Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The JNU Students’ Movement and the Struggle for Social Justice

 The Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), a sectarian organisation which calls itself “Ambedkarite”, has sought to attack the Left in their recent pamphlets. In these pamphlets, BAPSA repeats its oft-repeated lies about the Left’s supposed neglect of social justice in JNU. Even a brief look at the history of the JNU students’ movement would expose BAPSA’s claims to be utterly fraudulent.

The legacy of Left-led Unions in the fight for a socially just, inclusive admission policy

In 1972-73 itself, the SFI-led JNUSU (with VC Koshy as President) advocated an admission policy which would pave the way for students from poorer backgrounds and backward regions to come and study in JNU. The struggle for the admission policy began after the Union’s analysis of the admission pattern in 1972 found that the admissions were skewed in favour of students coming from privileged strata – those from big urban centres, and those who had access to education from better educational institutions. Students from socially and economically deprived backgrounds, and those from backward regions were far fewer in number.

The recognition of the skewed admission pattern led to the campaign to refashion the admissions policy of JNU. It was the first major struggle led by the JNUSU, and it resulted in a path-breaking admission policy being adopted by the university, according to which weightages were given for students from deprived socio-economic backgrounds and those hailing from backward regions. The deprivation point system awarded a maximum of 20 deprivation points based on social, economic and regional backwardness.

The admission policy was implemented in 1973 (six years before the Mandal Commission was set up), and the results were immediately felt, as the new batch of students came from far more diverse backgrounds. The final touch to this policy was given in 1974 when the Academic Council approved the union president's resolution for reservation for SC/ST students. Student-Faculty committees (SFCs) were also set up with elected students in each centre. During the term of the 1973-74 union led by SFI (with Prakash Karat as President), the admission procedure was regularised with the students having a say through the SFCs, which would scrutinise the entrance tests and finalise the results. Members from the SFCs used to be present when the viva voce was held to ensure that discrimination or harassment did not occur. A very important upshot of this admission policy was that the representation of students from the deprived sections was more than the proportions mandated by the Constitution later on.

The alarm of the ruling classes in the increased empowerment of the deprived sections led to the scrapping of this admission policy – known as the Old Admission Policy (OAP) – in 1983, when there was a brutal police crackdown on student activists in an attempt to break the back of student militancy, and the university was closed down sine die. In 1983, no students were admitted into the University. The OAP was replaced by the New Admission Policy (introduced with effect from 1984), according to which the system of deprivation points was eliminated. The NAP eroded the national character of the University, and the students’ movement suffered a serious setback. The infamous ‘EC Norms’ were introduced to restrict the rights of protest, and were repeatedly invoked in the 1980s to initiate disciplinary action against JNUSU office bearers. The deprivation point system was partially restored in 1993-94 during the term of an AISA-led Union.

JNUSU’s first Dalit President – Battilal Bairwa of SFI – was elected in 1996-97, and re-elected in 1997-98. The demand for setting up a Committee against Dalit Atrocities was raised the following year, and following the massive agitation of 1999 September-October, the Equal Opportunity Office to look into the problems of deprived sections was set up, based on the CP Bhambri Committee recommendations.

The Progressive Admission Policy (PAP) initiative by the SFI-led JNUSU of 1998-99 was the first attempt by the Union to fully integrate the Mandal Commission recommendations with JNU’s admission policy by introducing 27% OBC reservations. The ABVP denigrated PAP by terming it ‘paap’ (sin), and the reactionary sections led by ABVP joined hands to seek a secret ballot in a UGBM called to decide the fate of the Progressive Admission Policy. While the casteist, reactionary forces managed to stave off this momentous initiative, the larger agenda of the reactionary combine – that of fundamentally altering the character of our students movement by rallying the reactionary sections – could not be fulfilled.

It is of utmost importance to recognise that the concrete advances made by the JNU students’ movement with regard to a socially just, inclusive admissions policy came about as a result of collective, organised (and not merely “spontaneous”) struggles by Left-led Unions.

The Attacks by the RSS- led administration to scuttle Social Justice in the Campus

While the vicious assault on JNU following the incidents of 9 February 2016 was direct and public in nature, far more ferocious and institutionalised has been the attack on the progressive character of the campus thus built over the years. The most “ingenious” ploy to scuttle social justice in JNU has been the UGC gazette notification imposed in a draconian manner by the administration. Apart from the very visible effects of drastic reduction in the number of M.Phil. and Ph.D. seats adversely affecting the research-oriented character of the University, we have also seen the attack on the Deprivation Points System which has been the hallmark of our admission policy. The Nafey committee report recognised the prevalence of discrimination in M.Phil. viva voce, and due to the sustained struggles of the student movement, it was also agreed to reduce the weightage given to viva voce in M.Phil. Entrance. But the UGC notification has, through its imposition of 100% viva weightage and entrance exams as being merely qualifying in nature, undermined social justice in the campus.

What has been rather unfortunate is the stand of the self-styled “Ambedkarites”. Instead of recognising the fundamental contradictions between the marginalised and the Brahminical RSS-backed administration, they have built up binaries with no connection to ground realities and tried to de-legitimise our students movement which has remained unflinching in its commitment — in the face of all adversities — to carry forward the struggles for social justice.

BAPSA, as usual, trains its guns on the Left rather than the RSS or the administration. This is not surprising, given their opportunist politics which leads them to consider the Left to be the bigger enemy rather than the RSS-ABVP.

BAPSA’s stand on the communal threat posed by the Hindutva forces has always been dubious and treacherous. BAPSA presence in the #StandWithJNU movement in 2016 was token at best. They even put forward the ridiculous “theory” that the #ShutDownJNU campaign was a conspiracy hatched by the ABVP and the Left to divert attention from the movement demanding Justice for Rohith!

Organisations like BAPSA, with their counterparts and “role models” outside the campus have never been serious about fighting communalism. Leaders such as Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athawale, Jitan Manjhi and Udit Raj have all allied with the BJP at various points of time. The BSP had allied with the BJP three times, in 1995, 1997 and 2002, thereby further strengthening the Hindutva forces. BAPSA in fact even hosted Jitan Manjhi in a public meeting in JNU after he started hobnobbing with the BJP!

BAPSA’s bankrupt politics was further exposed in the claims made by BAPSA leaders that the land reform agenda put forward by the Dalit assertion in Una (Gujarat) is irrelevant. The Una struggle made the demand for land for the Dalits the prime focus of its attention, because the social oppression of Dalits is inextricably linked to their economic exploitation – Dalits were historically not allowed to own land, and they were always used as a source of labour which can made easily available to the ruling classes to make surplus extraction possible. The recognition of this fact, however, would militate against the position that ideologues of identity politics have often taken that in India, class struggle doesn’t matter!

The results of the Uttar Pradesh elections in March 2017 delivered a serious setback to the pipe-dream peddled by the likes of BAPSA that progressive politics can be advanced by foregrounding “identities” such as caste and religion above everything else. The largest and most powerful identity politics in India is Hindutva. If identity is the primary basis of political mobilisation in a society, a political formation which uses the identity of the majority community for political mobilisation will ultimately have an upper hand. In other words, the RSS-BJP – the biggest and most organised proponents of Hindutva – is better poised to play identity games than anybody else in India.

In the UP elections, the BJP was able to successfully pit various caste and sub-castes against each other to make electoral gains. The politics of the BAPSA and like-minded organisations, which ignores class divisions within communities (and even the effects of sub-caste divisions within communities), has proven to be singularly incapable of countering the rise of the communal-fascist forces. The result — a rabidly “upper caste”-supremacist, anti-Dalit political formation is enjoying unbridled power in India’s most populous State.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Resist the Spreading of Lies by ABVP Against the Left !

ABVP in JNU has suddenly woken up from their deep slumber. This is an organization who did not even  for even lip service make a statement against the scuttling of reservations in campus, corruption in faculty appointments or on the attack against JNUSU members by the administration. True to the politics which they represent, real material issues do not matter to them. Rather, they relish in spreading lies and rumors, thereby diverting attention from the far more serious issues. At the moment, they are busy spreading lies against the Left and Kerala after the murder of Rajesh Edvacokde in Trivandrum. As of now, there is absolutely no clarity regarding this murder. Since the background of this murder was political conflicts in Trivandrum, fingers were automatically pointed at the Left. The Congress even claimed that the main accused in the murder was a booth agent of the CPM in the last assembly elections. This allegation was later thoroughly refuted by the CPM. Despite these allegations, until now, the police have not been able to establish clear links with the accused and any political party.  The chief accused himself was charged earlier with attempting violence against several CPM leaders and cadres.  None of this has stopped BJP in Kerala from using this murder as a tool for spreading lies. It also helped them to divert attention from the serious corruption charges they were facing in Kerala. Shamelessly, they were asking bribes from persons who wanted their medical colleges to be approved by Medical Council of India.
RSS/BJP are not Victims but Perpetrators of Violence in Kerala:
The political clashes between the CPM and the RSS in Kerala have a long history. But unlike the claims made by the RSS, they are not innocent lambs in the whole episode. More than often, they have been the initiators of violence. Clashes between these two organizations started in late 1960s when the RSS tried to attack beedi workers in Kannur district on behalf of their employers.  These attacks were resisted by the Left.
It was not only trade unions which were under attack from the RSS. In Thalassery area of Kannur district, attempts were made by the RSS to communalize the society. This region has a strong minority population and naturally it became an area of interest for them. Riots erupted, and here also, it was the Left which resisted the RSS. CPM cadres died trying to protect mosques from the RSS attack in this episode.  Even Justice Vithayathil Commission which investigated the Thallassery riots underlined the role played by RSS in instigating the riots.
The data on political murders in Kerala also points to the fact that the RSS is the bloody perpetrator in the violence .Since 1970, 527 CPM cadres have been killed in political violence. All other parties combined have had 445 causalities. In the murder of CPM members, 225 times, cases were filed against RSS/ BJP members. This data is not something which the CPM has released. Kerala police has provided with this data. Therefore, it is clear that RSS/BJP is not the victim in this situation. Rather, they are the most the heinous perpetrators.

Political Violence in the Current Tenure of LDF Government:
Even in the current tenure of the LDF government, it is not the CPM which has initiated violence. Immediately after the election results were announced, a CPM cadre was killed in Dharmadam, the constituency of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by RSS. Around the same time, a CPI MLA from Kaasrcode district was attacked by the RSS while attending the victory procession and both his hands were broken.  It is therefore, clearly not the case that the RSS is a victim even in the recent sprouts of political violence. At the same time, it is important to understand that the violence inflicted by the RSS has not being limited to the political sphere. In the last one year, there have been two murders in Kerala which were thoroughly communal in nature. Two victims, Riyas Maulavi and Faisal were killed solely because of their Muslim identity. The accused in both the cases belong to the RSS. A pointer towards the nasty, communal and criminal record of RSS with respect to violence in the state.
Even their own cadres are not spared by the RSS in these cold blooded acts of violence. In Alapuzha district, Anantu, a 17 year old boy was murdered by RSS because he stopped attending their shakhas.
This is the reality of political violence in Kerala. With the  help of  media houses servile to them, the BJP  has been attempting to spread a narrative suitable to them.  This has only resulted in a massive backlash for them in both Kerala and other places. The counter campaign by the Left and the Kerala society as a whole has thoroughly exposed their deeds. It is laughable that an organization which has perpetrated the most heinous forms of violence in post independent India is claiming to be the victims of violence. This is an organization which has orchestrated genocidal activities and has done absolutely nothing for the progress of our nation. They are bloody parasites and a bunch of criminals, frauds and murderers masquerading as nationalists. SFI appeals to all of you to not fall for their propaganda of lies. Let us collectively resist them and expose them for what they really are. Let us ask them where they were when reservations were scuttled in JNU, when seat cuts were implemented in JNU and when the JNUSU was attacked by administration. Expose them for what they really are, the barking dogs of this government and the JNU administration.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mr. Sanghi Kumar, what we need is scholarships, funds, seats and implementation of reservations, not tanks. Defeats Attempts of Diversion by VC!

“A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever-higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People.” 
Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Vice Chancellor of JNU in the last one year has institutionalized illegality and casteism in the University. He has spearheaded seat cuts, reversed reservations, destroyed policies related to social justice, and appointed incompetent individuals as faculty members. His latest attempts on installing a tank in JNU can only be seen as a cowardly attempt to divert the interest of media and students from these real burning issues faced by our campus. Having pointed that, it is important that we thoroughly expose the agenda behind his statement, and also the program which was conducted in JNU on 23rd July 2017.
Does the JNU VC really love our nation?
Our VC says that installation of a tank will help in inculcating love for the nation and army among the students of JNU. The allegation being that students of JNU are not patriots. We strongly believe that love for our country which is a “sovereign socialist  secular  democratic republic” can be practiced only when you help spreading the values which our constitution stands for. But this has never been the case with the JNU VC. He has deprived thousands of students the opportunity to study in JNU. Under his administration,  hard-won policies of social justice have been squashed. Reservations have been destroyed. His conduct in no way resembles that of a person who has love for our country. He is a not a patriot. In fact, he represents values which are antithetical to everything our constitution stands for.  On the contrary, it is the students of JNU who have always upheld socially inclusive policies, and have always advocated that such policies contribute to the project of nation-building by bringing the concerns of the most marginalized into focus. We do not need preaching on nationalism by Sanghi stooges like Jagadeesh Kumar. Political descendants of Savarkar are nobody to teach us nationalism. To be a bootlicker of British colonialism is not the legacy that we advocate. It is a brand of politics which the JNU VC has continuously endorsed  and we politely request him to kindly keep  that criminal legacy with himself. The students of JNU are the rightful inheritors of  Bhagat Singh’s patriotic legacy. Rather than teaching us , the VC will do good for himself and the university if he tries to inculcate the values which the students of JNU have upheld since it’s inception.
VC’s Open Political Alignment with RSS:
Apart from the thoroughly stupid and idiotic comments made by the JNU VC on tanks, what is more worrisome is the blatant politicization of the event during which these comments were made. In an official program of the University , Rajiv Malhotra, a Hindutva ideologue openly said that he was “glad we are recapturing JNU”. Further, he said that “This is not only a victory of taking over Kargil in the external war, but also the victory of taking over JNU in the internal war,”. He was supported by Bakshi, who said that while the gadh (stronghold) of JNU was being captured, the other qilas (fortresses) of Jadavpur University and Hyderabad Central University remain to be captured as well. There is no pretense of neutrality in the statements made by these Hindutva spokespersons. They even appreciated the JNU VC for making this political victory possible. Now the worst part is that the JNU VC , sitting on the same dais, made absolutely no attempt to contest these remarks. Rather, he celebrated such remarks. His open encouragement and even celebration of such political interference in the University makes him completely unfit for running it.
Casteist remarks:
Apart from the many despicable comments made by the speakers in the event, downright casteist  remarks were made by Rajiv Malhotra. He said that “Every student has to be a Kshatriya in this internal war” . It is most shameful that such casteist comments were made in an institution like JNU. Such appalling comments directly applaud caste based divisions of occupation. They only result in propagating the Manuvadi forms of cast division, while undermining centuries of long struggles waged by the oppressed against caste discrimination.  Yet again, no opposition came from the side of our Vice Chancellor.
The VC and his political masters are no body to teach us about loving the army. This government has not even ensured basic facilities for army personnel. Individuals who complain about the terrible working conditions in the army have been punished by the ruling government. Genuine demands liking increasing pension for the retired soldiers have not been met by this government. Had it not been for the shoddy investigation of CBI, many of the top leaders of BJP would have been implicated in the Kargil coffin scam.
This episode it yet another reflection of the levels of nepotism to which Mr. Jagadeesh Kumar can stoop to. Yet again, he has gladly become an instrument by the RSS in spreading lies and hatred about the University. Yet again, he has proven that he is the worst thing to have happened for JNU. He must go. There are no two ways about it.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Condemn the use of draconian sedition law by the Kerala Police! Scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code!

In an alarming turn of events, a police FIR has been registered under the sedition clause against Malayalam writer and theatre artist Kamal C Chavara over a Facebook post that was allegedly “disrespectful to the national anthem”. This comes in the backdrop of the interim order of Supreme Court of India in the ‘National Anthem Case’. Many have pointed out serious legal and constitutional flaws in this judgement. The judgement has led to police actions in many parts of the country, often on the basis of complaints made by right-wing vigilante groups. However, what is worrying for the democratic minded people in the country is that now something similar is happening in Kerala, where the Left and Democratic Front (LDF) is running the state government.

Two points need to be made at this juncture. First, the entire episode is a throwback to our own struggle in JNU following the 9 February 2016 incidents, where student activists were arrested on trumped up charges and slapped with sedition. In fact, the sedition clause – Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) – is a draconian law, and has been widely used against those who express dissent, oppose government policies and conduct protests. It has been used against protesting workers and against those who have participated in democratic struggles. We have consistently maintained that such a draconian law has no place in any modern democracy. Section 124A of the IPC must be scrapped. Moreover, even within the existing legal framework, the sedition law has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in a very specific sense, that it will apply only if there is incitement to imminent violence. And yet in our country the sedition clause has been used time and again in an indiscriminate fashion.

The second point is related to the nature of the police force in our country. The Indian police force and its organisational structure have been inherited from the colonial times, with no police reforms being undertaken since Independence. Being an integral part of the bourgeois-landlord state machinery, the police force in essence is a repressive apparatus in the service of the ruling classes and the reactionary, hegemonic ideas and values prevalent in the society. The Kerala Police is not an exception to this either. The bourgeois-landlord character of the State does not change with the participation of the Left in state governments with limited powers. Only those who fail to comprehend the nature of state power in our country would think otherwise.

We should not harbour the illusion that the nature of the police will undergo a fundamental transformation in a progressive direction just because there is a Left-led government in a province. But the Left and a state government led by it must have a pro-people policy vis-à-vis the police. This is the understanding that formed the basis of the adoption of a pro-people police policy by the first Communist ministry in Kerala which came to power in 1957. This policy entailed disallowing the police from intervening in labour disputes, for instance – because police intervention would inevitably and in the vast majority of cases be in favour of the oppressing classes. The policy of Left-led state governments has been to refuse to let the police be used against democratic movements and the struggles of the working class, peasantry and other democratic sections.

Therefore the Left and Democratic Front government of Kerala cannot remain silent when draconian laws like sedition are used indiscriminately by the police. The actions of the Kerala Police in the present case are condemnable, and the state government should intervene immediately. It should rectify the mistakes made by the police and take necessary action against the police officers who are guilty of excesses. The LDF government should live up to the faith reposed on it by the people by protecting democratic rights and civil liberties, and not letting the police trample upon these rights and liberties with impunity.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Kashmir Bleeds, Yet Again!

SFI condemns the brutal violence unleashed by the security forces on protesters following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Until now, more than 30 people have been killed including an M.Com. student of Delhi University. Most of those who have been killed are youth. This growing unrest is also an expression of people’s intense alienation and anger against the oppressive policies and killings of unarmed civilians by security forces over the years. Rather than initiating a political process of dialogue, utterly irresponsible comments insulting the sentiments of the people who have hit the streets are being made by government spokespersons like Venkaiah Naidu.

The Indian State’s engagement with Kashmir: A saga of broken promises

The history of the Indian state’s engagement Kashmir is a history of denial of democracy. It is a history of broken promises and commitments and the inability of the Indian ruling classes to recognize that Jammu and Kashmir has a special status in the Indian Union given its history at the time of independence and partition. While there were some promises initially with the enactment of Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the steps which followed from 1953 with the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest leader of his times in Kashmir on the pretext that he was attempting to lead a secessionist movement, initiated a process of complete reversal of steps which gave special status to Kashmir and sowing the seeds of alienation among the people. Sheikh Abdullah was released in 1964 only to be arrested again 1965. The alienation of the people was further accentuated by the massive dilution of article 370 and other provisions which denied even minimal autonomy to Kashmir to the extent that Central government intervened even in matters in which normally the states in the Indian Union have autonomy.  

To make things worse, even basic democratic rights were denied to the people of Kashmir. The election nomination papers of candidates who did not share the stand of the central government were continuously rejected, elections were rigged and political parties in the state were forced to toe the line of the government at the centre. The non-stop violation of human rights by the Indian army in the form of murders and rapes, with the immunity provided by draconian laws like AFSPA behind them, only worsened the matters. It is the combination of all these which contributed to the massive alienation of Kashmiri youth, leading many of them to join separatist groups. Predictably, the response of the Indian state was to consider this merely as a law and order problem and not dealing with the matter politically, which exacerbated the situation. The present killing of unarmed civilians by security forces shows that government is unwilling to learn any lesson from the past. The only response to this deepening political unrest seems to be relying exclusively on security forces. 

On Burhan Wani and Hizbul Mujahideen 

The move by the armed forces to kill Burhan Wani in an “encounter” has had extremely serious repercussions in the valley. While we recognize and fight against the brutalities and violations of democratic and human rights of the people which provide fertile ground for the growth of organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, we completely reject the reactionary fundamentalist politics for which the Hizbul Mujahideen stands for.

However, the reaction of certain “ultra-left” sections inside and outside JNU unfortunately seems to be to blindly celebrate Burhan Wani and his politics. These sections forget that more often than not, religious fundamentalist forces flourish in objective conditions where a significant section of the population is disillusioned and angry due to the state of their conditions of living. For example, the massive suffering and chaos as a result of the American invasion of Iraq provided the objective conditions for the ideological growth of the Islamic State in West Asia. The support received by the right-wing bigot Donald Trump from significant sections of the American working class who are facing numerous economic hardships is another example of a reactionary group utilizing the genuine problems and anger of the people in order to further their nefarious designs. In short, factors which motivate a person to join a reactionary group are often rooted in genuine grievances against the conditions in which they find themselves. But when these real grievances are channelized through a reactionary ideology which is thoroughly undemocratic in nature, it is the duty of every progressive organisation to oppose them tooth and nail while fighting to resolve the grievances. The SFI rejects the ideal of a theocratic state as envisaged by the dominant sections of secessionists. It is ironic that certain sections support such demands and yet call themselves “secular” and “progressive”.

Regrettably, attempts are being made to create a binary in this campus by both the ABVP and certain “ultra-left” groups, as if only two solutions exist – to either support the brutalities of the Indian State on the one hand, or Burhan Wani on the other. It is important that the democratic, progressive student community of JNU reject these designs.

Bring back Democracy to Kashmir 

It is only by recognizing the special status of Kashmir in the Indian Union that peace can be given a fighting chance in Kashmir. Steps in this direction will include engagement with all political forces in Kashmir including the separatists, demilitarization of the region and revoking draconian laws like AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act. Maximum autonomy to Kashmir which was promised at different points of time, but which never materialized, should be made a reality. But with communal-fascist forces which have from the very beginning viewed Kashmir through a communal angle in power, this is going to be extremely arduous.  It is up to us, therefore, to take them to task in order to restore peace and to fight to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Both the Central Government and the State Government must immediately initiate the political process of dialogue with all political forces and groups to end the growing strife in the state.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Nation, Nationalism and Nationalities

There has been a lot of discussion and debate ever since the incidents of 9 February 2016 on the issues of nation and nationalism.

While the RSS-BJP-ABVP ran a massive campaign painting JNU as a centre of “anti-national activities”, the absurdity of the RSS - which was not part of the anti-colonial struggle of the Indian people against British rule - talking about nation and nationalism was obvious.
Nathuram Godse was an RSS man, and V D Savarkar — the Hindu Mahasabha leader and Sangh ideologue who had repeatedly apologised to the British to get himself released from the Cellular Jail in Port Blari — was also an accused in the murder of Gandhi, and was let of only on technical grounds.
The RSS’s majoritarian, communal-casteist-patriarchal, ruling class idea of the nation
The RSS's ideal of India is enshrined in the notorious motto “Hindi-Hindu-Hindusthan”. It refuses to accept the equality of all the different nationalities that constitute and comprise India, and which fought together in the freedom struggle against colonial rule. The RSS seeks to impose a monolithic, communal idea of the nation, which is evident, for instance, in the writings of M.S. Golwalkar, the Hindutva ideologue and the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. He wrote in his work We or Our Nationhood Defined:
“The foreign races (non-Hindu people) in Hindusthan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment - not even citizen's rights.”
In other words, the minorities in this country would have no place in the RSS's concept of India. The Hindutva forces’ notion of India is exclusionary not just to non-Hindus, but even to those within the “Hindu fold”, as the vast majority of them do not enjoy the same socio-economic rights or cultural freedom. By avoiding any move that will further the cause of the annihilation of caste, the Sangh Parivar seeks to ensure the continuing support of the reactionary, casteist sections of society. The untouchability still prevalent in Gujarat and the criminal silence of the Sangh Parivar in this regard expose their agenda of sustaining Brahminical supremacy. It is instructive here to note Babasaheb Ambedkar's stark observation that as a caste-ridden society, India is still a nation in the making: "How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation? In India there are castes… The castes are anti-national."
The students of JNU, however, have always opposed the Sangh Parivar's bigoted ideology and held up the equality of all people, belonging to all religions, communities, ethnicities, languages and nationalities. They have stood up to oppose the RSS ideology which treats women as second class citizens and as “being fit only for domestic chores”. Precisely because of our determined opposition to the chauvinistic project of the RSS, the Hindutva forces have made JNU a target.
Not only is the RSS's idea of India utterly communal, casteist and patriarchal, in essence and practice the India that it promotes is that of the Adanis and the Ambanis and other big corporates. The workers, peasants, petty produces, Dalits, Adivasis and women belonging to all communities lie outside this ruling class idea of India. The economic policies of the RSS-led Modi government benefit only the ruling classes led by the big corporates, who ultimately form a tiny section of our population. To paraphrase what Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, the working people of India, consisting of the workers, peasants, Dalits, Adivasis, women and other toiling sections, must constitute themselves the nation (though not in the bourgeois sense of the word) in order to resolutely oppose and defeat the RSS and its communal-fascist vision of what India ought to be.
Secular, Anti-Imperialist Nationalism
While the RSS and its affiliates like the BJP and the ABVP have been trying to turn India into an intolerant Hindu Rashtra, the left and democratic movement in India, including the SFI, has stood resolutely in opposition to this, holding aloft the flag of secular, anti-imperialist nationalism. The very first line of the SFI Programme (the key document that outlines the vision of the organisation) says: “Students’ Federation of India inherits with pride the anti-imperialist, patriotic, secular, democratic, and progressive legacy of the Indian people’s struggle for national liberation from the British colonial rule.”
Uphold the Equality of Nationalities in India!
India is a multi-national country, and there are two streams of national consciousness in our country - one is the pan-Indian national consciousness and the other is the national consciousness associated with the various nationalities or linguistic-cultural groups that comprise India. The negation of either of these two (the multi-national character of the country on the one hand and the unity of the country on the other) to the exclusion of the other would be a mistake. The common struggle of the people of India against social oppression and economic exploitation will be facilitated by the preservation of Indian unity on the basis of the firm equality and real autonomy of the nationalities that constitute India. The growth of secessionist forces, on the other hand, help the ruling classes to disorganise and disrupt the people's struggle to build an egalitarian country free of all oppression and exploitation.
On the Question of National Self-Determination
What about secessionist demands in some parts of the country, some might ask. To argue that under all circumstances the secessionist position should be supported as opposed to the position that favours union is essentially to argue that all multi-national countries are illegitimate, which is clearly an illogical stance to adopt. The overarching question here is whether such demands will serve the interests of the working people or not. Thus in the 1840s Marx supported the Polish and Hungarian national movements while opposing those of the Czechs and the South Slavs. Marx's support to the former was guided not just by the fact that they represented oppressed nationalities. It was also rooted in the fact that the Polish and Hungarian movements were directed against the absolutism of the Russian and Austrian Empires, for political democracy which was of vital interest to the European working class at that time. He opposed the Czech and South Slav movements because this "was at that time equivalent to indirect support to Tsarism, the most dangerous enemy of the revolutionary movement in Europe".
Post-World War II history is replete with instances where secessionist demands in various countries have been used to shore up imperialism. Imperialist support to Katangan secessionism in Congo led to the coup against Patrice Lumumba (the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country) and his subsequent assassination, resulting in a massive setback to Congo’s efforts to embark on an autonomous path of development. The best example from more recent times is the dismantling of Yugoslavia. The secessionist tendencies within Yugoslavia emerged as the direct result of the “market-friendly” policies that were pursued in the country, and its actual break-up was directly encouraged by imperialist powers which played one group in Yugoslavia against the other. The declaration of “independence” by Kosovo in 2008 was the final act in the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Kosovo is today an imperialist protectorate, housing one of the largest overseas military bases (Camp Bondsteel) that the US has built since the Vietnam War.
Will the secession of any part of India strengthen the movement of the working people, or will it play into the hands of imperialism? Take the case of Kashmir for instance. Its secession can only mean either of two scenarios — i.e. accession into Pakistan or setting up an independent state. That merger into Pakistan is not going to deliver the Kashmiri people is too obvious to require any argument. The other option of independent Kashmir is equally if not more disastrous. Such a landlocked and not particularly resource-rich entity is bound to become a client of imperialism in case of secession. It will provide US imperialism a base to unleash its machinations against all neighbouring countries. In today's circumstances, secession of any part from India will not be into some socialist haven but into the ambit of imperialism. This has grave implications for the working people of the seceding nationality. They will go out of the pale of the pan-Indian movement, thereby weakening both themselves and the general movement of the Indian workers and toilers. The different nationalities of our country cannot liberate themselves in isolation from each other.
As for Kashmir, there should be demilitarisation, and the people in the valley should be free from the oppressive security structures and controls. The draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should be repealed. The excesses and human rights violations by the security forces have to be investigated and the guilty brought to book. Urgent steps have to be taken to revive the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. The genuine grievances of the people of Jammu should be addressed, and the dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley must be taken up as part of the restoration of peace and normalcy. There should be internal dialogue, which should proceed on the basis that maximum autonomy should be given. The Indo-Pakistan dialogue also should advance, and more confidence building measures can be taken to further encourage people to people movement and contacts across the LoC as the dialogue moves forward.
Government policies and the uneven development that is inherent to capitalism have nurtured and increased inequalities between different states. The inexorable law of uneven capitalist development is bound to assert even more viciously in circumstances marked by the retreat of the State from economic activities. This will lead to growing demands for justice among different nationalities. Their genuine demands must be championed while steering clear of any form of nationality chauvinism and secessionist trends, in the true spirit of Indian unity and proletarian internationalism. Fraternal/sororal bonds of class and national solidarity must be forged among different nationalities and linguistic States.
The emancipation of people belonging to all nationalities in India and the success of their struggle against all traces of national inequality rests with the unity and united struggle of the working people of India. The SFI, whose 23 comrades have been martyred at the hands of separatist elements in the country during the 1980s and the 1990s, stands resolutely in defence of this cause. 

(From 'Resistance', the newsletter brought out by SFI JNU Unit in March 2016)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Who is Anti-National?

Defeat the ABVP's Poisonous Agenda of Communalising Education and Branding Students as “Anti-National”

The very first agenda in the ABVP's campaign leaflet for the JNUSU Elections this year is “Restructure of syllabus” (sic). And another one in the list of their main agenda items is “a strong check on all anti-national activities”. Both these expose the venomous politics of the RSS, whose student wing is the ABVP.

What does the ABVP mean when it says it will restructure the syllabus?

The answer is obvious to JNU students. When the BJP-led NDA was in power the last time, the government had tried to introduce obscurantist courses in JNU such as “Human Consciousness” as part of the undemocratically prepared X Plan Proposals in 2001. Such attempts were unitedly resisted by the students under the leadership of the SFI-led JNUSU. Even as the UGC imposed fund cuts on JNU during that time, it was offering crores of rupees to educational institutions which were ready to start courses such as Astrology, Pourohitya and Karmakand. The courses that were being promoted by the RSS-controlled Ministry of Human Resource Development symbolised the communal, casteist and patriarchal ideology of the RSS and the BJP which seek to attack the very fundamentals of a rational, modern education system. The RSS-BJP's attempts to communalise education by rewriting NCERT text books is, of course, well-known.

The systematic assault by the RSS-BJP on reason continues today and has intensified. The killing of the famous anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar signified the Hindutva forces' attempts to silence all voices of dissent. The ascendancy of the RSS-BJP to power has emboldened the forces of unreason even further, as shown by the subsequent murders of Comrade Govind Pansare (who wrote a popular biography of Shivaji which the Sangh Parivar found unpalatable) and Prof. M M Kalburgi, a prominent critic of superstition and idol worship.

The contempt of the RSS towards reason and science can be seen in the statements of none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. According to him, the birth of Karna in the Mahabharata is proof of the existence of genetic science in India during ancient times, and Ganesha's elephant head on a human body was proof of the existence of plastic surgery in ancient India! Such absurd, crackpot theories have also been peddled by pseudo-historians of the Sangh Parivar, who have claimed that Taj Mahal was a Hindu monument, that the Kaaba in Mecca was a “Hindu temple, stolen by Muslims” and even that Christianity is actually “Krishna-Neeti”. The objective is to impose the Sangh Parivar narrative that all the scientific knowledge that exists in the world today already existed in ancient India, that the caste system is a great thing to have (as the current ICHR head, an RSS stooge, says) and that mythology can replace history.

The “restructuring of the syllabus” that the RSS-ABVP aims at will surely go beyond communalisation. It will also entail a systematic attack on academic freedom and rigour in our university, which has enabled many of our faculty members and centres to mount challenges to the dominant ruling class narratives in various disciplines. The idea is to let saleability in the market be the sole determinant of what should be taught and should not be taught in our university. At a time when the worldwide economic crisis which has been persisting since 2008 is forcing even mainstream economists to rethink about the role and efficacy of the markets, the RSS-ABVP's absolute faith in the market to solve the problems of society could have been described as comical if it were not so dangerous.

Who is Anti-National?

The ABVP also says that they will impose “strong checks on anti-national” activities. Now, the RSS-ABVP talking about nation and nationalism is an absurdity in itself, like the devil preaching the Bible. The RSS was not part of the anti-colonial struggle of the Indian people against British rule. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was an RSS man. V D Savarkar, a prominent Sangh leader, was an active participant in the conspiracy to murder Gandhi. He was an accused in the case, and was acquitted only because the approver, Digambar Badge's evidence lacked independent corroboration; a common flaw in conspiracy cases. But the Judge Atma Charan accepted Badge as a truthful witness. Later, the Kapur Commission (set up in 1965) which examined evidence that was not provided in the court, especially the testimony of two of Savarkar's close aides, concluded that Savarkar was guilty. Had the two aides testified in court, Savarkar would have been convicted.

The RSS's ideal of India is enshrined in the infamous motto “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan”. It refuses to accept the equality of all the different nationalities that constitute and comprise India, and which fought together in the freedom struggle against colonial rule. The RSS seeks to impose a monolithic, communal idea of the nation, which is evident, for instance, in the writings of M S Golwalkar, the Hindutva ideologue and the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. He wrote in his work We or Our Nationhood Defined:

“The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizens' rights.”
In other words, the minorities in this country would have no place in the RSS's concept of India. The students of JNU, however, have always opposed the Sangh Parivar's bigoted ideology and held up the equality of all people, belonging to all religions, communities, ethnicities, languages and nationalities. They have stood up to oppose the RSS ideology which treats women as second class citizens and as “being fit only for domestic chores”. Precisely because of our determined opposition to the chauvinistic project of the RSS, the Hindutva forces have made JNU a target.

During the tenure of the previous BJP-led NDA government, the RSS tried to target JNU and the SFI-led JNUSU as a den of “ISI agents”. There was an incident of violence during an Indo-Pak Mushaira held in JNU on 29 April 2000, where three drunken disruptors (one of whom brandished a revolver) were beaten up only to later find that two of them were Army officers. The Sangh Parivar then demanded that the ‘ISI activities’ in JNU be investigated, and the notorious ‘Bahri Commission of Enquiry’ was set up in pliant response to this absurd demand. Such targeting, however, was defeated by the steadfast resistance of the students’ movement led by the SFI-led JNUSU.

Not only is the RSS's idea of India utterly communal, but in essence and practice the India that it promotes is that of the Adanis and the Ambanis and other big corporates. The workers, peasants, petty producers, Dalits, Adivasis and women belonging to all communities lie outside this ruling class idea of India. The economic policies of the RSS-led Modi government benefit only the ruling classes led by the big corporates, who ultimately form a tiny section of our population. To paraphrase what Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, the working people of India, consisting of the workers, peasants, Dalits, Adivasis, women and other toiling sections, must constitute themselves the nation (though not in the bourgeois sense of the word) in order to resolutely oppose and defeat the RSS and its communal-fascist vision of what India ought to be.

The SFI would like to assert here that the students of JNU and the people of India would firmly reject the attempts to refashion India to fit the communal-fascist, majoritarian, ruling class idea of the “nation” peddled by the RSS. We will continue to speak the truth, and all fascist attempts to muzzle our voices in defence of the working people of our country belonging to all communities will be rejected.