“The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves” Marx wrote in 1864 as the first principle of the self-emancipation of the proletariat. He was convinced, however, Indian upper caste Marxists are still not. When Ambedkar pushed for the Poona Pact in 1932, demanding separate electorates for untouchables, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, one of the founding leaders of the Communist Party of India stood against Ambedkar and wrote: “This was a great blow to the freedom movement. For this led to the diversion of people’s attention from the objective of full independence to the mundane cause of the upliftment of the Harijans.” He suffered from the same upper caste anxiety as other upper castes in different ideological groups were victim of.
In March 1952, the CPI (Communist Party of India) Central Committee directed the resolution against Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation and called Ambedkar a pro-imperialist and opportunist leader. They were frightened by the independent –autonomous assertion and struggle of Dalits. In 1952 in the first general elections, Shripad Amrit Dange (CPI founding member) campaigned against Ambedkar and said “spoil your votes but don’t vote Dr. Ambedkar”. Upper caste communists and their hatred against Dalit–Bahujan and their movement might sound little polite in comparison to the conservative forces like RSS & VHP but their acts were not. They too have a history of brutality against Dalits.
It was in 1977 that thousands of Dalit refugees from East Bengal in the search of survival settled down in Marichjhapi in the barren area of Sundarbans. They transformed the non-farming land into productive land and developed their own self-sustained economy. However, such self-sufficiency of Dalits couldn’t grow in the eyes of the upper castes and under the leadership of Mr. Jyoti Basu, who was then chief minister of West Bengal, Dalits were forced to evacuate the Marichjhapi area and 36 dalits were killed in police firing ordered by the government.
The killings of women, children and farmers by left government in Singur and Nandigram is quite known to all of us. Moreover, the Communist Party and its students’ front SFI still either justifies or avoids the questions on their brutal violent past. In the present JNUSU election, SFI in under the banner of left unity has posed a Bhadralok-Brahmin women candidate as their president candidate. and her organization, SFI, seems to have a sense of pride as they think their woman candidature falls in the political correctness of gender politics. However, they appear immune to all the caste and gender related violence questions in which CPM-SFI have been involved.
One such case is about Chitralekha- a Dalit woman autorickshaw driver whose life is in constant threat from last 15 years ever since she began to drive an autorickshaw for survival of her family. Trade Union (CITU), a wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) beat up Chitralekha and her husband many times, and in 2010 their daughter was attacked as well when she was just 10 years old and her house has been vandalized many times by CITU and CPM workers. However, violence against Chitralekha and violence against her daughter and family neither became the part of gender issue in the contemporary mainstream feminist movement nor did the JNU left find it important to talk about. May be this is how they function – sticking together to maintain hegemony and space.
SFI which is known for its urban-upper caste composition and Islamophobic attitude. In this JNUSU election in the name of woman candidature, it is trying to undo its violent past against Dalits and other marginalized. BAPSA on the other hand, with its Presidential candidate Jitendra Suna is trying to break the conventionality of caste and class in JNU campus. Jitendra Suna who worked as a helper at a gas firm and farm laborer back in Kalahandi, Odisha, brings forth the reality of Indian left which has been sustaining itself on the labor of Dalit, Adivasi, OBC and Pasmanda Muslim sectionions, and yet is controlled and dominated by upper caste Hindus.
Rahul Sonpimple is a research student at JNU and a leader of BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association).