(Let me open a marginal parenthesis here. This short essay must be considered as if it is written by a hysteric, cynic, filthy, sexually frustrated, opportunist, populist, womanizer, morally and politically degenerated persona. A critic must use these words to dismantle any dissent to curtail, derail, and prevail over the ‘enemy’ in the name of dialogue. While addressing the criticism of this essay, one must use these adjectives as it happens to be the prevailing norm in the university discourses and culture).
For a long time, some names have been haunting the psyche. I am not talking about Savitri, Marx, Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar and others (apologies if I did not include any figures from the ranks of ‘class struggle’ and ‘identity politics’) but the dreamers, especially those ones who chose death, I am talking about Rohith Vemula (R.V.) here, and the likes who chose death as their last revolt. A thinker, writer, and philosopher who he committed suicide as the last resort. A significant reason to calm ourselves is that he chose to bring death to himself in a ‘democratic’ manner. In democracy, as they say, everyone has certain rights of free speech ‘of freedom’ to ask for ‘freedom’ and snatch it wherever possible. (No…No…Murder! Never. He died because he lost all hope on his own. Maybe, some problem with the mind. Had he consulted psychotherapist, he would be alive today and voting. He ain’t got any girlfriend or a male-friend who knew his decision to knock the end.
To win electoral battles, the other must die and disappear. If the likes of Najeeb keep on disappearing, it’s good for a ‘radical and revolutionary politics’. Has Najeeb’s disappearance strengthened the alliance of what they call left?… The onslaught of Right grows, and so ‘dialectically’ the left alliance grows. This is the ‘dialectic’ of Left and Right today. Both devouring on each other, feeding on each other and benefitting from each other: mass killings, rapes, lynchings and its shadow is reflected in electoral politics in JNU…
I would like to talk about Najeeb here. A name who ‘disappeared’ on his own because he was a ‘mentally sick student’ (Read a JNUSU member’s letter to the warden). As the popular reason would have us believe, he probably has migrated to Syria or elsewhere, who knows he might be hatching a plan to derail the progress of democracy across the map of the world. And there are more dreamers from ordinary ranks who do not find spaces in cover pages, trolls, televisions, for example, the cow eaters, scavengers, farmers, dalits, adivasis, and others what the ‘privileged’ ones who have gained consciousness only in universities call them as ‘oppressed’ whose names are religiously, ceremoniously, and ritually taken once in a year so that masses remain conscious of names, their caste, religion and finally numbers during elections. And yet, the irony of this process is that it is in those names that we seek vote in the elections to restore the so-called democracy whom this so-called democracy has murdered and has forced them to disappear from list of people constituting democracy.
DIALECTICAL LEFT AND POLITICS OF DISAPPEARANCE
To win electoral battles, the other must die and disappear. If the likes of Najeeb keep on disappearing, it’s good for a ‘radical and revolutionary politics’. Has Najeeb’s disappearance strengthened the alliance of what they call left? Last year, there were two in the alliance, now they are three. Kill one more student, stab and make him disappear, add rapes and brutalities, tomorrow’s alliance for power will keep on growing. Next year there will be four parties and the next to the next….. number of parties in alliances keep enlarging to infinity. Infinite numbers and infinite years will bring some sanity to revolution to which masses are clamoring as they say, ‘battle is a long one’. The onslaught of Right grows, and so ‘dialectically’ the left alliance grows. This is the ‘dialectic’ of Left and Right today. Both devouring on each other, feeding on each other and benefitting from each other: mass killings, rapes, lynchings and its shadow is reflected in electoral politics in JNU, mass media (look at the likes of ‘carom players’ and ‘trollers’ on digital screens, television, on the internet), Right kills, Left gets the likes, coverage, media images and what in today’s jargon they refer to as ‘trolls’?
While having a cup of tea, once I asked an M.A student, who is now homeless and out of the university. “Whom are you voting this time”. She said, “I am no more a student”. They are hundreds of students like her on whose depredations and labour and loss, the left alliance is contesting elections as they see fascism only once in a calendar year of the university, lurking only around the Four Holy Chairs in the JNUSU office blessed by a wall hosting portraits from Chandrashekar to Ambedkar to Netaji. If you haven’t seen the struggle against fascism, you must go and see it, Now!
…the ‘Left’ is shaming the resistances of the past, exchanging it as commodity products from pamphlets to digital screens. What were the grounds for a ‘left unity’? Fight against fascism and right wing-administration. Isn’t it? Where is this ongoing real fight? Can anyone show us?…
Yes, the name of Chandrashekhar Prasad cropped up. He was a revolutionary in a true spirit. He was a friend of the poet, Gorakh Pandey. He chose death over life for his commitment to revolutionary politics and the rest chose to show documentary. Chandrashekhar became a film and the rest of them real cre(o)ws. One must acknowledge, the debt of the history. Yes, there has been a significant contribution by Left in the university. And the claims are genuine like the deprivation points, Gender equality, and democractic spirit of resistance. People and leaders like Chandu have struggled. However, even when there was no ‘radical left’ or the ‘real left’, their ‘parent-left’ in alliance with congress have struggled, and when there was no concept of ‘left’, people did struggle where thousands got perished in building the architecture of Indian modern universities (one may termed those as ‘forgotten struggles’) where the so-called students who come to study and call themselves as ‘privileged’. Could anyone ask the alliances if they would count these forgotten struggles and make you memorize about them so that you are laden with historical consciousness to vote for them?
This is how the ‘Left’ is shaming the resistances of the past, exchanging it as commodity products from pamphlets to digital screens. What were the grounds for a ‘left unity’? Fight against fascism and right wing-administration. Isn’t it? Where is this ongoing real fight? Can anyone show us? All the grounds on which a certain radical organization differed from the other one and all the mass murders and rapes by the ‘official left’ in Singur and Nandigram and elsewhere and certain others who claimed and won a presidential post on the grounds of ‘differences’ were over nightly mitigated to forge a broader alliance against a larger attack. What did the alliance do in the name of a ‘left-unity’ except buzzing like flies around students’ union office’s broken chairs and tables? And still the arrogance, mockery and stupidity of the proposition that any criticism of the ‘let-unity’ or left politics (if there is any) is seen as anti-JNUSU movement as if JNUSU is an institution or a matth that was received as a gift from heaven. If you are silent, fine. If you speak, you are morally deranged.
It is relevant for me to note several cases of disappearance by choice or suicide or murder, irrespective of whichever way they may be interpreted:
Ghanshyam Das: A student of Philosophy, another murder? Look at the silence of revolutionaries around. Like the filth, he was, the smell his corpse was all around the university and continues to haunt me. We will vote together with our nostrils blocked. Was there any condolence meeting by any organizations or the JNUSU, not even by those who claim that they are fighting for the oppressed? The real oppressed are decaying and we close our nostrils and eyes as if we met our own father caught up in a brothel and imagine ourselves as if walking in a Switzerland park wearing a fake Swiss watch. We know all the trades of the market.
Mutthu Krishnan: A murder? He was a history student. Committed Suicide. Last I could see him was when he came up to me and borrowed Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. Heard, people were laughing at his murder: “Motherf****r…. Good that he is no more.”
Gorakh Pandey: A poet. Committed Suicide. Rest of him is poetry. Must have heard this name semester beginning.
Vidrohi (Ramashankar Yadav): Dead, vagabond, poet, maniac he was. To him rest of the world was filth, except his poetry and his poetry was not only his, we sing them, they sing us.
J R Philemon Chiru: My senior research scholar. A Murder? Died quietly in his hostel room until someone smelled the flesh. All this has happened in this university.
Catastrophe after catastrophe came: Yet, nothing happens to our psyche!
How much is required to win the revolution my dear ‘Lenin’, ‘Stalin’ or ‘Trotsky’? Yes, we need the numbers, and I am sure we have them. I have the whole list of names down to their toilettes, perfumes, scents, shirts, pants, undergarments, dress, skullcaps, malas, sutras, caste, religion, centre, school, hostel, room number, names of their friends, where they rest and where they go… Keep adding the names of parties from right to left and Ambedkarites are no exceptions in this practice.
One is reminded of Japanese Obon festival where the dead is recalled back from graves, dead skeletons sit beside the fleshy living mortals to remind them about the struggles they wage over there in the graveyards. The dead are offered food, wine, cigarettes, etc. At least Japanese culture is highly sensible when it comes to recognizing the dead. They live among the dead spirits. Some Latin American societies do the same as well. In Mexico children eat skull candies to mock the dead perhaps. We call them back from their graves on anniversaries, party programs, use their images for flags, banners, placards, and only god knows or can imagine what people do with those images. There is a certain sadistic and masochistic pleasure that we receive from these images.
How much is required to win the revolution my dear ‘Lenin’, ‘Stalin’ or ‘Trotsky’? Yes, we need the numbers, and I am sure we have them. I have the whole list of names down to their toilettes, perfumes, scents, shirts, pants, undergarments, dress, skullcaps, malas, sutras, caste, religion, centre, school, hostel, room number, names of their friends, where they rest and where they go. I know everything. I also have a mobile photograph/snapshot to show you that this deserter, whom we are trying to win over, had in fact voted against us in the GBM. I will send our caste/community leader to him/her who is of the same caste and religion and I also know his/her girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s name. No.. no, he is a gay, she is a lesbian. Keep adding the names of parties from right to left and Ambedkarites are no exceptions in this practice.
AMBEDKARITES AS THE NEW ENTRANT
Ambedkarites are new players in this game of numbers but they are learning very well. Soon they will all be the same, thanks to democracy and numbers’ game. Time will make them hard but yes, there are exceptions among the Ambedkarites. Let’s recognize those exceptions. Some never ask for vote and remain silent. They will handover you a pamphlet and if you are offering these ‘untouchables’ a seat, they will quietly sit beside you. Listen to you covering a burning sensation inside. Some won’t even give a damn to rebuke you, spit on your face, or to mock you. They may just call you a ‘fake comrade’, a ‘Brahminical’, ‘Savarna’, ‘bourgeois’- who are the enemies in class struggle. For them ‘Red’ and ‘Saffron’ are alike, but they never explain how. I do not get angry when they raise slogans like these. Their slogans have appeared after a certain experience with the left although on a surface level.
Majority of these Ambedkarites do not know the art of speaking well in the UGBMs and presidential debates. Our society give privileges to those who are already privileged with the art of speaking, as if speech only matters. Silence, stammering, stumbling, stuttering is out of question. We forget to see that those who really find difficult to speak are the ones who truly are struggling and their struggle is the primary one, namely struggle of silence against speech. My mother’s struggle has been like this. She does not know how to speak well before my father and she is quite old now. She didn’t learn much, except a few alphabets, broken verses and that too to serve the master. Women know this struggle perhaps better than men!
THE IDEA OF A LEFT
What does it mean to be a Left? To be a left mean as Marx Says, ‘those who have nothing to lose but their chains’. Today this chain is growing bigger with increasing numbers of workers, homeless person, prostitutes, delivery boys/girls, students, migrants, madmen, the spoilers, rag pickers, leaves pickers in forests, cleaners of all kinds (from septic tanks to gutters), and so on.
The idea of left is in movement, one of becoming, in a minor sense, becoming of so many minor becomings devoid of any struggle for power and hegemony. Becoming is struggling against oppression. Becoming left is about being on the margins of power, culture, and territory… One must become a woman, a dalit, a muslim, an adivasi, a homosexual, a transgender and so on.
I am reminded here about a conversation that I had with a taxi driver. “Boss, I heard in JNU… terrorists and prostitutes.” I said, “I am one of them, what do you want?, my ass or … ”. What class or what identity do they belong? Let’s ask these people who wage ‘class struggles’ and politics of the ‘oppressed’. To be on the Left is to be born in a family of leaders who belong to a ‘Left Party’ or those who choose to commit themselves to party apparatus? Or if we are born with two hands, one of the hands is always used to clean the shit, what we call the docile hand, occasionally used to lift some objects. To be on the left is to recognize the activity and shame of the left hand in a real sense. Imagine, those scavengers who wash other’s excreta. Half of our being is self-manual scavenging. What’s wrong in becoming with the ONE whole being immersed in excreta with all the attendant horrors and shame of being a being?
The idea of left is in movement, one of becoming, in a minor sense, becoming of so many minor becomings devoid of any struggle for power and hegemony. Becoming is struggling against oppression. Becoming left is about being on the margins of power, culture, and territory or membership by birth, right or choice to particular community, caste, religion, party and so on. Asserting the ideas of the other is a primary condition of solidarity. One must become a woman, a dalit, a muslim, an adivasi, a homosexual, a transgender and so on.
Becoming Left has nothing to do with power politics or the questions around which ‘left politics’ revolves today. For example, becoming a Dalit representative in the Union or legislative assembly is not a becoming at all in the sense of pure becoming. Becoming means betraying one’s own identity and crossing over to the other side. All becomings are in a certain sense fractured becomings. A possibility of a left politics in the spirit of becomings is possible within the fractured geographies of dalit discourses as these are the people who have gone through unimaginable depredations and have been made to sink in an unimaginable depth. It is from these depths they are trying to come to the surface.
LEFT AND AMBEDKARITISM IN PRCATICE: POLITICS OF IDENTITY
In the prevailing conditions of complexities, what is the ground for becoming left or engaging in a left politics or a possibility of left politics emerging within these fractured identities or classes? Articulating one of the possibilities of a radical, left politics not on the grounds of already worn out, fetishized discourses of the left attendant with all its malaise of centrality of power organized around already defunct party, flag, banners and so on but on the grounds of resistance to power to which ‘left’ aides and supports in a certain manner, becomes a necessary condition of revising the definition of the ‘left’.
Given these conditions of certain assertions on the basis of identity, to which those on the left ‘officially’ criticize but unofficially harness and perpetuate for partial ends, as in the case of this university, it is within the left politics that a politics of identity emerged and took shape. The turn to ‘identity’ has progressively been one of disenchant and disillusion with the ‘left’ politics which started taking shape in a firm manner in Post-Lyngdoh politics around a certain calculation based on identities. Why only students from North-East become only a part of the electoral agenda and not round the year, everyday politics? North-East is situated within a tapestry of electoral calculation, manipulation and power politics. Just a reflection of national agenda. The real lords of politics in JNU are ‘bulls’ from North India. This turn towards ‘identity politics’ and politics of numbers has finally turned into a highly individualized notions and fetish around speeches and performances in elections that clearly echoes the agenda of capital and far right. Consume a good speech like a piece of Pizza. Bon Appétit JNUSU elections, Lynching and state brutality.
Where is this ‘identity’ and ‘politics of the oppressed’ is being taken up by Ambedkarites? Criticize Marx, Well Done. Criticize Ambedkar, No Way. So is the case with the ‘left’. Marx is painted with all the frenzies of a fanatic idol worshipper. We are turning Ambedkar into idol worship too. I want to burn both Marx and Ambedkar and keep their spirit in the ashes. The point is to reach beyond these binaries of Marx and Ambedkar and desire to seek a Marx within Ambedkar’s ashes and Ambedkar within the interstices of Marx’s ashes. Both Ambedkar and Marx were born ‘men’, and as men they are fallible. This is another problematique where intervention is required. I am sure there are enough criticisms from feminism. If we take this argument further, it seems that the real depositories of struggles are those oppressed, working class, then a possibility of a radical left politics seems emerging within the section of student politics that come from oppressed geographies.
Did JNUSU aided the Right or fought against it as was the mandate? Seat cuts, fee hike, curtailment of freedom, deprivation points, reservations, gender deprivation points and issue like these were also lost by the right-wing consensus of which a ‘left Unity Union’ was also a part. When you agree on certain principles of students’ unity, they agree first and then walk away shamelessly from the ground without any public declaration and wider information to the student community.
Given the struggles against right wing offensives and crackdown on students’ rights just after a majority ‘Left Unity Union’ came into power, it shows that ‘Left Unity’ has been doing nothing to wage the struggle despite being a mandate given to them overwhelmingly by students of the campus and especially a major section of dalits, OBCs, minorities, Kashmiris, women, homosexuals, trasgenders. Immediately after the election, a student has been lynched by RSS-ABVP-Administration nexus and made to disappear in which Students’ Union leaders signed a document victimizing the minority student, thus, paving the way for a collective conscience of governmentality and common sense. Initially they wanted to sort the issue around a table among RSS men present in the very meeting of wardens, students representatives and residents. Right wing common sense has prevailed.
JNU Student’s Union (JNUSU) along with hostel authorities wanted to diffuse the situation, but things got out of control. There has been a compromise despite after huge backing by students cutting across social groups in the university and organizations in supporting Union’s blockade of the Administration building. Did JNUSU aided the Right or fought against it as was the mandate? Seat cuts, fee hike, curtailment of freedom, deprivation points, reservations, gender deprivation points and issue like these were also lost by the right-wing consensus of which a ‘left Unity Union’ was also a part. When you agree on certain principles of students’ unity, they agree first and then walk away shamelessly from the ground without any public declaration and wider information to the student community. Once, they had walked away and there was no hope, a few of the students got united and came together. NO… NO… This is anti-JNUSU.
What seems the most anti-JNUSU movement and most banal treachery is led by ‘Left Unity’ members of JNUSU itself. Postmodern Neroes. Some students outside the formations and domain of organizations still fought in which organizations like AISF, BAPSA, DSU, OBC Forum, and to some extent BASO were a part (apologies if I forgot to mention some names). Even a centrist force like NSUI were a part of the struggle. When these struggles were waged, JNUSU was asked by students to categorically state their position and were asked how would they fight for Najeeb, seat cuts, feek hike, and so on, they were only responding in meetings like ‘kal batayenge’, abhi hum union ki meeting karenge, etc. Some students got suspended, for a while suspended students group put up a stiff fight and blocked the functioning of admin building for some 20 days and when these students were fined, there was no collective sense among students or organizations as to how we should resist these further assaults on students.
Some members of BAPSA paid the fine, some of us went to the court, eventually all of us paid the fine and Union President did not pay the fine while rest of the members did (I am talking about the rest of the office bearers). I salute the Students’ Union President for not paying the fine. It seems that not paying the fine and getting chucked out by the University Administration so easily and not putting up resistances enough is a calculated gesture where an organization surely attempts to benefit electorally on the ground of being ‘victimized’ and thereby targeting the weakest in the chain and burdening them with responsibility and claiming a comparative radicalism. On what political grounds these shameless ‘radical revolutionaries’ are again claiming and arguing for a vote?
Yes. I paid the fine. It’s a shame. I accept the defeat. Does any organization or a group of organization or the Students’ Union have any claim or advantage over others when everyone succumbed without fighting? Now they say, others have paid the fine, so we were compelled to pay and since others paid the fine first they are less radical than us. How naïve is the argument. Who told you to pay the fine, BASPA members? On these grounds, claims of radicality are an illusion. Everyone paid the fine, be it individuals or organizations or Students’ Union just to safeguard their personal and political interests putting the whole struggle and politics in jeopardy.
The logic of the self-proclaimed godmen of JNUSU and ‘class struggle’ was purely based on certain ‘responsibility to protect’ JNU from falling into the hands of the Right. (Hum nahin rahenge university mein toh JNU ko kaun bachayega aur aage kaise ladenge. Fine bhi dete rahenge aura aage bhi ladte rahenge). Those who paid the fine, struggled too, to a certain extent. Not everyone among the students who were fined, struggled. Some fines paid were also a part of betrayal and leaving the ground (JNUSU members betraying the Najeeb Movement. Who told them to lift the blockade? They were too afraid to fight because media was not giving a positive feedback and some JNUTA members were very angry on this move of JNUSU).
On these grounds, I may also lay a little claim on deciding my vote for JNUSU elections. Maybe, these decisions are based on plain and simple naivety and my sentimental education. I am not claiming certain rights of expressing my silence based on a certain nostalgic appeals to the past and its rhetoric. I am claiming as one among so many voices, silenced in the struggle. I can say that there are a certain people in certain organizations who have a shared affinity and friendship and a larger commitment to politics, than the ones whose incumbency has forced them to a certain blindness and ‘jargon of authenticity’. Let me make it clear that I am not a member of any organization or a sympathizer.
I had certain affiliations with ‘left politics earlier’ and I still hold certain principles of the left politics on which left politics is itself grounded. I seek people, their friendship and possibilities of a radical politics only through this search. I am thinking of voting for marginalized dalits (BAPSA) in this election in terms like what you people like to call in toto. I hate BAPSA as an organization when it comes to elections, calculation and electoral politics. There is a risk of falling apart if Ambedkarites toe the line and copy what left has been doing so far. I know there is an insistent and certain governmental tendencies in the Ambedkarites as well and if they carry this govermentalized notions of common sense, their politics risk erasure. Somewhere else, I love their appeal and promise too. If certain groups of people have struggled, their struggle must be recognized and it is by recognizing them as our friends and companions they become politically strong to fight a short battle.
To become numbers and seeing numbers everywhere is one thing, to see through it another. I always see politics from behind, from a certain affinity with the disappeared and the dead. Let us remember and count them when we go to vote this time. Let some numbers haunt us too.
What is Agamemnon’s longevity against Achilles’ short life? For Achilles battle was a short and swift one and death too was such a pleasure to hold. I am also not saying that election is the only ground of radicality, but a certain solidarity is also a promise of radical politics for time to come. Is this a compromise? In a certain sense, Yes. Because to see elections as ends and end to politics is a compromise as for Rohit Vemula: “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind.” There is a dialectics of numbers as well, through numbers, one by one, we will return to you, a promise. To become numbers and seeing numbers everywhere is one thing, to see through it another. I always see politics from behind, from a certain affinity with the disappeared and the dead. Let us remember and count them when we go to vote this time. Let some numbers haunt us too.
Oh! They will say, There’s nothing about the Right Wing. We don’t wish to turn every struggle against the Right to turn into a Market.
The Authour: Shakeel Anjum, Former General Secretary, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, New Delhi.