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A Critique of “Real” and Fear: A Response to UoH SU Election Debates

A Critique of “Real” and Fear: A Response to UoH SU Election Debates

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Prashant Bagde

The recent assertion by BSF on Round Table India published on dated 2 Oct. 2016, regarding the UoH SU elections 2016 seems to be an attempt to claim that they are ‘real’ Ambedkarites. At the same time they are alleging ASA of many things thus intended to say that ASA is not a ‘real’ Ambedkarite organisation. In doing so they have discovered new terms called “congressi-Ambedkarites” and “congress Ambedkarism”. Despite such not so new blame game and lowly political opportunism on the part of BSF, there are three important questions significant to our understanding. These questions are important not exactly to counter the claims made by BSF but to enhance our understanding about Ambedkarian political domain. These questions are: First, what is so called ‘real’ Ambedkarism? What does an adjective ‘real’ suggests when added with the term Ambedkarism? What difference exactly this adjective ‘real’ makes? What are the expected criteria and parameters to qualify the realness of the term ‘real’? Whose intentions and what intentions does the use of the term ‘real’ satisfy within an Ambedkarian political domain? For me, it is the time to interrogate into the claim for the ‘real’. Second, why is it necessary for BSF to make a claim for the real (Ambedkarism)? What makes them claim for the ‘real’ and on what grounds? Third, what do we understand from the term alliance in electoral politics? What is the conceptual meaning of the term alliance in electoral politics? What is the purpose of alliance in democracy? The concept of alliance must be having some purpose in electoral mechanism of a democratic system.

Before going on to interrogate these questions, we must clarify our basic understanding about the concepts of politics, electoral politics and political movement. Conceptually these concepts are different but interrelated to each other. At the same time these concepts are loaded and broad. The word politics seems to be small and we often use it a thousand times in our everyday language in very general sense. However, the conceptual meaning of the term politics is large and loaded. In the democratic system, generally, we need concepts like electoral politics and political movement to constitute our politics. At the same time we are part of different social groups and political organisations. By virtue of the social group and political organisation we participate in the process of electoral politics and political movement. Such participation of social groups and organisations contributes in the constitution of their respective politics. This scope and freedom of the constitution of respective politics, by the social groups and organisations, ensures the functioning of democratic system in democracy. In other words, the participation of social groups in the process of electoral politics and political movement, contributes in the constitution of politics and thus in democracy.

Taking this understanding to the university campus settings Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) learned the importance of socio-political movement and electoral politics in the constitution of Ambedkarite politics. As the history of ASA (since 1993) on UoH campus suggests that ASA is not merely an organisation. Ambedkar Students’ Association, since its inception in 1993, is primarily a struggle and socio-political movement. ASA is a struggle against Brahmanism and capitalism. ASA is anger against oppressor. ASA had emerged as a struggle and movement against brahmanic oppression on the campus. Hitherto, the legacy of ASA is continuing as the world has witnessed it in the recent time. There is no need to say as the world has witnessed that it was particularly an attack on the ASA by Brahmanic elements as soon as it assumed the power in the central government. It was attack on the struggle and socio-political movement initiated by ASA on the campus of University of Hyderabad. What makes the Brahmanic power to attack particularly ASA? This question is important, because, the Brahmanic power had understood ASA as a struggle and movement against the Brahmanism and capitalism. In this sense their targeting particularly ASA appeals to our common sense. For most of the time of its political activism, ASA concentrated on the constitution of struggle and political movement rather than electoral politics. Because of the success of ASA’s struggle and political movement it managed to establish the strong Ambedkarite politics on the UoH campus. However, in this process of establishing Ambedkarite politics, ASA has gained a larger support from all the sections of the campus community. After achieving such large support from all sections ASA has decided to participate in electoral politics to enhance its politics.

It is needless to say that, this struggle and socio-political movement of ASA was not free from internal conflicts and criticism. It is only because of internal conflicts and criticism ASA has become intellectually sound and politically strong. It is obvious that the Dalit politics in its history has evolved out of internal critiques and conflicts. This suggests the democratic spirit of the Ambedkarite politics that it provides the freedom for internal critique and dissent. ASA believes that the vision of Ravidas, Mahatma Phule, Savitribai and Babasaheb Ambedkar can only be achieved by understanding the differences and critique in its principle. Given this, it is required to mention that, ASA’s commitment for Ambedkarite struggle achieved the support from all sections only because of its capacity to understand the differences and critiques.

Having said this, now we should inquire into the questions that we raised above in the first paragraph. Let us interrogate the claim of the ‘real’. What is the ‘real’ Ambedkarism? And who is the ‘real’ Ambedkarite? What is this “real” as BSF has claimed to be. Who will decide who is not ‘real’? Is there any authority to give a certificate of ‘real’ Ambedkarism? In this context, one remembers a sticking and suggestive example. There is a person who worked in BSF for more than five years and he was leading BSF on campus for more than two years. This man used to claim himself to be a ‘real’ Ambedkarite. He used to call others a ‘pseudo’ Ambedkarites and was propagating himself to be a staunch follower of Phule-Ambedkarite ideology (while he was in BSF). It is said that for some reason he has been removed from BSF. Now, BSF is alleging him for being an ‘anti’ Ambedkarite. What does this suggest? Until he was in BSF he was a “real” Ambedkarite. However, after his removal from BSF he has become ‘anti’ Ambedkarite for BSF? Suddenly he has been reduced as the villain and ‘anti’ Ambedkarite by BSF. Now the question to ponder upon, what kind of training in Phule-Ambedkarite ideology BSF is providing. How come suddenly the entire Phule-Ambedkarite consciousness is disappearing in this man? BSF can easily escape by terming him as an individual and throwing the entire blame on his head. However, the question still remains important to our understanding. That is, whether this man was ‘real’ Ambedkarite or not? He was strongly calming himself to be a ‘real’ Ambedkarite. Was his claim valid? Just one year back his claim for ‘real’ was valid and now it has became invalid! Certainly BSF can satisfy itself by calling this man as a failure. Nevertheless, who must take the responsibility for this failure? I would say, we all are responsible for this failure, if it is a failure at all. But, isn’t BSF responsible for the failure of the “real”? How come this “real” is so fragile? I would say, BSF has no answer for this question. Secondly, what makes BSF to always claim for the “real”? Their clinging to the “real” suggests that, BSF not only considers itself to be a smaller organisation but a politically weak group for obvious reasons. This weakness attempts to hide itself behind the mask of the ‘real’ thus in delusion and self deception. However, certainly we believe that BSF has a huge potential to be a strong organisation.

Thirdly, comes the question of alliance and the purpose of alliances in electoral politics. The electoral studies suggest that the concept of alliance is a positive and important development in the multi party democratic system. It enhances the richness and deepness of the democracy for it provides the scope to multiple and different voices to participate in the power sharing process. Nevertheless, it has certain drawbacks and limitations. The major issue with the concept of alliance is the dilemma of alliance. That is, how to find a suitable ally and how to form an alliance without compromising the politics of the group. Without going into a theoretical understanding, we can propose a general understanding of the concept of alliance. In general, it is a political arrangement or agreement on certain terms and conditions between two or more than two groups to gain political office/power. An agreement of alliance can also be made between groups to oppose the ruling power. Most of the time alliance is a contextual. Sometimes a political context creates a demand for the alliance on the part of the ruled one. In such arrangements it is very difficult to prove which group is compromising its politics and ideology. Similarly. it is also difficult to prove how the politics of a group in the question has been compromised. The spirit of alliance is not negative in democratic polity, rather it is positive. Then the question comes, what decides the compromising of ideology and politics of the group? It is nothing but fraud transactions and narrow-individualistic interests for a pragmatic and material gain, of the few at the cost of large sections, which decides the compromising of ideology and politics of the group.

It is from 2012 to 2015 ASA had alliance with NSUI for electoral purpose. Nevertheless, the struggle and political movement by ASA and Ambedkarite assertion of ASA on campus never got declined. Rather Ambedkarite movement and struggle of ASA increased on the campus. This is why, only ASA was targeted by the BJP government and not BSF or NSUI. Having alliance for electoral purpose doesn’t prove that ASA has compromised its politics and ideology. Compromising the Ambedkarite politics and ideology by ASA would have helped the BJP government in general and ABVP in particular. There is no way to understand why BSF, despite being Ambedkarites, falls in a trap of creating rhetorical terms like, pseudo-Ambedkarism, real-Ambedkarism and now congessi-Ambedkarism? Aren’t they diluting the concept of Ambedkarism itself? How much does the creation of such rhetoric help them? In what sense such rhetoric is helping them? Is it really helping them in the principles of Ambedkarism? Or rather, it is making them weak and helpless?

These are not the questions merely for BSF to think over. These are equally relevant for ASA as well. How much the creation of useless rhetoric helps us to practice and propagate the Phule-Ambedkarian Politics? Is there a necessity to enhance our capacity to understand and accommodate the critique and differences in order to evolve the Phule-Ambedkarian politics to its highest level? ASA believes that Phule-Ambedkarian emancipatory project is not for creating useless rhetoric but for creating emancipatory thought and ideas and theorising and uniting oppressed experiences.

Some left-liberal thinkers on campus seem to be very disturbed by the failure of so called ‘Grand Alliance’ (supposed alliance of all groups and organisation against ABVP in this SU election). They are still trying to seek the reasons of this failure. However, it seems like no valid reasons would come to satisfy their disturbed state of mind. Hence, desired satisfaction is sought in advising all the organisations for taking responsibility of the “non-alliance” in the form of necessary introspection. I certainly have a different point, regarding the disturbance of, the failure of an imagined ‘Grand Alliance’. It seems that the idea of grand alliance is necessarily coming out off the fear of ABVP (generally the fear of BJP). It was assumed that ABVP has become strong. It may be true. Nevertheless, people united against ABVP and ensured its defeat, though by less margin.

I wonder why the fear of ABVP and BJP in general is so hounding to our minds. For me the question of fear of ABVP and BJP is more important that the question of “non-alliance” which is imperative to our consideration. I would ask why this fear of BJP is capturing our minds and even orienting our intellectual capacities. This suggests me to generalise that the Indian mind has been constituted in fear. This legacy of fear is continuing since long time and we are enhancing it every day by propagating it. Now we are trained enough to justify the fear of BJP on rational grounds, by our intellectual capacities, from our respective ideological positions. It is not new to my surprise that the fear of BJP is mostly circulated by left (SFI), left-liberal and left (ML/Liberation) groups on the campus since BJP came to power. I hope the readers will not misunderstand my point about BJP. There is a qualitative difference in being servile to BJP’s power and not fearing the BJP’s power. I remember, in the last year during UoH SU’s elections of 2015, the circulation of fear of BJP was at its highest peak.

Eventually, SFI alliances achieved the success of fear circulation and won the students’ union’s election. However, there were no much pre and post election discussions about the idea of alliances between ASA and SFI, as compared to this year’s discussions. Though the fear of BJP in general (ABVP in particular) was successfully inculcated into the psyche of campus community by all the left derivative factions. The aftermath of election was horrible as BJP started wielding its power play. It is evident, however, that the BJP particularly targeted Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) and not the SFI alliances or Students’ Union. I would argue, one of the reasons for targeting ASA is the refusal of ASA for succumbing to the fear of BJP’s power. What more success BJP and RSS can enjoy rather than the dissenting groups (the ‘other’) being captured by the fear of its power? It is the political interest of BJP and RSS to reconstruct and maintain the fear into the psyche of the ‘other’ by any means. I would argue, however, all the left (SFI, left-liberals and left-ML etc.) organisations are doing exactly what the BJP and RSS want, but with a different spirit. They are reconstructing and maintaining the fear of BJP. This is exactly what the BJP wants. I am not saying that these left organisations are doing so for different reasons. They might be doing it for the same reasons as of the BJP and RSS. In my opinion, just their external outlook is different. And exactly here the Indian left contradicts. Further, I would argue that, it is against the nature (in principle) of left parties to carry the fear of right wing. The Indian left is essentially meaningless if it bears the fear of BJP and RSS. I am aware that, there is a qualitative difference between the fear and the concern. There is no wrong in bearing the concern of politically opponent like BJP and RSS. This is how the politics must go by taking the concern of the activities of politically opponents and responding them in proper manner, which is suggested by the context.

This year, the pre-election context was in one sense the repetition of the last year, as much as the fear of BJP is concerned. But, this time the circulation of fear of BJP and ABVP has the concrete reasons from last year’s experience. And these reasons gave birth to an idea of ‘Grand Alliance’. This idea of grand alliance mainly imagined an alliance between major groups like ASA and SFI and all other organisations by keeping their differences aside. However, it couldn’t be realised for some reasons. Majorly because, ASA decided to stand alone in order to preserve its self-respect and fearless attitude. I am not denying the other pragmatic reasons for the failure of grand alliance. As I mentioned before, alliances are formed on certain terms and conditions which should be agreed by the parties of alliances. And every party to the alliance doesn’t want to compromise their primary interests. These interests can be moral, political and material. It is in the interest of ASA (morally and politically) to stand fearless for its self-respect. No matter they had to stand alone since the very concept of alliance is contextual and conditional. The terms and conditions of alliance are useless if they are detrimental to the moral and political interest which serves the idea of self-respect for a group. It is against the self-respect of Ambedkarite movement to borrow the leadership for the movement. The principle of Ambedkarite politics suggests the cultivation of fearlessness and self-respect. Given this, in my opinion, it is not necessary for ASA to go in alliance with SFI only because of the fear of BJP.

I have clearly mentioned before that the concept of electoral politics is different than the political movement and the concept of politics. Electoral politics can be a means to drive the political movement and politics in general but cannot be an end in itself. If ASA is confident to carry forward its political movement without electoral gain (which is driven by fear), then there is no need for alliance with SFI and thus succumbing to the fear of BJP. Finally, an important question still remains, that is the formation of UDA (United Democratic Alliance). UDA is a concept of uniting all the organizations except SFI and ABVP. As the history of campus politics suggests that the formation of UDA has always been the highly negotiating process and thus sensitive and complex. By considering the complexity and sensitivity of this issue, I feel that, here ASA alone cannot do proper justice with this topic of the failure of formation of UDA.

ASA, however, is always open to all groups including SFI for joining and contributing in Ambedkarite politics and movement. The joining and contributing into an emancipatory politics doesn’t require the need of alliance but the mutual understanding of ideas, thought and most importantly differences. This is exactly the point which BSF failed to understand. BSF in its remark about the collaborative efforts and collective participation of ASA, SIO and MSF used the term “opaque alliance”. They are wrong if they have understood it as an alliance. Rather such collective participation of ASA, SIO and MSF is aimed at reconstructing the idea of Bahujan. In the concluding remark I would like to ask BSF, how come the idea of Bahujan would be realized without the collective participation of Muslims? BSF (in the arrogance of power sharing with SFI) seems to have completely lost Kanshiram’s idea of Bahujan. I regret to point this out. Does the idea of Bahujan inherently exclusive of Muslims? On what ground BSF is asking Muslim organizations to have a separate identity in electoral politics (I thank Muhammed Ali for sharing this point). It is their freedom to decide how they want to participate in electoral politics. It is not BSF’s business to orient them regarding their electoral participation. It seems to me that BSF needs to enhance its conceptual understanding about the concept of Bahujan and Kanshiram’s use of it in electoral politics and socio-political movement.



Prashant Bagde is a Ph.D student of Political Science in University of Hyderabad.