The story of Jitendra Suna, who is contesting as a presidential candidate in the 2019 JNUSU election is an attractive story for the media, particularly since he comes from an 'untouchable' caste — Ganda (Dom) — from Kalahandi in Odisha. He has lived in acute poverty and experienced the untouchability and brutality of caste violence, from his village to university life in JNU. His family, one of landless labourers, had no other way to continue his studies and hence, had to engage with all sorts of marginal work. His story represents millions of Dalit lives in India, but very rarely would a member of the community dare to continue and study in a university like JNU.
Now that we’ve established his background, let's move forward to what Jitendra’s leadership brings to the politics of JNU.
Jitendra's life took a new turn after reading the works of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in Nagaloka, Nagpur in 2012. From here on, Ambedkar became his role model and he developed critical thinking against the perpetuation of injustice entrenched in the lives of Dalits in Indian society. As a Dalit, caste humiliation, hunger and poverty are inescapable. After joining the Master's programme at the Centre for Historical Studies in 2013, he began political activism. Now, he is pursuing a PhD on Ambedkar's historical thought, and has since been active politically, both on campus and outside. Generally, whenever there are atrocities against Dalits, Adivasi, lower castes, Muslims, women, and workers, BAPSA organises protests in Delhi. Jitendra is among those who participates in them regularly and has been detained several times.
As Jitendra has said often in his public speeches, when a poor Dalit gets admission in JNU, he is very easily attracted towards Left politics on campus. It is very easy to tilt toward Marxism. Jitendra is no exception. Marxism is not a bad philosophy for emancipation. In India, those who can best understand Marx will usually be Dalits and the marginalised communities — not the Savarna Left. Ironically, Marx is misunderstood and Ambedkar is ignored by the self-proclaimed Left political organisations in India. JNU is a laboratory of such politics.
Whenever Dalits assert and represent themselves, it is alleged to be "sectarian and identity politics". The Left, as 'Savarna liberators' has self-contracted the problem of oppressed groups to themselves since this university began. Therefore, in the past 40 years, JNU has not produced a single oppressed leader coming from a Dalit, Adivasi or lower caste background. In fact, in JNU, reservation is not being fulfilled, SC/ST students are getting very low marks in their viva even when the Left is dominant at the faculty recruitment level, and several SC, ST, and OBCs candidates are found ineligible, although they meet the eligibility criteria.
In JNU, the social science syllabus ignores Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, and Periyar. Although some teachers have started engaging with the caste question, it is subsumed into class vocabulary. This has been the nature of the Left politics in JNU. Jitendra is a victim of such academia; when he wrote "Babasaheb Ambedkar" in his assignment, the Left liberal Gandhian teacher expressed repulsion. Furthermore, he was not selected by the Centre for Historical Studies for the MPhil programme despite having a good score in the written exam, because he was critical in his articulation.
In the past five years, the emergence of BAPSA is creating a critical consciousness around the anti-caste and social justice discourse on the campus. The slogan of "Jai Bhim" has become a compulsion for Left students' organisations. The appropriation of Ambedkar is at its height. Left organisations are forced to project token Dalit representatives. Dalits who are in these organisations are neither able to question the muteness of Brahmanism within the organisation or among the influential leaders in these circles. The Savarna Left organises Brahmanical festivals on campus by inviting Brahmin pandits while its leadership says nothing. One is left to wonder if these organisations understand the contradiction in their own politics.
Another dubious tendency of the Left on campus is to look at and project BAPSA as a potential threat. For example, earlier the Left parties were fighting JNUSU election separately; now they have come together as the 'united Left'. They have created a Left and Right binary in order to maintain their hegemony, in the Gramscian language. They've created a situation of fear-mongering and confusion by labeling BAPSA as the ABVP's 'B Team'. How did they come to this conclusion? According to them, the chances of BAPSA winning elections are slim, hence, they say that supporting BAPSA would be mileage for the ABVP's right-wing politics.
This illogical statement has been made multiple times by the Left and has been attested publicly by its mentor Dr Ajay Gudavarthy, who is a faculty at the Centre for Political Studies at JNU. The Left has already decided on the political fortunes of BAPSA, while it fails to fight against Hindutva. Yet, it shouts the slogan of "JNU Lal hai, Lal rahega (JNU is Red and it will remain Red)". This is a delusionary totalitarian projection that can be attributed to Joseph Stalin.
As Jitendra very often mentions in his public speeches, Dalits have the organic power to challenge Hindutva and Ram Rajya politics projected by the BJP and ABVP. Since Independence, Dalits have resisted the onslaught of Brahmanism poised to disrupt social justice. Dalits are fighting against Hindutva, whether as part of the Rohith Vemula movement, Una movement or in protecting the SC/ST (Atrocities) Prevention Act or Save the Constitution movement. The Left-liberals on the other hand are upholding religion as a private matter and making a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva, good Hindu and bad Hindu. They think they can win this battle while living under this illusion. This makes it easy for the BJP and RSS.
The Left is a symbol of failure and cannot fight against the Right.
As Vladimir Lenin said, only the proletariat can be the revolutionary vanguard. The case in India is completely opposite. As Ambedkar himself said, Left politics is dominated by a bunch of Brahmins. Either the Left must have a comprehensive understanding of the cultural hegemony of Brahmanism in line with the theory of Antonio Gramsci or ideological state and social apparatus coined by Louis Althusser in the development of Marxism.
The Left has created the binary of class and caste, and that caste is under the carpet of class. In fact, caste is a social political capital to perpetuate Brahminism, which in other words can be termed as "Caste Capitalism". Jitendra is the real proletariat fighting against Brahmanism, class inequality, and gender justice. Only a person who has experienced humiliation and exploitation of caste and class can be a genuine and authentic representative of a movement against a hegemonic State.
The author is a PhD scholar at Centre for Political Studies, JNU, New Delhi
Updated Date: Sep 03, 2019 17:37:03 IST