JNUSU PROTEST MARCH: THE EXPECTED CLIMBDOWN – AND IT IS FOR GOOD

It was expected to happen this way and thankfully it did happen this way – the response to the protest march called by the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) – that did not set the news agenda today.

And much of it has to do with the rapid climbdown the ‘Kanhaiya Kumar hopes’ saw – after his bail on March 3.

March 3 and 4 were crucial – for Kanhaiya Kumar to understand and act that he was not a fulltime politician but mere a student activist who had got people’s sympathy and support because people felt he was being wronged, because people felt that he and others in JNU were being victimized.

Newsrooms and the nation saw a surcharged atmosphere even during the breaking developments centred on Umar Khalid and Aniraban Bhattacharya disappearance, reappearance and surrender.

Being students was the significant brand equity every JNU student had when police, politicians and administration started making mess of a university matter. Their activism, ideological affiliation and sense of fighting it out only amplified the appeal. It worked well with the popular sentiment that tends to be with the people who are perceived as being victimized.

Kanhaiya Kumar and other JNU students lost these advantages after Kanhaiya Kumar started doing rounds of personal interviews and started making unnecessary verbal attacks that didn’t spare even the defence establishment including the Indian Army.

When communication goes on mass level, no one sees the intent but the words you ejaculate. The ‘Kanhaiya Kumar fined for obscene behaviour against a woman’ episode further added to it. Then there were additionals like talks of Kanhaiya Kumar slated to campaign for the Left-wing parties in the upcoming assembly polls.

So, a mess that had given a window, an opportunity to revive student politics and activism in India was being reduced to a mere political opportunity that could conveniently be labelled anti-BJP and thus could be dismissed.

Everyone saw through it – including those who had rushed to support JNU students. Certainly there has been a disenchantment and it reflected today when no national news channel made it a point to beam Kanhaiya Kumar and others while they were organizing the protest march.

It was third in a series of solidarity marches to raise voice for democratization of academic institutions in the country and was about JNUSU’s and JNUTA’s demand of releasing Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya. And sane, neutral voices want them released though their judicial custody was extended for another 14 days today. Hope, they get bail tomorrow when their bail plea hearing is expected.

But as the overall issue is important – that how some students of a particular institution were targeted and are still being targeted – beyond what should have been a justified punishment/disciplinary action meted out to them – so was the attention given to the issue today. Almost every news carrier carried the developments on the JNU protest march later in the day – with relevant pointers from Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech today.

Student politics and activism are imperatives for any democratic society but within the confines of academic environment. Yes, universities must be the first places for voices of dissent but it is the responsibility of everyone to keep the culture of debate healthy and democratic. And they must be within the Constitutional norms that run a democracy. You have to practice the fact that only your ideology cannot be sacrosanct – be it Leftist – or the Centrist – or the Rightist.

If you have to get engaged in fulltime activism or politics, pass the confines of the academic institutions first. While still being a student, it is not your job to raise voices, indulge in sloganeering and organize events to rid the country of this or that ideology. Keep your leanings intact for the time when you will be out in the open to take on what you believed was wrong and unjustified when you were building the activist in you during your days in your academic institution.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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NOW, DON’T CARICATURIZE KANHAIYA KUMAR! II KANHAIYA KUMAR, PLEASE DON’T CARICATURIZE YOURSELF!

Now that is exactly what we are witnessing – in increasingly emboldened hues – subaltern is an imperative for an amorphous society that India is – but everyone needs to learn first:

— that no ideology can survive in isolation,
— that no ideology can flourish in autocratic domination,
— that no ideology can propagate itself further if it refuses to engage into healthy dialogue with other ideologies.

Be it the rightist, be it the leftist, or be it the centrist!

No one knew Kanhaiya Kumar outside the JNU precincts before February 9, 2016 and ‘Kanhaiya Kumar of today’ can only be relevant to the nation if he remains ‘a Kanhaiya Kumar’ who is a puritan student of an ideology and not ‘a Kanhaiya Kumar’ who is a mere tool in the hands of the left-wing politicians in the country who are living the last leg of their political life.

And it is unfortunate – because a democracy needs a constellation of differing ideologies and a healthy discourse among them!

Leftism is a logical social-political ideology that would always remain relevant. Left-wing politics has shaped and reshaped many pockets of the world but if it is dying in almost every part of the world today, including in China, it is for its supporters to think why it has come to this. Simply, it didn’t move ahead with times and it didn’t find resolute followers who were puritan in their hearts.

Shouting at BJP or criticising Narendra Modi or sarcastically delivering views and slogans or brazenly disregarding other ideologies will only caricaturize Kanhaiya Kumar and anyone else who has got into the nation’s conscience after the alleged anti-India incident of JNU on February 9 – something that has happened in this whole JNU drama – and something that has intensified after Kanhaiya Kumar was released on bail.

Yes, whatever the administration and police did at JNU was totally unacceptable. There are valid reports of false allegations and doctored videos on which the police based its investigation. We all know the case will never stand in the court. The JNU folks should respect the public sentiment at large that stood with them, that came out in their support, considering that some students were wrongly and harshly targeted, even if they were not on the same page as the ideology of these students was.

That is the discourse India needs – and JNU needs – and Kanhaiya Kumar needs.

Yes, we need leaders. Good leaders are always needed but one needs to qualify for that. The first night Kanhaiya Kumar addressed a huge gathering in JNU can be seen as a natural reaction to the injustice meted out to him. But after that, it has stated sounding hollow – his ‘ideological’ repetitions (without reverberations now) – a protest or the other in JNU every other day – disregarding everything else in India in the name of ‘Brahmanism’ or ‘Manuwad’ – and using ‘complex, tough, pregnant words’ as Kanhaiya Kumar said – words that sound more like rants now.

It is for Kanhaiya Kumar, the student, to ponder over why the left-wing politics is dying in India. If he starts thinking and acting on it as a left-wing politician of the day in India, he is bound to fail. He will be remembered as nothing more than a political caricature then.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

KANHAIYA SPOKE WELL

Irrespective of going into the Qualitatives of Kanhaiya Kumar’s address – that he said was not a speech but accumulative expression of his experiences – after his release from the Tihar Jail today – was really something to listen to.

The man spoke well. He had a flow. And he sounded fearless, objective and bound to an ideology. That is probably the difference age brings – a kind of puritan fearlessness where you don’t really think much of the consequences.

Some years ago, once, I had chance to speak to Dr. Binayak Sen over the phone, after he had got a long fought but ‘temporary’ bail in the sedition case the state had imposed on him along with other serious charges. It was a brief conversation where Dr. Sen sounded very cautious on what to speak and what not to. He was evasive on directly answering most of the questions even during our brief conversation.

Dr. Sen is an inspiration – a great crusader of social rights – and he is still the same Dr. Binayak Sen – that he was – when he had started giving shape to the ‘Mitanin’ programme for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh’s hinterlands.

But when I spoke to Dr. Sen, he was around 60 – with years of incarceration and system’s oppression behind him. He was hounded like a hardened criminal when he had simply done his job – of being a doctor – in places no one else wishes to enter. If it is said that doctors are next only to God, doctors like Binayak Sen give a reason to validate that.

But years of State’s hostility and prison term with ageing turned him into a silent crusader than a vocal activist I can say. Something that is not there in case of Kanhaiya Kumar – the 29 year old JNU Students Union president. He is young. He is armed with an ideology. And he sounded like ready to fight come what may. Yes, the Constitutional sanctity is pristine but every act then is permissible within its norms, irrespective of the ideological affiliations (and difference).

The case against Kanhaiya Kumar was always on a flimsy ground and he should have got bail much earlier. In fact, the whole JNU incident (row) was mishandled. We should wish for more in line developments now onward.

This speech by the fellow, delivered at the prestigious institution a while ago, tells where the system erred. Dissent is a must for democracy. Democracy needs consistent spark at ideological levels. A healthy culture of dissent and debate strengthens the Constitution that runs any democracy. Subaltern history should be as important to us as History is.

Irrespective of the observations like a ‘political leader is born today’ or ‘Kanhaiya is making a career option for him’, we should wish this incident, the whole JNU row, may prove a blessing in disguise for us. It has to be much more than mere a ‘making of breaking of a leader’. It has to be a step ahead in the quest to make a just and responsible society. Let’s not make him a hero or a leader. Let’s not do anything to anyone like Kanhaiya Kumar that could bury the valid hopes anymore.

India has had not meaningful and coherent student moments while even China had one – resulting in one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind – the Tiananmen Massacre – when China’s authoritarian regime had killed hundreds of protesting students (some reports quote even thousands).

We should hope this be the right beginning for student movements in India – for student activism from the petty levels of student politics that is reeling under the corrupt and ruthless vice-chancellors mainstream political concerns. The ground is ripe – after the hugely successful civil society anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the massive protests by outraged students and civil society in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

Technology is a leveller and it is helping us, in our societies – to get connected – to speak out and to reach out. Spiral of silence in our country is peeking now. And in my view, it is the next big leap of social media after the Arab Spring. It is heartening to see the hashtag #KanhaiyaKumar trending at top on Twitter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/