The Idea of JNU and the RSS jingoism
Being in the headlines of media and social media, globally, since its premeditated invasion by Police in search of “anti-national” students accompanied by venomous campaign against it by Hindutva right wing extremists on 11th February 2016, JNU seems to have transcended to abstract noun –the Idea – from the common noun – the institution. It certainly is an idea – an idea of democratic academic culture that enables the students to scientifically comprehend the reality, articulate it and logically express it. This ability comes through well-established conventions of debates, discussions and discourse; seminars, conventions and round-the-clock library socialization; post dinner talks etc. JNU is an idea of a progressive pedagogy that facilitates a system of knowledge process through unceasing dialectical questioning anything and everything including God or Karl Marx, beginning with one’s own mind set. JNU students in unceasing quest of knowledge know that key to any knowledge is unceasing questioning. JNU is an idea of a democratic political culture through public meetings, film screening, theatre and other cultural performances, recitation, heated and not so heated academic, cultural and social debates in Dhaba Addebajis (discussion sessions at tea joints); round the clock library socialization and midnight strolls. Here night life is as integral part of the learning process as day life, a desirable attribute for all the campuses. That is why JNU is an Idea.
This Idea is unfertile for the manufacture of devotion and blind faith, the lifeline of the obscurantist organizations like RSS. That is why it has been subject of wrath of RSS ideologues since beginning. It’s becoming hub of movement for justice to Rohith Vemula proved to be the triggering point of accumulated hostility. The government made a premeditated invasion of the campus in connivance with IB, ABVP and fraud channels that telecasted the doctored videos of so-called anti-national sloganeering. Bereft of ideas, all the RSS men, including the PM, are repeating the Goebbelsian lies putting the Bharat ki Barbadi slogans in the mouth of students, who would sacrifice themselves for making India beautiful and defend the constitution from the attacks of right wing extremism.
Most of us spent our childhood fondly chanting the slogans of Bandemiatram and Bharat Mata ki Jay. But suddenly these slogans have become scary since ABVP and other RSS brigades made it a war cry to attack minorities, Dalits, rationalists and now students. The tactic of the hurt religious sentiments is now replaced by the tactic of hurt nationalist sentiments. Referring to JNU issue in the National Executive meeting of BJP, the Prime Minister Modi said that dissent is allowed not on the cost of breaking the country and that nationalism is chanting Bharat Mata ki Jay. Contrary to Nehru’s conception of Bharat Mata as the country and people, RSS depiction is in the form of a Goddess holding saffron flag in one hand and Trishul in the other. According to him, not chanting this slogan is insult to the constitution. Nowhere in the constitution is written anything about nationalism or Bharat Mata. Forcing anyone to chant a particular slogan in violation of his fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience, faith and belief is insult to constitution. Assertions of being a Hindu nationalist, by RSS loyalists including thepersons of PM’s stature, is violation of the preamble of the Constitution that envisages a secular democratic state and thereby insult to constitution. Had Modi tried to expand his knowledge of politics by reading political history, he should have known that nationalism in a constitutional democracy, as aptly put forth by the eminent historian, Eric Hobsbawm, is allegiance to constitution and not chanting or not chanting a particular slogan. Disruption of the meetings of ideological opponents with the war cries of Bharat Mata Ki Jay is obstructing to constitutional rights of freedom to expression and assembly is hooliganism and contempt to constitution. JNU’s response to hooliganism is argument.
Arun Jaitely recently claimed that the ABVP has won the ideological war in JNU, may be as a damage control of worldwide condemnation of Police invasion of JNU campus and aggressive hate campaign by RSS and its affiliates. One can only laugh at such statements coming from supposedly Number Two in Modi Government. Reading the statements and reactions of BJP leaders including the PM Modi on JNU issue, least to say about the chums like Venkaiya Naidu who considers Modi to be a gift of God to the country, one can’t help concluding that the BJP is a bunch of liars and jokers. It has been well established that the doctored tapes were telecast by the fraud channels; all of them have been repeating the lies. The BJP President has called upon the BJP workers to “focus on the JNU thought battle”. But hooliganism, abuses, disruption of other’s program is probably the RSS invented new definition of “thought battle”. Undeterred by fascist state repression, ABVP hooliganism and aggressive Goebbelsian campaign with undefined jargon of anti-nationalism, JNU community, the students, teachers and old JNUites across the generations seem to be determined to transform the struggle for justice for Rohith Vemula and JNU into a wider struggle against government’s fascist tactic to suppress the dissent and in defense of the democracy and constitution.
Yes, Mr. Modi, Mr. Jaitley, Mr. Shah, it’s an ideological war, war between the ideology of ideas and ideology of doctored videos and premeditated propaganda; between the ideology of reason and that of hooliganism; the ideological war between the idea of JNU and the jingoism of Hindutva extremism. JNU is an Idea and Idea cannot be marauded by brute force, Idea moves on to create history. Repression and jail has strengthened the conviction. Why had Mr. Jaitley to make this proclamation of ideological war? Kanhaiya’s March 3, electrified speech received massive acclaim from media and social media. May be, Jaitley and Shah, wish to keep the morale of their demoralized devotees. Kanhaiya’s speeches, for that matter, speeches and writings of other activists, are so mature in comprehension, articulation and emphatic in assertions of commitment to country’s constitution and conviction to defend it from right wing fascist attack. According to BBC news few days back, Kanhaiya’s speech after release from the jail was shared by over 30 lakhs people on Facebook and liked by millions. Speeches of my very dear young comrades, Umar, Anirban were equally reassuring for the legacy of JNU.
RSS Jingoism wants to scare JNU into silence, but, as after coming out of jail, the budding historian, Umar aptly said, living under fear has never been an option for the idea of JNU. In contrast to the static jingoism that unable to invent new slogans has been ranting the same clichéd slogans since its inception; the Idea is dynamic with its own laws of motion, with new slogans and cannot be terrorized into inaction. Yes Mr. Jaitley, this is a cultural and intellectual war between Idea and jingoism, between Brahmanical obscurantism and egalitarianism as dreamt by Marx and Ambedkar. And in this ideological war between the Idea of JNU and RSS jingoism, eventually the Idea shall be victorious. .
The Idea of JNU
Indeed, JNU is an Idea, the idea of struggle against injustices, to be imbibed by the youth of the country the new protagonists of the history, in order to properly paly their role at this historic juncture, when the democratic ideas and institutions are under fascist attack, on the pattern of Nazi Germany under the disguise of ultra-nationalism. Few videos doing rounds on social media, showing anti-JNU brigade chanting Bharat Mata ki Jay amidst abuses to Matas of Kanhaiya in filthiest language, is probably the thought battle of Shah and ideological war of Jaitley. In fact, the Shakha training of devotion blunts the faculties of reason and aptitude of dissent. This is my experienced reality. JNU’s response is alternative classes on nationalism and imaginative cultural programs. This is the idea of JNU.
JNU’s response to Rajnath’s lies; Modi’s claim of concocted nationalism; Arun Jaitley’s war cries is the article of an MPhil student of JNU, Aprajitha Raja, Where even the Walls speak. (Indian Express, March 9, 2016). To quote, “No university can be a place of learning if questioning is disallowed, if criticality and rationality are disallowed. JNU is not its buildings, labs and computers. It is made of its students, teachers and karamcharis, the dialogue between them, the pedagogic practices evolved by them. It is our practice of progressive debate and discussion that has, to an extent, institutionalized gender and social justice” Leaving aside Kanhaiya’s speech or for that matter speeches of Umar, Anirban, intelligent and daring handling of the movement by JNUSU Vice President, Shehla Rashid and other young comrades or writings of greats like Noam Chomsky and others, this article alone, weighs heavier over the rantings of the entire RSS think tanks, who have been just repeating the lies of slogans and linking it to the death of a soldier in an avalanche at Himalayan heights, as if the 9th February 2016 cultural program in JNU caused the tragedy. JNU’s response to these slanders is factual argument with logical analyses. This is the Idea of JNU.
We, the first decade JNUites, feel proud to be part of the formation of this Idea and firmly stand with it. On a Facebook group, The First Decade JNUites, baring couple of exceptions, the entire group – left, right and center – who would, during our JNU days, fiercely contest each other from public platforms and jointly do intellectual/cultural/literary Addebaji at Ganga/Godavri Dhaba, solidly stand with this Idea. The contest would be between ideas, not between the individuals. This is JNU legacy. The right wing extremists, unable to comprehend the importance of this Idea want to destroy this legacy. But this is the legacy of ideas and ideas do not die but move on through generations and create history. JNU response to state oppression, ,communal propaganda and jingoism is 3.5 KM long human chain; the non-violent march of 15,000 people from across the generations of JNUites with innovative slogans and songs; alternative daily classes on Nationalism, calmly attended by 4,000-5,000 students, unheard of in the history. A JNUite never becomes ex-JNUite but remains a JNUite all her/his life. This is the idea of JNU.
I initially began to write this article on 15th February, 2016, but reminded of Lenin’s postscript of State and Revolution that participating in revolution is more pleasant than writing about it, postponed it to participate in the longest human chain in the history of JNU and most probably of Delhi. Ever since so much has happened in the ongoing war between ideas and orthodoxy; between JNU and jingoism. People from world over are writing and talking about and protesting against the Modi government’s saffron invasion of campuses, with the RSS student wing, ABVP acting as its para-military force on the lines of Nazi storm troopers (SA), whose primary task was to break/disrupt the meetings of opposition parties, particularly communists and terrorize the minorities with hooliganism and sustained hate campaign with jingoistic slogans of national chauvinism. On 15th March, there was yet another huge protest march to Parliament demanding the release of Umar Khalid and Anirban, now released on bail. In the meeting, at the conclusion of the march, the jingoist goons once again abused and tried to attack Kanhaiya, the JNUSU President, who responded with well-articulated challenges to Modi government and RSS and conviction to politically fight the fascist attack on education and democracy with reiteration of allegiance to constitution and resolve to defend it. His and other students’ leaders speeches based on facts and logical arguments manifested their revolutionary conviction and commitment towards the motherland in Nehruvian sense defined in terms of the people. JNU’s response to muscle power and abuses is logical arguments based on facts. This is the idea of JNU.
15th February 2016, shall remain a memorable day in our lives and also in the history of JNU. The moral and political pleasure of being part of over 3.5 KM human chain with old and new comrades was beyond description. The disciplined march to the Admin Blok holding innovative banners and posters, singing new songs, raising new slogans, filled in us, who dreamed the decade of 1970s as the decade of emancipation, a new hope and optimism, in the dark days of undeclared emergency. Listening to young scholar addressing to a peaceful gathering of approximately 7,000-8,000 with such maturity, scientific comprehension, commitment and clarity, overwhelmed us made us feel proud of the JNU legacy. The Stand with JNU march on 18th February has been the largest rally in my memory of about 4 decades after the Citizen’s March against Babari Masjid demolition in December, 1992. It reassured me about the authenticity of my oft-repeated dialogues, “The engine of history does not have the reverse gear, there may be some temporary U turns” and “Every next generation is, in general, always smarter” that sooner or later reverses the U turn and give it direction. This is the idea of JNU.
Amidst the protracted Occupy UGC protest, Rohith Vemula’s institutionally abated martyrdom made JNU the hub of struggle for justice to Rohith with twin slogans of JAY BHIM and LAL SALAM symbolizing the unity between struggles of social and economic justices. Unlike most of the other universities, JNU students and teachers do not confine their concerns to campus issues, but their concern extends to all the major issues of the society and the planet. That takes me along the memory lane around 38 years back to the period of Janta Party regime in late seventies. We, the JNU students under the leadership of JNUSU, had a successful protracted struggle against DTC fare hike, in the campus as well as at Boat Club. DTC buses were the major mode of transport. There were teargassing, lathicharges and detentions. Against all the provocations and actions by the state we remained peaceful and persistent. Many students had fractured their limbs. I remember our joking about the plaster on leg of Ritu Jairath (Now a professor at JNU’s Centre for Russian Studies) that so much literature would be lost after its removal. In the end, we succeeded in getting the fare hike rolled back in Toto. It remains the only instance in my memory of total rollback of hiked fare. A student from Delhi University that, unfortunately, has no history of any radical student movement under the Students Union leadership, asked us that when we can travel all over Delhi on a Rs.12.50 student DTC pass, why were we taking so much pain? Our answer was that population of the world is more than one, as, contrary to the epochal ideology, individuals do not exist as self-seeking individuals in isolation but in and through a society under certain social relationship with fellow individuals, which, as Marx has said, they enter into independent of their conscious will? We seek to break these exploitative, inhuman relations of domination and subjugation for the emancipation of humanity. We don’t struggle only on the issue of mess bill but also against the despotism of Shah of Iran and armed presence of Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This is the idea of JNU.
This was a pleasantly different experience of agitation than those of Allahabad University where I studied before coincidently reaching JNU to explore possibilities of underground existence during the latter half of the emergency. The students’ protest rallies in AU and other universities, invariably meant brick batting, vandalism, looting of shops, damaging vehicles and other public/private property. We kidnapped few DTC buses to the old campus and couple of senior people offered themselves, to guard the them from any outside miscreants or infiltrators. With due respect to them, the conductors and drivers were taken to canteen and treated them with tea, samosa, cigarettes and conversation. This is the idea of JNU.
I may go on and on with nostalgic memories of the Idea of the JNU internalized during around a decade’s stay on the campus. I would conclude this section with the unique character of JNUSU, its constitution and the elections. A student of Lucknow University visiting JNU during election time in late 1970s was mesmerized to witness the election meetings, where students were taking notes of the speeches. After the meeting he jokingly had commented that in JNU any student can contest the election, as apart from wining or loosing there is no risk to life. Yes, flouting of money/muscle power is a democratic taboo. Disputes are not decided by muscle power but by students’ General Body Meetings (GBMs) after comprehensive deliberations. The present JNUSU Constitution taken upon them by “We the students of JNU” in a GBM turned Constituent Assembly, in 1978, is a unique document. The document prepared by the drafting committee after prolonged, incisive deliberations, was extensively discussed and debated in the GBM of each Centre and then at of each School; in the GBMs of each hostel. The drafting committee then prepared the final draft incorporating the agreed amendments that was extensively deliberated in the UGBM, which adopted it by turning itself into a Constituent Assembly. It envisages no role or control of state or university administration in the elections of JNUSU. This is the Idea of JNU.
Elections are conducted by an Election Commission, school wise elected by the students. These elected election commissioners elect a Chief Election Commissioner. Any evidence of use of muscle/money power noticed by the Commission would automatically lead to disqualification of the candidature. Campaign would be through hand written posters, photocopied (earlier cyclostyled) thematic leaflets and election meetings. The intervention of Police or university establishment is strictly undesirable. There have been no cases of violence in its history of four and half a decade barring the exception of certain instances of hooliganism by ABVP in the near past. Election season in JNU is like the season of a democratic festival. On the election nights, almost entire JNU is awake, awaiting declarations of results after each phase of counting. The enthralling memories of those nights, sitting in groups across the organizations, singing, chatting, gossiping, cracking jokes with tea and cigarettes, seem fresh. There would be no malice or bitterness between the winning and losing candidates or their supporters as political differences do not transcend into socio-personal. This is the Idea of JNU.
The Jingoism of RSS
This dialectical, democratic ambience of question and dissent is unconducive for the manufacture of sense of devotion and unconditional faith and following, the lifeline of the jingoist authoritarianism. The soil of JNU is unfavorable to Brahmanical obscurantism and pro-imperialist corporatism. (When the ideology of Brahmanism faces the danger to its existence, camouflages itself as Hindutva or patriotism.) That is why it has been subject of rage of all the rightwing extremists – from RSS to Jamat-e-Islami. The JNU’s response to aggressive slander campaign by Hindutva brigades and state coercion has been peaceful protests.
In contrast to the Idea of JNU, the jingoism of right wing extremism represented by the ABVP is hooliganism, violence and disruption. It seems that owing to the lack of the ideas and imagination, unable to have its own programs, it disrupts the programs of the opponents through violence and abuses. Latest is the attempted disruption of JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar’s meeting in Nagpur, where in a very well attended, meeting challenged the might of RSS from the vicinity of its head quarter. Before that the program of a talk in Delhi University on the ‘Life and Works of Bhagat Singh’ by the eminent scholar on Bhagat Singh, former JNU Professor Chamanlal was violently disrupted with Bharat Mata Ki jay slogans, with a large number of Police personnel standing as mute spectators in the same way as it did in Patiala House attack by saffron goons on JNUSU President, students and Professors. There seems to be a premeditated pattern. 20-25 ABVP hoodlums shall disrupt the expression of dissent and the Police instead of rounding them allow them to go ahead and then would ask the organizers to wind up. It again reminds the Nazi Storm Troopers (SA) that would break the programs of opponents, particularly communists and invade the minority hamlets and Police would turn a blind eye. Here are just few instances.
On 13th March, Nagarik Samaj led by an early JNUite, Vijay Shankar Chaudhary, organized a seminar JNU Speaks in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The booking of the Municipal auditorium, Amrapali, was cancelled at the last moment by the Municipal commissioner on the behest of a local BJP leader. The speakers included the well-known scientist, Prabir Prkayastha; JNU Professor SN Malakar; AIDWA General Secretary, Kavita Krishnan; noted writer and Calcutta University Professor Jagdishvar Chaturvedi former JNUSU President and this writer. When the organizers decided to hold the program in the ground outside the auditorium premises, as has become their wont, around 20-25 ABVP members attacked the audience with stones and lathis to disrupt the proceedings. The police remained mute spectator and advised the organizers to abandon the program. My purpose of this reporting is to indicate the pattern and to point out the difference between the idea of JNU and the jingoism of rightwing extremists. It seems that the only program of ABVP is disrupting others’ programs.
Plight of the celebrated artist MF Hussain is well known. A group of ABVP members along with other RSS affiliates vandalize his exhibition, as the self-anointed spokespersons of the religious feelings of the Hindus that were hurt by his paintings. He was in a way was forced to leave his beloved homeland, as Bahadurshah Zafar was forced by the colonial rulers to die in an alien land.
In 2008, a group of 25-30 ABVP members vandalized the History Department of Delhi University and manhandled a Professor, a historian with a Muslim name, to protest against inclusion of an essay in Delhi University Syllabus by the noted historian AK Ramanujan, Three Hundred Ramayana, five examples and Thoughts on Three Translations. The pretext was the same as in case of protest against Hussain’s painting, hurting of religious sentiments. Overriding the recommendation of 3 out of the 4 members of the Committee formed under the instructions of the Supreme Court and protests by teachers, students and prominent historians, Delhi University establishment, probably taking 2-3 dozen hooligans as “We the People” of the Indian Constitution’s preamble, removed the essay from the course in 2011.
The theatre group of Khalsa College of Delhi University, Ankur’s performance of a play on communal riots was disrupted by ABVP and censored by the DUSU led by it. The authorities instead of handing over the disrupters to Police banned the play under the pretext of apprehension of law and order problem.
In the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar communal mayhem in 2013, a group of students organized a talk on it in the Department of Sociology in Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University; few ABVP members began shouting clichéd Bande Matram, even before any speaker had uttered a single word. Their objection is not about what is being said but why is being said?
The screening of Muaffarpur Baki Hai, in Kirorimal College was disrupted in the same fashion by ABVP members, who abused and threatened a senior Professor of English literature and theatre personality, Keval Varma. College authorities, instead of handing over the trouble makers to Police, stopped the screening.
Rohit Vemula’s institutional murder is being so widely debated and documented that needs not further description; we just seek to allude to the pattern and graph of the Right Wing extremist strategy to attack dissenting views on the campuses in order to saffronize them with the help of hand-picked Vice Chancellors. The RSS strategy of evoking religious sentiments by now seems to have exhausted so it resorted to arouse ‘nationalist’ sentiments with labeling anti-RSS sections of the society as anti-national. Ambedkar Students Association opposed the disruption of screening of the Muaffarnagar Baki hai by ABVP leaders. As is well-known, on the behest of the HRD Minister, 5 Dalit Students were rusticated from the hostel that forced the aspiring science writer to commit suicide, leaving behind the only writing, a letter reminding of the last letter of Bhagat Singh addressed to his comrades.
And finally came the much awaited invasion of JNU. It reminds the stage managed fire in the Reichstag (Parliament) by SA and blaming the Communists, the largest parliamentary opposition party with aggressive, chauvinistic hate campaign against them and the minorities. But India of 2016 is not the Germany of 1933. The JNU authorities withdrew the permission of a cultural program A City without Post Office on the complaint of the ABVP leaders. The organizers went ahead with the program. The reporters of “nationalist” channels were already present there to aggressively telecast doctored videos with so-called anti-national slogan and aggressive hate campaign against JNU as the hub of anti-nationalism.
We are at a historic junction. It is the beginning of a cultural-intellectual civil war between JNU and jingoism; between the daring dissent and timidity of conformity; between beauty of the idea and brutality of the power. On one side are likes of iconic intellectual Noam Chomsky and the budding scholars like Aprajitha Raja and likes of Subrahmanyam Swamis and Vaikaiya Naidus on the other; Kanhaiya Kumar symbolizing the spirit of protest on one side and the goons who attacked him, on the other; jingoist goons who attacked JNUSU President on the one side and the JNU students who safely escorted the goons to Police posted at the gate, on the other; the budding scholars like Umar Khalid, Anirban and the likes on one side and ABVP lumpens circulating the videos of violent threats to JNU students on the other; in nutshell supporters of freedom of thought on one side and supporters of the oppressors of freedom on the other. The pages of today’s newspapers, magazines, web portals and video clippings shall be the research material for the historians of tomorrow.
JNU and Jingoism
This has generated a debate on nationalism and anti-nationalism; right to freedom of speech and its limits; freedom to cultural celebrations and cultural policing. Every adversity has some blessings in disguise. To divert the attention from the folly of development slogan; submission of political sovereignty to WTO; the design to hand over the education to the global academic mafia; commitment with the World Bank to include higher education in GATS as a tradable service; shift of subsidy from the poor to the corporate, the government and RSS fronts resorted to attack the campuses with accusation of anti-nationalism. Rohith and his ASA comrades were branded as anti-nationalists and persecuted under the instructions of the Minister of HRD. Martyrdom of Rohith brought together the slogans of Jay Bhim and Lal Slam. A long awaited unity of Marxism and Ambedkarism, the unity of social and economic justice. Attack on JNU., the hub of movement for justice to Rohith Vemula, became the triggering point of the surging sea of pain exploding into the surging sea of dissent and protest against the attempts of commercialization and communalization of higher education. Intellectuals from world over, including Nobel Laureates like Noam Chomsky and Amartya Sen have joined the debate by condemning the state action of violating the autonomy of the university, in solidarity with the Idea of JNU. Lots is being said &written in solidarity with JNU and also malicious propaganda against it.
While reading and listening to the leaders, thinkers, ideologues and social media jokers of the RSS fronts, who circulate abusive videos of threats to “traitors” of JNU, one wonders at their sense of reason, rather lack of it to be more precise. Subrahmanyam Swami, the BJP MP, wants to change the name of the university, as Jawaharlal Nehru was not a scholar and to be closed for 4 months to purge it from “anti-nationals”. Of course for Swami and RSS, whose only scholars have been MS Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyay, can’t accord scholarship to Nehru, the only intellectual prime minister, India had. Apart from Discovery of India and Glimpses of the World, his An Autobiography is considered to a classic at par with John Stuart Mill’s The Autobiography. It is to be noted that Golwalkar transported North Pole to the “region that is today called Bihar and Orissa” and advised Hindus not to waste energy in fighting against the British and preserve it for fighting the internal enemies, the Communists and followers of other religions and to imitate Hitler. (We or Our Nationhood Defined) Deendayal Upadhyay, in agreement with Golwalkar on Manusmriti, declares it to be the best and most just law book in the human history. He considers Budhism to be traitor to “mother religion” and advocates a state based on Dharma. (Integral Humanism) During BJP rule in UP, the Gorakhpur University has been named after him. Here we do not wish dissect the ideological texts but just to hint at the intellectual irrationality of their ideologues, in order to infer the intellectual level of their followers, indulging into hooliganism in real world and virtual world of social media. Not only ABVP, as mentioned above, whose political activity seems to be reduced to disrupting programs of other organization, ransacking the premises and physical and virtual violence, but also, despite the proven facts of the forgery of telecasting the doctored videos by the “nationalist” channels, the ministers, MPs and RSS ideologues too continue repeating the orchestrated lies about slogans in JNU, in Goebbelsian fashion, instead of embarking on the channels for the anti-national misinformation.
The JNU students, daring to question and dissent with courage to express their commitment and conviction for a better India and the world free from exploitation and superstitions by their words and deeds, are charged with sedition under the draconian, colonial law. The same law was used by British rulers against freedom fighters like Tilak, Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. These students are the new protagonists of impending revolution in alliance with the organizations of workers, peasants, Adivasis, Dalits and women. I personally know most of them, some of them very closely, like Umar Khalid, who had been one of the most impressive informal students at Delhi School of Economics Addebaji, during his undergraduate days in Kirorimal College. With all the sincerity and a teacher’s conscience, I wish to authentically state that these radical scholars would sacrifice themselves to make India beautiful, free from miseries; exploitation; inequality and hatred and not ruin the India. That is why they have been protractedly struggling against the subversion of higher studies and its saffronization.
Much has happened ever since. The interesting debate on nationalism, sedition and extent of freedom is ongoing in all the formats of media. One side are the facts and logical arguments and on other side are clichéd lies and unsubstantiated vilification. Many insightful articles in solidarity with the Idea of JNU by celebrities and not-so celebrities have been magnificent and enlightening. The anti-JNU articles are monotonous ranting the same lie of “Barat ki Barbadi slogan” and linking it to the tragic death of the soldier on the difficult Himalayan heights due to avalanche. This has been well published that the tapes were doctored allegedly by former aid of the HRD Minister Smriti Irani. It has also been well published that pro-Pakistan sloganeers were IB implants. One fails to understand how freedom of expression is related to death of soldier in avalanche. Desperation in the instant jingoistic reactions of Home and HRD ministers immediately after the Police action in the campus indicate the planning to have been made at high places of power.
The Objective Reality
The Manuvadi custodians of Hindutva (read Brahmanism) know that the historic hegemony of Brahmanical ideology for thousands years had depended mainly on the basis of monopoly over “knowledge” and its definition. The universal accessibility of education and state affirmative actions has drastically changed the composition of the campuses during the 2-3 decades. This engendered Brahmanism. Hence the attempts to privatize/commercialize and make the reservation policy irrelevant and to invade the government funded institution with Police in connivance with ABVP ever since Modi came to power. The saffron fascist, attack that began with the ban on the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle with the accusation of “spreading hatred” against the PM Narendra Modi and “raking up the caste issue” that was eventually revoked with wide ranging protest and its condemnation. The government began to appoint RSS minded Directors/Vice Chancellors with doubtable academic credibility, who in connivance with the RSS outfits particularly ABVP, started silencing the voices of the dissent. Protest of FTII appears to be irrepressible. Next it targeted Hyderabad Central University that culminated into institutional murder of Rohit Vemula. It led to wide ranging protest with JNU as its hub in conformity with its historic character. The Modi government through its Home and HRD ministers in connivance with ABVP and fraud news channels stage-managed the so-called anti-national sloganeering in the campus in a cultural program, “A City without Post Office” organized by a group for an excuse to invade it under the pretext of the so-called sedition, on the pattern stage managed Godhra episode, to launch unprecedented communal pogrom in 2002 under the “action-reaction” argument.
Attack on JNU as a hub of anti-nationalism together with Rohith’s institutional murder backfired for Modi government and has led to an intellectual war on a global label between the Idea of JNU and the jingoism of RSS between reason and communal fascism. The continued attack on the democratic ethos of the institutions of higher academics brought together the fractioned and fractured left students group together with Ambedkarite groups on the same platform. The onslaught is continuing. Allahabad University Students’ Union (AUSU) President, Richa Singh who led successful protest against the notorious BJP MP Adityanath’s program in the Students Union hall, is being targeted by the pro RSS administration of the University and ABVP. The BHU vice chancellor, who proudly claims his RSS affiliation, has terminated the services of Magsaysay award winner, Prof Sandeep Pandey and expelled 6 students for exposing the deep rooted corruption in the University, with the announcement that he would not allow BHU to become JNU. Restoration of Appa Rao, one of the main culprits’ of Rohith’s institutional murder, as HCU VC and brutal Police attack on the peaceful protest of students and teachers, is clear indication that Modi government is not going to relent. The students and professors picked up by Police were abused, insulted and tortured. Undeterred by repression, the students resistance and struggle for justice to Rohith Vemula also goes on and cnnot be cowed down. Fascist repression knows no limits and so does the revolutionary resistance. So, it is going to be a long battle between repression and resistance, between nexus of Brahmanism and neoliberal corporatism and the alliance of the forces of social and economic justices. Let us be prepared for a long battle.
The Forces of Resistance
The democratic quality of European Renaissance and reform movements was that it had broken apart the birth qualification and birth based hierarchal social division but created new qualifications of wealth. By the 19th century, when Marx was discovering the laws of the dynamics of the political economy of capitalism, the basis of social division was only economic or derived from/related to it. In India, a literary and social movement for social and spiritual equality with an appeal to rejection of traditional religious social values with emphasis on social & spiritual equality, which was the central theme of Renaissance, had begun with Kabir. But for reasons, beyond the scope of this write up, could not reach its logical conclusion of breaking the birth-based social inequalities, expressing themselves in the caste system based on the ideology of Brahmanism. Colonialism, instead of breaking the “Asiatic Mode”, allied with it and used it to enhance its own interest following the pattern of alliance of capitalism with feudalism in late capitalist development in Europe. Indian communists, instead of adapting Marxism as a method to comprehend the objective realities, adopted it as a model. Though they have been on the forefronts of struggles against the caste oppressions and euphoria, as the ruling (dominant) castes have been the ruling class also, but not addressing the caste agenda separately, was a theoretical and strategic mistake. Caste was and still remains a living reality. During the anti-Mandal euphoria, when most of teachers who would otherwise preach depoliticization, had become Dronacharayas to exhort Arjunas to pick up the Gandiv, it was the leftists of all hues, who were on the other side. DUTA’s leftist President, MMP Singh was forced to step down as the DUTA resolution opposing anti-Mandal was defeated. The JNUSU leftist President Amit Sengupta met the same fate with the same reasons. But not addressing the caste issue as a separate agenda, was a not a tactical mistake but theoretical and pf principles. It was left to the followers of the principles Baba Saheb Ambedkar and other social justice group to make the issue of Brahmanical ideology as the main political plank. The dialogue, coordination and unity of leftists and Ambedkarites for an integrated struggle against social, economic and cultural domination had been long due. Since domination has various facets, the resistance has to be at various fronts. Martyrdom of Rohith provided the opportunity of unity in struggle that has been cemented by JNU episode, as a prelude to theoretical dialogues. The continuity of the unity of Jay Bhim and Lal Salam and the synthesis of teachings of Ambedkar and Marx is the need of the hour. There exists a crisis of theory not only in capitalism but also in socialism. The opportunity must not be lost. As is clear from the incidents in Hyderabad and JNU, attack on education and democracy is twofold – cultural and economic. The struggle too has to be twofold against Brahmanism that seeks to saffronize the educational institutions and against imperialist global capital that seeks to include education in GATS, as a tradable service. The attacks are in tandem so must be the resistance.
The composition of the campuses has drastically changed in terms of gender and caste ratio in the last two and half a decade. The erstwhile victims of educational deprivation under Manuvad – the SC/ST/OBC/women constitute the majority in campuses with corresponding rise in the Dalit scholarship and assertion and feminist scholarship and assertion. JNU has over 50% female students. Had this been the case in 1989-90, the anti-Mandal episode would not have been the one way euphoria. It would have been a fierce contest. We together, the Marxists and Ambedkarites, constitute a very strong force against fascists, and separately we are amenable to be crushed one-by-one as it happened in Nazi Germany. It is not imagination of fascism, it is the real one. The ABVP is breaking the meetings and heads, as has been repeatedly said above, in Police presence in the manner of Nazi storm troopers. Let us learn from the history.
What is to be done?
As has been said above, fascism of this undeclared emergency is more dangerous than of the declared one of 1975 for two reasons. Firstly, Indira Gandhi, to validate her pro-people image and USSR support had targeted many middle class rightists; particularly the RSS that aroused a substantial middle class anger, this fascism is targeting the minorities, the poor and down trodden and their supporters. Secondly, Indira had only state’s coercive apparatus to suppress the dissent on her disposal, Modi has in addition to that, the paramilitary outfits of RSS and rumormongering channels on his disposal. Therefore the resistance must be strong and united exemplified by our young comrades that must continue.
The youth, historically, has been the guiding force of the past revolutionary movements. It may be my fantasy but to me it appears to beginning of a cultural revolution, the Indian Enlightenment with a new vigor, new insight and new alliance of forces. The objective conditions of fascist repression and united resistance by students with twin slogans of the Jay Bhim Bhim-Lal Salam has created a platform of unity in struggle of all the radical forces. This platform has potentiality of the transcendence of unity/alliance in practice into unity/alliance of theory, only if the high commands do not command and allow the youth to take the lead. Immediate target is the nexus of the ideologies of RSS fascism thriving on Brahmanical belief system and imperialist corporatism. This platform has potentiality of creating a new theory of socialism through brain storming sessions of synthesis and integration of the teaching of Marx and Ambedkar that gives a theoretic shape to the unity of the slogans of Jay Bhim and Lal Salam. Let us turn the potentiality into reality. It may sound too optimistic, but doable. Rohit Vemula’s martyrdom is the inspiration. To pay him the tributes is to do the doable.
Last but not the least is about the role of non-party left that solidly stands with the Idea of JNU. A large section of individuals under the influence of Marxism remain outside party structure, who are often in the forefronts in the mass protests in the crisis periods, must realize that any effective contribution to the progressive development is possible through organized force only. They must, through social media to begin with, work out some alternative form of organization to join the students’ efforts against the fascist designs.
Dept. of Political Science
Hindu College, University of Delhi