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.

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Comrade A B Bardhan, Lal Salam!

By Saswat Pattanayak

Comrade A B Bardhan (1924-2016) was not just the foremost communist mass leader of India who raised working class consciousness among millions through his oratory and organizational persistence, he was also the Marxist historian who accounted peoples’ struggles like no one else had quite done.

Well before publishing “People’s History” had become a worldwide trend, Comrade Bardhan had reflected upon the critical role of working class in India’s freedom struggle with these words –
“Official histories are apt to pass over in silence the role of the working class in India’s freedom struggle. They depict the freedom struggle as a series of events determined and influenced by individuals from the upper strata of society, who reacted against the humiliation and oppression of foreign rule, and moved the masses in their wake.
As to the workers and working people, they were considered either too weak or ignorant to play any role in this struggle, or concerned themselves with the more immediate problems of mitigating exploitation and improving their lot.
Nothing could be more one sided and false than this picture. In fact, with the growth of the working class in India and the rise of the labor movement commences the impact on India’s struggle against foreign domination.”

Well before social justice movements demanded reservations as part of parliamentary political norm, Comrade Bardhan had gone beyond the traditional proposals and recognizing the imminent pervasiveness of private capital, he had called for reservations in private sector as well –
“As Communists, we take note of the problems of the deprived communities in our society and pay special attention to them. These are for instance the dalits, the adivasis and the minorities, especially the Muslims. We shall actively support the demand that reservation should be extended to the private sector, especially when moves for privatization are afoot.

Well before the caste discourse in public policies had gained momentum and denouncing Hindutva politics had become mainstream, and intolerance debate had gained a foothold in India to prompt celebrities in joining the chorus, Comrade Bardhan had urged the people to reject communal casteist elements from the political sphere, in these words –

“Neither Gandhi or Nehru nor the hundreds of martyrs who climbed the gallows for independence – none of them gave their lives for a Hindu nation.
Never forget that!

We who uphold the red flag – we respect all religions. For the identity and ego of one religion, you cannot attack and break the identity and faith of another religion.
Always remember this.

In Hinduism, there is both tolerance as well as intolerance. There is humanity, but there is also a caste system. That is why for years saints and enlightened ones have tried to bring in reforms. They raised their voices against casteism, but even today caste remains. Today a new effort is being made to share power with those who were always kept out of Government, those who were considered only fit to be servants. Today an effort is being made that they too get a chance to help run the country. But the very forces who wish to preserve Hindu fundamentalism and unfurl their flags over destroyed mosques, these very forces swear by the caste system.
Recognize them and understand their mentality.”

Comrade Bardhan had confidence in fellow Indians that they shall reject communal, Hindutva politics and usher in a new age that will put the working class in charge of its own priorities. And armed with his inspiring words and following the exemplary life he led, his dreams shall certainly be realized.

Modi-Sharif Class Interests

By Saswat Pattanayak

Narendra Modi’s newfound love for Sharif only proves how Class triumphs over everything. Capitalists can forgo all their differences in coming together for common cause. Adani/Jindal commercial interests in Pakistan ruled by a feudal lord whose family has profiteering interests in collaborating with the new souled-out India show how even the worst form of jingoism from either side has no locus standi when it comes to safeguarding class interests. No matter the religion or caste (Sharif being a Sunni Muslim and Modi being an OBC Hindu) or nationality and gender, when it comes to class interests, there is no stopping in their consolidating efforts. Likewise, Reagan (Presbyterian) and Bush (Methodist) were buddies with Taliban and ran family businesses with Osama bin Laden (Wahhabi Muslim) in their common interest, putting aside nationalistic rhetorics employed domestically to retain their patriotically misguided fan bases.

While the corporate bosses collaborate with each other representing their own class interests, they make sure to let the working class folks fight with each other in the name of various distracting absurdities. The more the working poor continue to distrust and hate each other in the name of religious fixations, the easier it is to rule over the divided lot. “Workers of the world, unite!” is the only anathema to the ruling bourgeois elites. And to subvert the revolutionary potential, the ruling elites at times project themselves as humane and just. In the latest instance, Modi-Sharif may appear to be shockingly generous in their “neighbors-are-irreplaceable” offering, but in reality they are merely throwing lavish parties for each other to celebrate future corporate collaborations.

(Photo: NDTV)

Arvind Kejriwal Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?

Arvind Kejriwal suddenly discovers in Modi a coward and psychopath, simply because he finally becomes a victim of fascist vendetta now. However, this outrage is a social media melodrama as it was Kejriwal himself who has contributed the most in the resulting chaos that prevail today. Modi/Shah and their BJP goons are professionally committed as communal politicians and xenophobes who have always practiced hate politics to perfection. Indian public had always rejected such right-wing fanatics throughout the country’s democratic history. It is Kejriwal who lent them a humane face through his creation of a hoopla over the corruption bogeyman, only with the sole aim to destabilize what he and his right-wing allies Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Kumar Vishwas felt as “dynasty politics”.

Bhushan who funded the creation of AAP was also the same man who was one of the founders of BJP in 1980 – the only aim at that time was to oppose Indira Gandhi because she had dared to “misuse her power” by ensuring that India aims to become a “socialist” and “secular” country. When BJP failed to gain any momentum in India owing to their rabidly communal agendas, these reactionaries floated an outfit by the name of AAP to espouse the same anti-Congress politics, but on a more populist political plank: Corruption.

Prior to advancing the carefully orchestrated political party AAP, Kejriwal was at the forefront of the anti-socialist formation called “India Against Corruption” and an anti-secular formation called “Youth for Equality” – the sole aim of these so-called apolitical movements (ably supported by the likes of objective corporate media comprising Arnav Goswami/Rajat Sharma) was to excite the otherwise indifferent middle class students into getting wet dreams over the potential demise of Congress and the Left in India; to materialize the RSS reveries of a Congress-Mukt Bharat into reality.

Aam Aadmi Party – many of whose stalwarts subsequently have gone back to their BJP family – thereafter emerged as the New Right in India, the first outfit to succeed in legitimizing capitalistic meritocracy as an acceptable political proposition in a society whose collective progress depends on reservation policies, to allow for a political scope for rabidly communal elements of this society to gain a respectable electoral mandate that was virtually impossible to obtain prior to Kejriwal and his team arrived as the educated “we-are-not-political-we-are-you” actors, and to create for the first time in India’s history a Parliament without an empowered Opposition.

It is not Modi, but Kejriwal who created an imagination for a new India whose socio-economic policies could be drafted without the Congress and the Left. And when Kejriwal is not given that rightful due, and instead is treated like he were an outsider, it is only natural that he calls his former bosses names. But even then, Modi continues to heave a sigh of relief, because Kejriwal once again is letting him to be used as a tool to diminish the current debate just when Rahul Gandhi cries vendetta. Because educated Indian bourgeois class and its aspirants know quite well, that when vendetta too appears meritocratic, it is no longer to be treated as a misuse of power.

(Saswat Pattanayak – Written for Facebook)

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– Dadri –
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Your neighbor
My neighbor who?
Neighbor to trust

– Godman –
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Your Baba
My Baba who?
Baba, God, Man

– Leader –
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Your leader
My leader who?
Leader you can fear

– Tolerance –
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Your fan
My fan who?
Fanning a plane ticket

– Patriot –
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Your conscience
My conscience who?
Herr Herr Modi

Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet, 2015