Kanhaiya Kumar and Betrayal of Freedom Struggles

By Saswat Pattanayak

Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest was unfortunate and so his release on bail is a great relief. But beyond that, to seek revolutionary potential in the hoopla surrounding it, is to miss the point entirely. Competing for authentic nationalism to legitimize an oppressive power structure is not what the Communists do. Quite the opposite.

Sudden excitement and pronouncement of “victory” at the news of a judge granting Kumar’s bail is a betrayal of Kashmiri peoples’ struggles, given the specific contexts of denial of antinationalism on part of these students. It is as if the left-liberals of India were hoping and praying and wishing that the judge found nothing in those tapes that were anti-India. To celebrate Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru and then to hope that nothing is spoken against Indian state is a mockery of social justice ethos. Outside of the campus too, no politician in the parliament condemned capital punishment and everyone hailed the court’s verdicts as eternally just. Their voice in unison across party line was “We will not spare whoever raised anti-India slogans, but Kanhaiya Kumar is innocent.” This eagerness to embrace court verdict to be tagged a nationalist should have appeared disappointing to comrade Kumar himself.

But what is disappointing is that the foremost student leader of the most progressive campus in the country, who personally was assaulted within court premises of Delhi by a group lawyers who received bails much before he did, holds a rally where he time and again reposes faith in the judiciary system and in the dominant interpretations of constitutional framework.

Kumar says he does not want Azaadi from India, but within India. Not from India, but from those who are exploiting India. How did he manage to so brilliantly make such distinctions is a puzzle. India as a nationalist construct belongs to the ruling class exploiters – it does not remain in vacuum. One single political party is not responsible for giving shape to India as a monstrously exploitative machinery that continues to “shine” at the expense of the teeming millions who despair. And if that is so, then the party to hoodwink people into believing in a public relations campaign for India is not the BJP, considering how comparatively new entrant it is into this oppressive domain. Comrade Kumar failed to note how this India came into being – on the murders and suicides of countless people who continue to remain in a state of destitute thanks to the capacity of Indian state to overlook their existence, not due to a few right-wing politicians alone. Instead he continued to shower praises and salutes on men in uniform at the borders while classifying them as working class. Of course they are the working class, but the ideology they safeguard is surely within the purview of a communist as well to critique – an option, that was left deliberately unexplored inside JNU that night, because of Kumar’s refusal to speak of Kashmiri crisis, independent of India’s crises.

If JNU protest is not about Indian state, then what was precisely the reason for organizing student assemblies on the day to commemorate Afzal Guru? Is the AISF (and CPI by extension) not aware of the collective aspirations of Kashmiri peoples? Aspirations of North-East that remain subjugated militarily? At what point the “within India” and “from India” became distinctly different notions in a freedom struggle?

Comrade Kumar knows quite well that condemning India or any other country is not about wishing ill for people who live in those territories. It is about demanding the gigantic state machinery to stop oppressions, executions, and political prosecutions of people who reside within the geographic territories that are politically demarcated to be India’s. Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest and release are within the ambit of India’s judiciary, but what about the dissenting voices from Kashmir and Nagaland and Manipur that demand fellow Indians to reject their country’s colonial overtures precisely because the same judiciary fails them?

Kanhaiya Kumar sees Modi as his rival, and not enemy – and that is totally fine. That is about political aspirations of student leaders. Let us not mistake that for some communistic engagement with issues of colonialism and imperialism. The struggle for Kashmiri people is not a struggle to be recognized as “nationalists within India”. Indeed, their struggle is defined “without”. And that is the fundamental difference which the mainstream left parties in India have failed to grasp to this day. Sadly, JNU leads this delusion from the front.

Quite evidently, the left parties do not understand or even bother to understand the slogans associated with Kashmiri liberation movement. The official communist parties that claim to represent the oppressed working class and the marginalized, unfortunately take the same imperialist high ground of ultra nationalism when it comes to Kashmir. When it is Palestine, the leftists in India are all about anti-Israel propaganda, but when it comes to Kashmir, they hide under the umbrage of constitutional frameworks and pronounce great faith in their state judiciary, and in case of Kanhaiya Kumar, they take pretense of a student mobilization against forces that want to disintegrate India. No disintegration of India – is this the new communist mantra?

But of course, the Indian leftists also have faith in the judiciary that allows Modi to remain PM while his henchmen Kodnani and Bajrangi get bails. What about the police officer who wins gallantry medals from the Constitutional Head of the country after he tortures Soni Sori with stones? There are thousands more reasons for Indians not to get all worked up about becoming nationalists. And therefore, for progressive folks, it is clearly not sufficient to just cite injustices and sing “humein chahiye azaadi” slogans from this and from that, in order to prove political correctness, if at the same time, we refuse to wear the badge of being antinationals with utmost honor.

First of all the judicial pronouncements on JNU are not worthy of celebrations. They are ultranationalist verdicts in themselves in so many ways. Secondly, so what if Arnab Goswami was telling the truth that indeed there were tapes with anti-India slogans? So fuckin what? A country works either for the people or it works against the people. And the Indian reality is that a significant population remains under the burden of Indian militarist state and to say “Down Down India” is to say “Down with Indian colonialism”, and that condemnation of Indian state is only a right thing that decent people should do anyway. If not, then why shy away from “Bharat Maata Ki Jai” slogans? Why fight with ABVP at all, if we feel ashamed to be “antinationals”? Or is it that we just want to compete with the Savarkarites in the guise of being Marxists?

Are we to simply forget AFSPA, if sedition charges are somehow dropped against all JNU students? Is this what it is all about? People have compared Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech with Nehru’s midnight hour speech, as indicative of a second freedom struggle in India. If it is indeed a freedom struggle, then it is a freedom struggle from what, exactly? Nowhere from Comrade Kumar’s speech did it appear that the freedom struggle was from the Indian state ably represented by its ruling class. Appropriating Rohith Vemula who is no more is gross and sick. Did Rohith die because he could not fight Modi? Or because he could not fight the Indian state? Do we not know the difference? And if freedom struggle should be from Indian state, then who are we to determine the fate of Kashmir vis-a-vis indestructibility of the great Indian republic? Then why all the pretense about freedom struggle? Freedom from rising costs of petrol, maybe, but making slogans about freedom from capitalism, imperialism also entail the need to be inclusive of the most marginalized. And the most marginalized population in India do not dwell inside JNU campus, and the most marginalized residents do not see in Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi their rivals, but in them they see their class enemies. Comrade Kumar surely knew this.

Being a student leader of AISF, if Comrade Kumar rivals PM Modi while looking straight at the cameras, it is his privilege if not arrogance that reveals itself. There is something macho about it too which I find uncomfortable. Sure Burkha Dutt of Kargil fame is all impressed, since Comrade Kumar’s speech sounded oh so nationalist. But misappropriating the “Azaadi” slogans from Kashmiri freedom fighters, using images of their martyrs on special occasions and then when time comes to articulate a political position, bestowing all glory upon the motherland’s judges, police dudes and parliamentary party politics and sending all sympathy waves to D Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal? This is parliamentary politics at best. Not revolutionary student politics which recognize no boundaries and nationalist flags when it comes to fighting for justice.

Sure, ABVP got a beating which it deserved. But that could have been done without unnecessary glorification of JNU campus while using as ideological pawns, some of the most marginalized people militarily subjugated “within” the Indian territory crying freedom “from” Indian state excesses, who do not have any access to top constitutional lawyers to repose their faith in state judiciary and holy parliamentary books.

Azaadi from colonialism, Azaadi from militarism, Azaadi from nationalism, Azaadi from draconic laws, Azaadi from Indian annexations – that is what this freedom struggle is supposed to be about. Condemning anti-people laws passed in the parliament and in the courts of India which have nurtured the Indian state itself. Azaadi from India indeed, because for revolutionaries, it is always people above the nations.


Platoon of Leeches and the New Royal Parasite

By Saswat Pattanayak


BBC informed us: “Kate in Labour as the World Waits”, CNN’s Victoria Arbiter said Kate Middleton was “brilliant for delivering a boy”, Times of India updated Indian readers about “15 quirky facts” they “didn’t know about the royal baby”, while The Hindu kept up with the times as it ruptured, “It’s a boy! Kate gives birth to royal heir”. Not to mention, the famed liberal newspaper Guardian started worrying over the name with its headline, “Alexandra, Charlotte, George or James – all royal baby name bets are on.” There was perhaps not a single news establishment of the mainstream order that did not highlight this event. And not a single one among them that painted a bleak picture. Not one of them took this opportunity to question the frenzy and to demand the abolition of that celebration.

Among the less mainstream publications, some did give space to an alternative narrative. Reflective questions were posed regarding the needs for such euphoria. Some more radical observations even went to the extent of saying that funding for the royal families should be checked. Some have also opined that the royal family is almost an embarrassment. And the politically correct voices of dissent said the criticism of the baby can wait until he becomes an adult. At best, there has been an evasive quality to the informed criticisms, and at worst, a jubilation that paralleled the worldwide mourning around the death of Princess Diana several years ago. Regardless of the observations, and perhaps because of them, it’s time now to face and critique some inconvenient truths.

And the truth is royal family is not an embarrassment. It is a criminal institution. It is not a laughing matter. It is a despicable agency. It’s members are not saints. They are hooligans. It’s legacy is not of a cultural pride. It is one of racist supremacism. Royal positions are not ceremonious figureheads. They are active displays of colonial machismo. The very fact that they still exist in our times is testament to our collective failure to appreciate immense human sacrifices made at the alters of freedom struggles against these filthy criminals, these usurpers of powers, these enslavers of destinies.

Even the most brutal of dictators in world history would tremble at the mercilessness of the European empires, led in example by the British. For these parasites did not just fend off their compliant slaves at home in the name of taxes and free labor, but they also amassed their insatiable gluttony through exploitations of billions of people who lived outside their goddamned territories. Royal families were so vicious that even those they sent to America also writhed in agony.

As Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense (1776), “Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families….Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still….”

The monster had a special liking for those who it heavily penalized so that the royal family lived in luxuries. But special scorn was reserved for those it overtly owned as slaves so the family oversaw the growth of the business it called an empire. This business profited the masters and afflicted the slaves; salvaged the advocates and purged the dissenters; enriched the family trees of the royal parasites, while starving the countless minions.

So complete was its influence that Eric Williams wrote in Capitalism & Slavery (1944), “All classes in English society presented a united front with regard to the slave trade. The monarchy, the government, the church, public opinion in general, supported the slave trade…The Spanish monarchy set the fashion which European royalty followed to the very last…Hawkins’ slave trading expedition was launched under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth. The British government, prior to 1783, was uniformly consistent in its encouragement of the slave trade. The first great rivals were the Dutch, who monopolized the carrying trade of the British colonies. Soon, England’s victory over Holland left her face to face with France. It was a conflict of rival mercantilisms. The struggle was fought out in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Canada and on the banks of the Mississippi, for the privilege of looting India and for the control of certain vital and strategic commodities – Negroes, sugar and tobacco; fish, furs and naval stores. Of these areas the most important were the Caribbean and Africa; of these commodities the most important were Negroes and sugar. The outstanding single issue was the control of the Asiento.”

Against such backdrops of controlling resources and owning slaves, the royal families of Europe colonized the then vast and wealthy continents of Africa and Asia. When Clive entered Murshidabad in 1757, he wrote, “This city is as extensive, populous and rich as the city of London, with this difference that there were Individuals in the first possessing infinitely greater property than in the last city”. Speaking of all the provinces of India and especially of the region of Bengal and Bihar, Manouchi wrote in the eighteenth century, “The prodigious riches transported thence into Europe are proofs of its great fertility. We may venture to say that it is not inferior in anything to Egypt, and that it even exceeds that kingdom in its products of silks, cottons, sugar and indigo. All things are in great plenty here, fruits, pulse, grain, muslins, cloths of gold and silk.”

For the apologists of colonialism, it is worth reminding that countries like India were so drained of their resources and their peoples kept so deprived that the 1926 Royal Commission on Agriculture in India concluded, “Of all the disabilities from which the masses in India suffer, malnutrition is the chief, and most far-reaching of the causes of the diseases in India.” The 1929 Royal Commission on Labour in India reported that “in most industrial centers the proportion of families and individuals who are in debt is not less than two-thirds of the whole…”. In the “unregulated” factories and industries, in which the overwhelming majority of Indian industrial workers were employed, “workers as young as five years of age were found working without adequate meal intervals or weekly rest days, and often for 10 or 12 hours daily, for sums as low as 2 annas.”

Even without going into the details of ruling class atrocities, murders and human rights records under the colonial regimes supervised by the royal family, and even without dwelling over how much of the colonies it ravaged and left in abject poverty, in almost unrecoverable stages of development – the fact that the world media is swooning over the birth of the newest royal parasite today is a pathetic portrayal of our obsession for monarchies. It’s almost as though we have started relishing our states of servitude. It’s not merely bizarre that we have been witnessing the masses clinging unto the gate of the palaces, and glued to their television sets – for days in anticipation of the news of the birth of someone in the family that has entirely thrived at the expense of enslaving others, and continuing to relax at the expense of hardworking taxpayers of a country
that dares call itself civilized.

In Britain suffering under austerity measures, on that very fateful day, over 2000 babies were born, out of which 540 were born into poverty, and another 600 into families struggling with unsecured public sector jobs. In the British class society, the top 200 babies are 850 times richer than the bottom 200. With a model that still distinguishes the lords from the commoners, with a system that remains the greatest defender of inheritance and bloodlines, with a public outcry that loudly and proudly proclaims that its regressive traditions will never wither, it is only more tragic to see that the masses turn to proverbial scavenging, and the bloodthirsty hawks remain secured in their palatial abodes grinning like the sun never set on their empire. And for a reality check on their grins, one needs only to take a look at the numerous colonies they have profited from, after rendering them impoverished. Much of Africa and Asia – the Third World – stands still, as neocolonial projects, struggling with debates surrounding growth and development, charities and monopolies, foreign takeovers and domestic instabilities.

But what bears resemblance with the spirit of what Malcolm X used to call the nature of a “house slave”, these colonies still remain in awe, not disgust, of their former master – with teenagers sporting Union Jack on their tee-shirts; and even as the indigenous freedom fighters had overthrown their own little kingdoms in the colonies, the new generation parents not so secretly craving to call their children – little prince and little princess. At an international level, the Commonwealth of Nations very much exists, headed of course by Queen Elizabeth II. These are a shameless bunch of 52 countries comprising over two billion people, who still bask in the glories of their colonized legacies. Only Zimbabwe has had the courage to reject the Commonwealth membership, standing up against it like Lumumba once did while refusing to thank the Belgian monarchy, for anything at all.

Commonwealth of Nations is tolerated on the ground that it is symbolic, just as various Kings and Queens in Europe are accepted on the grounds that they are all symbolic. The truth is only by demolishing their palatial structures, and through imprisoning those evil scroungers on charges of evading taxes for centuries, the symbolic gestures of justice can be duly carried out. Since all the previous generations of these bloodline rulers cannot be anymore captured, simply by sentencing to life each of the existing heads, can the symbolic justice be finally served. By returning the stolen jewelries, artifacts, furniture, carpets, gold coins and the stuffed animals to the respective former colonies, along with the reparation amounts – can the symbolic humane gestures be exhibited. And if prison sentence for their masters sounds too loud for the civilized British slaves, what would truly become symbolic is when this newborn headline boy is raised in a working class neighborhood after the entire platoon of royal freeloaders is shifted from that monstrous Buckingham Palace.

Considering all the irreparable damages wrought upon the planet Earth and its billions of inhabitants over the centuries by this royal family, no sentence is too harsh, and no judgment too much. Yet if our unfortunate history is any indication, these bloodsuckers may well flourish under the garb of a fancy phrase “constitutional monarchy”. They may continue to combat every revolution by denouncing it as a “riot”. They may continue to celebrate their generational leeches by calling them “royal babies”. And we the commoners might only be allowed to bet our money on the probable name for the future king. Any more adventures may force us to die like that loyal Indian subject Jacintha Saldanha, the very first victim of the future King. And yet thanks to this newborn, we must finally choose: whether to evade suicide by upholding the sanctity of this royal family or commit to equitable redistribution of worldly resources by all means possible. And giving the devil it’s due, the choice suddenly appears to be abundantly clear.


(First published in Kindle Magazine)

Oscar Awards: White Elephant in the Room

Its not about Viola Davis not winning the Oscar. What’s murkier is the psychoanalytic dependency of Academy elites on their colonial legacies: The Queen, the King and now the utterly despicable Thatcher! The rejection of “The Help” actually offers a timely insight: choosing between the white guilt and the white pride has not been very difficult; beckoning to the colonial era has been easier than reevaluating racist legacies.

However, this is not the most crucial issue. The overwhelmingly positive obsession of the world with the Oscars is. Here is an award ceremony that is inherently Eurocentric and its recognitions have traditionally been conferred upon mainstream movies upholding the status quo. Academy selectors foster visibilities of selective agendas and validate their approvals. They establish norms of achievements and standards of successes. They throttle thematic diversities and control creative boundaries. They celebrate commercial triumphs and hand out golden statues. They convert a quintessentially free form of artistic climate into a corporatized “industry” of thriving multimillionaires.

All this while treating the Euro-American initiatives as comprising main categories while relegating the rest of the world to fight for a “foreign” tag. Like the elite clubs of the ‘good ol’ days’, not only are the nominations complicated and compromised from the start, even the purposes of these awards serve in sustaining the racist world order. Almost as though Oscars is the last thread of the bygone racist era, and yet one which refuses to wither away, affirmed and hailed as it is in the garb of arts and aesthetics.

Art is the holy cow bastion, artists the beautifully neutral people, the entertainers being those that apparently abhor politics. And every now and then, insanely wealthy filmmakers go over on the Academy awards stages to read out speeches decrying politics of all sorts, and to state their distaste towards everything political. In a politically neutral environment, the objectivity and truth-seeking triumphs mark careers of the old rich men who sit down to judge the standards that shall define filmmaking from there on.

Not that diversity is absent. In fact tokenism helps sustaining any status quo further by enhancing its acceptability. In recent memories, when “Slumdog Millionaire” was awarded in the main category, it was considered to be a recognition of Indian cinema. Except, it was not produced in the Mumbai film industry. It was a British film throughout that allowed for certain Indian artists to get the much deserved approvals they had been craving for.

That aside, diversity is, if anything, a sad thing. It is what Malcolm X derided at for the correct reasons. Getting mentioned alongside the owner does not alter the ownership. So when “Crash” won the best picture award, it was the victory of the postmodern, a call to ignore historically conflicting ideologies, and a blanket humanity crisis statement. The minorities were as much racists, a bottom line the movie surmised and impressed the Academy with. Much like the racism in the Third World: the Indians and the Pakistanis are the dogs who deserve their slums until they endorse the only Civilization that decides cultural merits. Worse, until they realize they were better off during the golden era of colonialism and race supremacism. Just look at the poor now – say the colonialism’s apologists – not with scoff, but with pity and concern.

Oscar’s humanitarian, charitable attempts at diversity are not aimed to deconstruct, but to reconstitute. Not to demolish the Academy’s old world order which kept Paul Jarrico or Dalton Trumbo from receiving credits and Paul Robeson blacklisted. But to repackage itself for the new manufactured audience, a global consumerist audience, an audience whose thoughts are systematically being reshaped through textbook lies and news channel agendas and projected lifestyle priorities.

Spiritual, humanitarian, and charitable as they are, they even are politically correct: they abhor institutionalized religions and oppose any forms of censorship. Free speech is what they preach and so they must show solidarity with the champion of their brand of free speech: Sacha Baron Cohen. Lets caricature the usual suspects, Prophet Mohammad, the Catholic Pope – but, and, while at it, let’s mock Gaddafi and Kim-Jong Il as well! There, we were not fostering Islamophobia or Anticommunism. This is just free speech in a free country. Those evil dictators deserve a lesson in free speech. And Academy is all about freedom!

The freedom that has been bestowed upon the earth by the British monarchy through its generous, hardworking messengers of trade, military and governance. The Nirad Chaudhuris and the Uncle Toms, the Manmohan Singhs who express gratitude to the Queen for teaching uncouth Indians a lesson in English. The freedom of the Queens and the Kings of Britain and most of Europe to define democratic values for the African and Asian savages. The freedom to loot and drain resources and to leave the colonies ravaged beyond repair, not just materially, but also at subconscious levels so much so that even a drug peddling white tourist in India gets a standing ovation from a brown skinned educated police officer if he/she dared to be obstructed. Or worse, the Bollywood or the television anchors competing for whiter skins among the natives. And thanks to the Oscar recognition of Indians within India-inflicted poverty and providing quick fixes – for enabling the wretched and perpetually hapless miserable slumdogs to become more intelligent dreamers – of one day ending up as fulfilling and happy millionaires, based solely on individual merits and destinies.

The freedom that Margaret Thatcher ensured during her time, the creation of a widespread perception of what a (white) woman is capable of doing: ruling over the most powerful abusive men, and ruling exactly like them. For having the wisdom of recognizing Nelson Mandela as a filthy terrorist and Apartheid as a noble endeavor to acknowledge the black South Africans as at least half humans. The freedom that she brought about to the humanity along with her buddy Ronald Reagan by enabling anticommunist ploys to materialize. Not to mention, the freedom to bomb Libya on charges of alleged misdemeanors of the Gaddafi types who dared raise voices against the master race.

“The Help” not winning the Oscar is not the issue. That movie is not a celebration of organized black resistance anyway. In fact, it would not have been surprising had it actually won such an award at the first place. But the continued acceptance of thematic underpinnings of Academy honors that are reflecting an sustained adherence to Euro-American global, colonial, and racial hegemony is the issue that needs addressing. Considering the unequivocal acceptance of Oscars as the highest talent declarations world over, the need to unthink eurocentrism is rather urgent.