Outpourings of a Rumour Mill

IN THE POST-ELECTION review of the JNUSU elections for 1996, People’s Democracy (PD) (October 27, 1996,‘Lessons to be Learnt’) had noted that the rise of AISA in the campus had provided ‘fertile ground for the growth of reactionary forces like ABVP’. This time around, almost the same tune has been harped by Com. Krishna Prasad (PD, November 16, 1997) but with a generous sprinkling of false propaganda.

In his article, ‘Left Reasserts in JNU Students Union’, he notes that AISA’s ‘hollow aggressiveness helped ABVP to consolidate which was not possible for them when the SFI was dominating the JNUSU’. As the author himself admits elsewhere in his article, ABVP has always aggressively practiced its politics in the campus. In such a situation, a tooth-and-nail opposition to the rightist offensive is vital to the politics of any leftist student organisation. For all its militant opposition to the rightist offensive, what the author condescendingly terms ‘hollow aggressiveness’, should any leftist organisation abandon its raison d’etre lest it sends the rightist forces into a reaction? Extending the PD’s characterisation of AISA’s politics as ‘hollow aggressiveness’, SFI often draws the line between the two organisations as ‘mainstream’ and ‘extreme’ left organisations. Does putting up a militant resistance make an organisation an extreme left organisation? And does an organisation which echoes the chauvenist voice of the ABVP on the question of national unity become a ‘mainstream’ Left organisation of the campus, whereas those who echo the genuine democratic voices of the oppressed nationalities become the ‘extreme’ left organisation? Is the tacit understanding with BJP in supporting a common candidate for the Bihar Legislative Council election (in which Rabri Devi was the other candidate), a qualification to be the ‘mainstream’ left? Or does the tacit understanding with ABVP in withdrawing the movement demanding the punishment for Chandrashekhar’s killers make one a ‘mainstream’ organisation?

Yet, after terming AISA’s politics as aggressive, contradicting himself, he calls it ‘an illusory force in the struggle’ against communalism. Since its inception in the campus, AISA has undeniably had an image of a consistent anti-communal force. In fact, its rise in the campus during the high-tide of communal offensive all over the country in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition,on the one hand, reflected the left-democratic students’ choice for a revolutionary students’ organisation like AISA to smash the ABVP and on the other, it was a rejection of SFI for its impotence to fight communalism. But, while such ‘illusory’ analysis has been forwarded many a times, the author goes ahead to smudge facts of history. It was during the period ‘when SFI was dominating the JNUSU’ — before AISA came into prominence in the campus — that ABVP scored victories in the JNUSU elections for the first time. How could ABVP’s entry and subsequent consolidation resulting in Union victories be ‘possible’ in an SFI stronghold? Perhaps self-introspection rather than expedient analysis is required for answering this question.

In fact, the author’s analysis echoes the social democrats’ logic that any provocation against the communal forces will only strengthen them. So should one resign to a meek opposition to the ABVP while it aggressively bulldozes into a Left bastion? The JNU students community’s acceptance of AISA was an acceptance of its militant resistance at the height of communal offensive all over the country.

To fit his analysis, the author once again provides distorted facts. According to him, ‘to woo over the elite students’ constituency on the campus to their side, AISA described reservation as a casteist proposition and criticised the then VP Singh government for forging caste polarisation, which resembled the ABVP’s political stand’ and in turn helping the ‘ABVP to strike roots among the elite sections’, something for which ‘history will never forgive AISA’. This is nothing less than a white lie. Since the time of the Mandal Commission conflagration, AISA’s consistent stand has been to support the implementation of Mandal’s recommendations. We have additionally maintained that reservations in themselves are not the sufficient conditions for bringing about social equity. In fact, because of its support for the reservation policy, upper caste rightist forces brutally attacked participants in AISA’s founding conference at Allahabad in 1990. One wonders how a Left students’s organisation can help an upper caste rightist organisation like ABVP to ‘strike roots among the elite sections’ when this elite constituency is where ABVP naturally belongs!

Further, the author claims, ‘unable to understand the Marxist concept regarding right to self-determination, the AISA supported the separatist movement in Kashmir and helped the rightist consolidation under the ABVP’. Inferring from SFI’s metaphysical stance on the question of Kashmir, there exists space for either the ruling classes’ brand of national unity or self-determination in the limited sense of secession. One would ask whether national unity through guns is the correct Marxist approach or is the recognition of the democratic aspiration of the Kashmiri masses the correct one? Self-determination — encompassing a whole range of solutions ranging from secession to autonomy to unity — has for long been intensely debated in left circles. Yet, even a debate on this question was not tolerated by the ABVP. Against all democratic traditions of JNU, ABVP activists violently attacked participants in a seminar on this question organised in the campus. While AISA activists intervened and put up a stiff resistance even though the seminar was organised by some other organisation, SFI stayed away and instead charged AISA with the same argument that the author offers. Does the defence of freedom of speech, and that too of left and democratic students in the campus, become politically incorrect because it might embolden rightist forces or because one differs over an issue on practical grounds? In any case, isn’t it true that SFI’s stance vis-a-vis Kashmir, Pakistan et al is coterminus with the chauvinist stance of the ruling establishment?

The Goebbelsian propaganda still continues: ‘The successful united student agitation against the murder of Chandrashekhar, former JNUSU president, secured its main demands of arrest of the culprits and institution of CBI inquiry. But the AISA was not prepared to accept this success.’ We did manage partial ‘success’ but not as the author paints it. The demand was to institute a CBI enquiry into the assassination and the attack on JNU students at Bihar Niwas in Delhi. Moreover the enquiry into the Siwan incident was only a promise of a politician. In fact, the enquiry was ordered much later and the actual enquiry began even later. SFI withdrew from the joint struggle front within ten days of the movement after Laloo Yadav gave a verbal assurance through an ‘emissary’ to constitute an inquiry. This was a sufficient measure of ‘success’ for SFI. While we decided not to be fooled by Laloo’s hollow promises and continue with the struggle, SFI charged the AISA-led movement for being sectarian.

The author further says, ‘AISA instead diverted the student agitation into a political movement against the United Front in which ABVP also joined hands. This rigid concept of taking narrow political advantages out of a united movement caused fissures in the movement and only helped to weaken it which otherwise could be sustained as a movement against criminalisation of politics.’ The fact however was that the students’ general body meeting in the campus voted to continue with the struggle defeating the decision of the ABVP-SFI led Union to call off the movement. The movement was further carried on by the coordination committee of the JNU student community.

Throughout the movement SFI’s role has been dubious par excellence. It never agreed to the demand for resignation of Laloo Yadav. Even its ex-leaders and CPI(M) Polit Bureau members, Sitaram Yechuri and Prakash Karat, who are also ex-presidents of JNUSU, never came out with a statement condemning the assassination. After Laloo’s implication in the fodder scam, they somehow found purpose to backtrack and demand Laloo’s resignation.

In the author’s analysis, AISA’s ‘unrealistic political understanding about the United Front’ led to its defeat at the polls. Laloo never fulfilled his promise. The probe into the Bihar Niwas attack by Sadhu Yadav and gang was included into the CBI inquiry only after Gujral was pressurised to do so. Gujral was forced to take this step after ten thousand AISA and RYA activists stormed the streets of Delhi facing brutal police repression in their historic March to Parliament on 29 April.

The United Front or rather JD, never expelled Shahbuddin — the notorious JD (now RJD) MP and an epitome of criminalisation of politics — from the party, nor did they proceed towards terminating his membership of parliament. Just when students were stepping out to launch a powerful movement against criminalisation, SFI withdrew from the movement on probably a more ‘realistic’ understanding of the UF! And lastly to put facts straight, AISA, inspite of not winning any of the 4 JNUSU posts, has recorded an impressive increase in its votes. Incidentally, the votes polled by AISA this year almost equals the votes polled in the earlier election when it had won seats in the JNUSU. This shows that AISA has regained its base not only in terms of votes but also in terms of its character.

In a sense, PD’s article is a confession of the false propaganda against AISA being churned out by SFI’s rumour mill in JNU.

-- Siddartha