A public meeting, with the topic “India Today: Towards a People’s Democratic Alternative”, seemingly oriented towards the progressive objective of forging a unity of the left-democratic forces in our country, was organised by “SFI-JNU” yesterday at Godavari Dhaba. But even if we keep the absence of the largest communist parties in India (the CPI and the CPI(M)) in the programme aside, a number of factors cast doubts on the motives of the organisers of this initiative.
Hypocrisy on the Issue of Gender Justice: The Curious Case of Parshuram Chavan
The list of speakers in the public meeting in itself exposed the hypocrisy of “SFI-JNU”’s tall-talk on their commitment towards gender justice. When it came to the formation of the “India Today” group, they had no qualms in inviting a person with such dubious credentials as Parshuram Chavan, notorious for sexual harassment and extortion of money from Adivasis. Chavan had been expelled from the CPI(M) by the CPI(M)’s Maharashtra State Committee in 2007 after his nefarious activities came to light. Among the most important reasons for his expulsion from the CPI(M) were the several cases of sexual harassment in which Chavan stood indicted. There was an instance of Chavan having sexually harassed an Adivasi Panchayat Samiti member who was an AIDWA activist. Besides, Chavan and his coterie used to help the landlords against the Adivasis in a surreptitious manner. Some Adivasis were told by them to take some money and give up the land which was in their occupation for generations to the landlord. In return for this deceit, a large amount of money was given by the landlord to Parshuram Chavan, Suhas Samant and Ramji Vartha, who were all expelled from the CPI(M). After their expulsion, Chavan and his coterie formed the Godavari Parulekar Marxvadi Vichar Manch, named after the legendary leader of the CPI(M) who led the historic Warli Adivasi struggle in Thane district. By the shameful act of inviting the representative of the outfit led by Parshuram Chavan (which is an insult to the names and prestige of both Comrade Godavari Parulekar and Karl Marx), “SFI-JNU” has, once again, sought to discredit the name of both SFI and JNU.
“Sorry, Only “SFI-JNU” Posters Allowed!!”
Even before the public meeting began, a brazen violation of democratic norms was indulged in by “SFI-JNU” activists, who lose no opportunity to wax eloquent about democracy and the need to allow space for dissenting opinions. When a few “inconvenient” questions were raised by a group of students yesterday in a release, “SFI-JNU” activists, who were on a mess campaign led by the JNUSU President himself, had the audacity to tear the poster away. This happened in full public view in front of the Godavari Hostel. Such vandalism and undemocratic behaviour which run counter to the JNU ethos of democratic debates can never be tolerated, and it is deplorable that the JNUSU President himself was found complicit in this act by his inaction while this happened.
“No Questions Please”: The “SFI-JNU” Model of Championing People’s Democracy
“SFI-JNU” lived up to its undemocratic record in the conduct of the public meeting as well. After all the sermons on People’s Democracy and bashing of the left movement on the stage, the “India Today” organisers prevented students from raising questions. When students who were part of the audience approached “SFI-JNU” leaders with questions, they gave ridiculous justifications like “this is an open (?) public meeting; hence we have no question and answer session” and “public meetings in Godavari Dhaba don’t have question and answer sessions”!!
Once Again on the Origins of the bourgeois factional outfit “SFI-JNU”
The principal reason for the birth of “SFI-JNU” was the lack of confidence of a section of the erstwhile SFI leadership under the stewardship of Prasenjit Bose (who had enjoyed a continuing association with the unit), to take on politically the ruling class politics pursued by the AISA, which was to relentlessly attack the organised Left. The same lacunae manifested themselves in their analysis of the post-2007 situation in the campus, according to which SFI was “vulnerable to attacks of ‘double-speak’ by the ultra Left” (“SFI-JNU” pamphlet, 07.07.2012). The erstwhile leadership even attributed the electoral defeat of the SFI since 2007 in the campus to the SFI’s organic link with the larger left and democratic movement in the country. The adoption of the resolution at a thinly attended GBM on 5 July 2012 insulating the organisation from the left-democratic movement was a logical outcome of this flawed analysis. The larger political agenda behind the GBM, in which a handful of the erstwhile leadership of SFI pushed for a divisive line over a non-issue, was to line up behind P. Bose, who had chosen to resign over the same issue. The haste in which the erstwhile leaders adopted their chosen course of action raised serious questions, as the issue in question was not one that could arouse the masses into action and contribute to a revival of class politics in the country.
Such a strategy was borne out of the desperation of the very same handful leaders of “SFI-JNU” to wash their hands off their central role in the unacceptable organisational tendencies that had prevailed since 2004, and their inability and unwillingness to “fix proper responsibility” and to “conduct rectification thereon” on various matters which shook the campus, such as the Nestle issue and the response to the Singur-Nandigram debates. Such right-wing deviations of a section of the leadership helped to consolidate the “fashionable”, so-called “ultra-Left” within the campus.
Why continue with the name “SFI-JNU”?
With the intervention of the higher leadership of SFI putting an end to the whole disorder, a handful among the erstwhile leadership floated the organisation named “SFI-JNU”. The tactics of this outfit to ensure their survival in the campus has been twofold - free riding and building on the political legacy of the SFI in the campus, and remaining subservient to the ruling class agenda of attacking the organised Left. Questions from many students regarding the political identity of “”SFI-JNU” were addressed by its leaders by claiming that the decision regarding organisational affiliation would be taken at a later date suited to their opportunist politics. This tactic of confusing genuine SFI sympathisers combined with efforts to corner a share in the pie of the anti-SFI, anti-organised Left polarisation (which includes the right-wing) of which the AISA has been a virtual beneficiary all through came to the fore on several occasions. This was clearly visible even in their membership campaign in the last semester (where they deviously gave out memberships to the non-existent “Students’ Federation of India – Jawaharlal Nehru University unit” so as to take along a few who were misinformed about the organisational affiliation of the outfit) as well as in their mobilisations since 10 July, which had an evidently anti-organised Left content.
While from the very day of its inception this outfit had consistently demonstrated how unworthy it is to call itself “SFI-JNU”, they still continue to use the name, even after six months of its disavowal of its organic link with the left and democratic movement in India. As if that is not enough, the “SFI-JNU” still calls itself the “SFI JNU Unit”. One would be curious to ask, a Unit of what?
In Dubious Company: “SFI-JNU”’s Myopic Vision of Left Unity
We have already mentioned the dubious character of Parshuram Chavan’s outfit which has become an essential element in “SFI-JNU”’s platform of “left unity”. Here it would be pertinent to examine some of the other components of this platform as well. For example, what is common between a Prasenjit Bose and a Mangat Ram Pasla (the leader of CPM Punjab)? Mangat Ram Pasla swears by the 1964 Programme of the CPI(M) and rejects the Updated Programme of 2000, while P. Bose rejects them both. Mangat Ram Pasla swears by democratic centralism as upheld by the “Tasks on Organisation” document adopted by the Central Committee of the CPI(M) in 1967, whereas P. Bose rejects it outright; Pasla’s CPM Punjab refuses to draw any lessons from the experience of 20th century socialism as is evident from its Programme, while Mr. Bose has found his ideal prescription for 21st century socialism in the social democratic experiments in Greece and Latin America. In short, if there is any glue that binds together the myriad characters who claimed to seek a “People’s Democratic Alternative” yesterday, it is a shared and pathological hatred towards the largest contingent of the left and democratic movement in this country.
The prescriptions of “SFI-JNU” on democratic centralism and '21st century socialism' have established clearly that it wants to pursue a revisionist/social democratic programme, shedding all Leninist principles. The latest overture of the same outfit to build a Left co-ordination at the national level with outfits whose dubious character is evident to the people of this country is nothing but an espousal and practice of ruling class politics. SFI believes that the progressive tradition of the JNU student movement, which was built up with immense sacrifices in the face of right-wing attacks during the Emergency, the attacks of the Sangh Parivar and the latest onslaught from the state in the name of Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations, should not be allowed to dissipate at the hands of the ruling classes, their latest tool being “SFI-JNU”.
Manu M R, President