added to the article.
Update 2: The same clip shared with a similar message in January 2020 was added to the report on January 17, 2020.]