Rajesh Chandra Kumar
It is not whether we win or lose. The main thing is that we had to show our presence in the so- called progressive institution of JNU with the slogan of our forefathers –Jai Birsa, Jai Phule and Jai Bhim. This time, the opposition feared BAPSA, and salute to BAPSA for evoking this fear in the opposition. Earlier, there were the slogans of Laal Salam and Jai Shree Ram; but this time, BAPSA came in with Jai Birsa, Jai Phule, Jai Bhim and the slogans of the oppressed communities.
Whenever a candidate from the oppressed stands in the elections, the so-called progressive groups claim that we are playing identity politics, while they are doing a talent show (showcasing those who are supposed to raise their voice ‘for’ the oppressed). It is clear that while they may be raising their voice for the oppressed, they are not okay with giving the leadership to a person from an oppressed community, which shows their casteist mindset (Brahmanvadi and Manuvadi). If Rahul Sonpimple was playing identity politics, then what about the talent that was within him? He is someone who delivered a good speech in the Presidential Debate, has concern for different issues, and stood up for all the oppressed while managing his studies at the same time. I couldn’t understand the logic of the so-called progressives (the Left) and the Saffron Brigade, that says when people from the oppressed stand for elections with the ideology of Mahatma Phule, Birsa, Dr. Ambedkar and other revolutionary leaders, they are playing caste politics. I know that like me, many others from the oppressed have been the victims of caste politics by the opposition, at the time of elections.
Even in the case of a national party like BSP that represents SCs, STs, OBCs and other oppressed communities, the people -especially from the dominant castes- claim that the party belongs only to the Scheduled Castes and brand BSP as a party playing caste politics. This also reminds me of the 2016 elections in TISS, where my so-called friend accused me of playing caste politics to gain votes, since I was from a certain caste. I would like to ask everyone: are you not aware of the caste politics of the Left and Right groups?
If anyone observes, they will see that since the beginning, there has been a domination of dominant castes in the left (CPI) parties as well as the right-wing parties (BJP and other political parties). Even in the JNU elections of 2016, there were candidates from the dominant castes in both Right and Left panels. There may have been some candidates from the oppressed communities among the contestants of the above groups, but we have to understand their ideology -they are no different from Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athawale (RPI), or Udit Raj (BJP). You must have heard of the recent statement by Ramdas Athawale that there should be 25 percent reservations for the dominant castes based on economic condition. He doesn’t even know that reservations were introduced only on the basis of caste not on economic criteria.
Like Rahul, there are many students from the oppressed communities who come to these institutions to study. But they get deeply involved when they realize that unless they fight within the institutions for the oppressed, they would always remain the last ones to obtain a degree and graduate from these premier institutions. So they contest elections to bring all the oppressed section students into these premier institutions. The Vice Presidential candidate of BAPSA in JNU (Bansidhar Deep), comes from Kalahandi district of Odisha, which is regarded as one of the most backward districts of India. Here the question arises as to why they are so interested in entering into politics. I wouldn’t say that they have entered into politics – they do all this because they know better the condition of the oppressed in their areas and want to bring more students from their areas into the premier institutions, so that they can get good education like the others from dominant castes.
The Left tries to appropriate Ambedkar and other Bahujan leaders for votes and this is also done by the Right-wing forces (RSS, BJP, VHP). There was a time when the Left denied caste as being a major problem in India and were only willing to accept class. So what happened now that the Left started giving the slogan of Lal Salam and Jai Bhim? I would say that this Left is nothing but another form of Brahminism. Ultimately, the JNU election battle was between the presidential candidates of BAPSA and AISA-SFI, and the strong opposition given through the presidential battle was a good start from BAPSA – they have not lost the elections but won many hearts at JNU.
“Ours is a battle; not for wealth, nor for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality.” – Dr. B.R Ambedkar
Jai Phule, Jai Sabitri, Jai Birsa, Jai Bhim!
Rajesh Chandra Kumar is doing his Master’s in Social Work at the Centre For Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.