Being a Communist, student leader of the year Kanhaiya Kumar cannot thank his stars; but he should certainly thank the RSS, BJP, ABVP and all spirited Hindu-nationalists working for the government and those on the outside because they have given him a brand-new career. A career in which he can speak from the pulpit asking for “azadi” from all the ills that the country is facing.
Ideally, a nomination from his parent party, the CPI, should follow before the CPM tries to co-opt him.
Twenty plus days in jail over a silly, high adrenaline meeting, that was typical of the Left rhetoric propelled an obscure campus fellow to national stardom. On his return, rich urban kids studying poverty and deprivation in fancy Indian and overseas universities got excited about the fire in his belly and the issues he raised. He wore his poverty on his sleeve and that had a lot of sex appeal when mixed with calculated defiance, particularly on live television. Rich kids on a guilt trip felt sorry.
It was not Kanhaiya Kumar who has made his pre- and post-arrest JNU speeches into national rallying points against Hindutva and fascist forces in India, but the Sangh Parivar itself. Had the ABVP moles inside the campus not made an issue — either as part of a conspiracy or not — this too would have passed. Yet another student protest that begins and ends in the JNU campus would have concluded because this was not the first time they spoke against the State or said things that can be construed as seditious.
In 2010, DSU and AISA had organised a protest-event in the same campus against the “Operation Greenhunt” in Chattisgarh. Reportedly, the participants shouted slogans against the Indian State and hailed Maoism. The Congress’ student union, NSU, alleged that the protestors raised anti-national slogans and celebrated the killing of 76 CRPF personnel by Naxalites. According to media reports, students even clashed over the issue and the then Vice Chancellor slammed the event saying that the organisers hadn’t obtained permission for the meeting. He also said that organising such meetings without permission was a “typical JNU attitude of defying rules just for the sake of it”.
Other than appearing in local newspapers, the event never made into national headlines or reached the Parliament. The Congress-led UPA didn’t care, and ignored it as a campus event. In terms of the “anti-national” tenor, it was probably more explosive, but it ended where it all began because that had been the way of life for a campus such as JNU.
The problem with the Sangh and the BJP is that they are taking the Left politics in JNU too seriously and, like any right wing group, they are too thin-skinned. Being Left is a lifestyle requirement in this unique campus and it will most probably end there. People don’t realise that a large number of students land in JNU to use its libraries, other facilities and a great central place in Delhi to prepare for their civil services exams while a few others would focus on academics that will land them a scholarship in the US or UK. Some of the clever Lefties will go to the New School and change their passports. Some will join NGOs and some, the media. Politics is the last career that they break into.
Many of them will turn out to be losers too, and many others, PIGs (Permanently Illegal Guests).
So, why worry? Just because one Prakash Karat and a Sitaram Yechury made it into the CPM doesn’t mean anything. When was the last time a Left politician emerged from JNU? In fact the BJP should be happy if the CPM attracted more talent from JNU because they will be part of the same club of bourgeois democracy.
For the world outside the campus, the Left politics of JNU should be just a mirage, a passing fad — it’s a predictable activity associated with student idealism, whether you are rich or poor. Most of them grow out of it the moment they get a life. How many people know that DP Tripathi, now with the great Sharad Pawar, was an SFI leader in JNU in the 1970s? And that model Malavika Tiwari too was a “communist”? If JNU was a great cradle of Left politics of any value, how come we don’t have any meaningful Left participation in our democracy? How come the great Left economists that advised West Bengal made a ruinous mess out of the state? How come many of them got mainstreamed easily into our neoliberal economy? And where are the leaders with a JNU tag? In recent years, the only name of significance was Yogendra Yadav, and he is not a Maoist or card carrying comrade.
Let the students waste their time reading Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao and fantasise about an Indian version of proletariat dictatorship. Except for Cuba with a paltry million population (the world doesn't know about the human rights standards though), there’s not a single country where people stood by Marxism-Leninism in the long run. The stories about Latin America are padded up. China is in its present shape only after it abandoned Maoist policies and purged the radicals. In India, it has survived only in a remittance-rich Kerala because it’s more bourgeois than anybody else and it has iPhone wielding party secretaries and sickle wielding cadre.
If only the students realised that the real survival of the Left is possible only in the capitalist countries of Europe because their ideology sounds more like social democracy in which both wealth generation and the welfare state coexist. The large State and the quality of life in Scandinavian countries, for instance, has been achieved not by Leninist or Maoist governments, but by hard work, wealth creation and social democracy. That’s what will last.
At least Chandan Mitra or Swapan Das Gupta should have advised the BJP government to Ignore the JNU and move the plainclothesmen out. They too were communists when they were students in Delhi and probably they too felt that in the campus, it was sexy being a communist.