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Drama of Elections in UoH: Reflections on Student Politics

Drama of Elections in UoH: Reflections on Student Politics



Jadumani Mahanand

jadumanillionThe philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it ~ Karl Marx.

Aristotle says ‘man is by nature a social and political animal’, which means one cannot live without these two kinds of institutions. That is to say, if an individual wants to live apart from politics and society still then, she cannot. In other words, an individual’s life is deeply associated with and embedded in society and politics. In fact the existence of society depends on deep interconnections of the past with the present; more importantly, the future is determined by present social practice, and present social practice determines where the future leads. If the future is to be based on an ideal vision one has to engage with realities to transform or change. However, even if the ideal vision is good, but the process and the methodology do not address the real which is based on empirical facts, the vision would be fruitless. In fact the politics of change becomes the politics of preservation then.

However, the politics of preservation – of self, and one’s place in society – is deeply embedded with a normative imagination of politics. And the respective ideologies are foregrounded by this very understanding of politics. Most of the time, the ideology decides who is what, and what is going to be happen, at the national or local level, but the local realities also play a part. But in a university like University of Hyderabad (UoH), only ideology plays a very crucial role in winning elections. That is an ideology which is abstract in nature, and does not talk about the real. And the ideology which deals with the real is a false real, a selfish real. Theese views are written in the campus politics of UoH.

The students’ union election of UoH is synonymous with national elections in the country. The very idea of elections and politics has a deep connection with parties, their ideologies and activities, which determine who gets to rule the state. But the story in UoH is very peculiar with regard to activities of different organizations. In UoH students’ union politics is primarily based on ideologies, not on just simple activities. Generally, citizens support those political parties which practically involve themselves in the problems of a particular constituency, but the situation in UoH is quite the opposite. There are student organizations on the campus that have nothing to do with students problems, ‘but are elected and get enough votes (ABVP). The following story is very interesting, not usually seen in students’ politics: it is about some students organizations distributing attractive gifts to garner more votes. This case became an ideological fight between two organizations, UDA and SFI.

It is evident that, no print or electronic media channel supports the Dalits’ cause or perspective; they don’t even hire smart Dalits to do that job. That is the reason there is no favorable news that understands and reports Dalits problems. In fact there are very few Dalit journalists in the country. Coming back to the UoH drama, during the recent election, the Times of India published a report that all the major students’ organizations like SFI, ABVP, NSUI distributed “Biryani and Beer” in their election campaign.

Friends from SFI got charged and unnecessarily challenged UDA, whereas the news was published by the Brahminical media, which has nothing to do with ‘Dalit politics and emancipation’. To make it very clear, this news has not even helped UDA to win, because the students of the University supported their respective political ideologies. It is well known that this is not the only year when “Beer and Briyani” were used in election campaigns; there is a long history in UoH campus of different kinds of allurements being distributed for electoral gains.

What is the UDA, one could ask. It is a ‘united democratic alliance’: a combination of all Dalit-Bahujans, Tribals and Minorities (ASA, BSF, MSF, TSF, and TSA). For the first time in the history of UoH politics, these voices have come together to fight against Brahminical hegemony. This is not merely an alliance but more than that – it is a vision towards democratization and egalitarianism. The campus has witnessed that, in the last four years, the SFI and the earlier ABVP have produced a culture of Brahminism in terms of their activism. Both the organizations have directly involved themselves in promoting Brahminical rituals on the campus. To put it differently, they never talk about caste discrimination, reservation, filling of seats/ reservation seats. How long can the marginalized students tolerate this deliberate inaction? This is the cause and main reason for the formation of UDA. Though UDA got only one seat, of the Vice-president, but its vote bank has increased up to a competitive level. This alliance raises hopes of a positive future for UoH! 

If, UDA supports the Times of India report, why is that a problem for SFI?! Everyone has a right to support the report or disagree. Once again I would like to clarify my view: no national media supports the Dalits’ cause and perspective. And this news report did not support UDA but tried to bring out the hidden secret, which is not visible to the general public. Hence, the question arises, how did the secret become public? Here my intention is not to criticize the SFI, so-called progressive students’ organization, and other radical forces, but to bring to your notice how Dalits-Bahujans, minorities and tribals are being used in the name of progressive politics. These marginalized groups are like tools and instruments that will be used and thrown out in leftist politics. Very particularly, the SFI, in order to secure its own benefit, very cunningly spread false rumors among the Dalit-Bahujan groups in the campus in order to split them. This has happened and there is no second view on that. This is not blame a particular organization, but one cannot sideline this aspect. The SFI, very surprisingly, raised a caste question asking: how can a Brahmin contest for the president’s post from the UDA panel? It was a deliberate plan to create a split and conflict among the groups forming the alliance. As a consequence, the marginalized groups fought amongst themselves.

When all things go well, no Brahminical organizations or parties raise such questions, but when some questions are raised against them bringing out the hidden agenda, then the trouble starts. One can seriously interrogate communist politics in the campus, how they resort to cunning in order to win students’ election on the campus. I would say in the name of the ‘poor’, the upper caste/class elites create the fantasy of doing philanthropical charity. There is a saying going around the campus that it is not the Students’  Federation of India, but the Saffron Federation of India, which means it is equal to ABVP. One should not be confused: SFI supports all the Brahminical activities on the campus, starting from Ganesh Puja, Durga Puja to Saraswati Puja and all the Brahminical rituals. To them, they are secular practices. Nevertheless, the SFI has been in power on the campus for the last four years.

The recent drama during during the meeting for dissolving the previous SU, i.e., the students’ union autocratically elected one of their own as election commissioner though they, the SFI, constituted only a pathetic minority, in terms of numbers. My point is not to criticize SFI politics, but to present a real picture which is practically acceptable. One needs to ask them, how and what kind of change do you want see in society. It seems to be vision-less and autocratic. In other words, Marxism is not a bad philosophy but Indian leftists apply ‘Marxism without Marx’!

Coming to my first proposition, the politics of preservation has its own meaning, from a certain perspective. But in this context, preservation seems to mean preservation of one’s own ideology and party. It is a preservation of domination and hegemonic culture. It is preservation for self-defense. In the distant past, when society was undemocratic and people were uneducated, the wars and conflicts were uncontrollable. So individuals and society searched for ways to defend themselves against such catastrophic events. But today, in this context, political organizations seek to ensure that society preserve their private interests without examining what is good or bad. The method used by them is not suitable. The examples I have given show that how one could use fraudulent and exploitative means in order to gain power. To conclude, I would say, the Indian Marxists talk about change but keep away from reality; reality to them is preservation of ideology by any means; an ideology which has nothing to do with change. This politics is not to liberate the whole society from an oppressive system. In other words it strengthens the existing system to continue the brahminical mind set.



Jadumani Mahanand is doing Ph.D at the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, University of Hyderabad.


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