Dr Manisha Bangar
The election results of HCUSU 2016 have brought glad tidings.
Ambedkar Students Association, whose five member students including Rohith Vemula were suspended and which has been in the forefront of the #JusticeforRohith movement, has emerged as the second single largest students union.
Congratulations go to Prashanth Dontha, Ms Kavya, Sunkanna, Vijay, Munna, and all the members of ASA.
If it was the unwavering initiative of ASA to spread Phuley Ambedkarite ideology in the campus and not play second fiddle to NSUI and ABVP that triggered the series of events from August 2015 to Rohith’s institutional murder to the horrendous police excesses in campus on 22nd March 2016 and the arrest of students and faculty, then this election results instill more fire among all. This is a clear indication that Phuley Ambedkarism is here to stay in HCU which essentially has won the notorious reputation of being a Brahminical den of, be it ‘progressive secular thought’ or ‘obscurantist thought’.
It’s no surprise that the Students Union elections in HCU campus this year have garnered so much attention – not so much due to the predictable victory of SFI led coalition or because Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) emerged as the second single largest union despite contesting the elections on its own without any political backing unlike the SFI, NSUI or the ABVP or because the other lesser known relatively recent Bahujan students unions like the Bahujan Students’ Front (BSF), Tribal Students’ Forum (TSF) and Dalit Students’ Union (DSU) which contested in coalition with SFI and won. Rather, these elections in UoH have gathered attention because of the fact that the ASA’s activism and the students’ agitation that ensued after the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula on 17 th January 2016, and the JAC’s struggle for Justice for Rohith, #savedemocracy and #savefreespeech campaigns – all these have become the face of resistance for the youth of this country.
The HCU campus per se had come into the focus of many national and international bodies, be they from the media, the institutional academia, the university campuses all over the country or the agitating social and political organizations seeking justice for Rohith Vemula in the wake of the series of events which rocked the campus. Ever since the incident of the 3-4 August 2015 protest by ASA and other organizations in support of the screening of the film “Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai” in JNU and the intense suppressive reaction by ABVP which was allowed to go out of control by the VC Appa Rao. This led to interference and misuse of her office by the then HRD minister Smriti Irani who went on record to brand these rational, compassionate voices as “anti-national” and “extremists” equating them with cross-border terrorists.
For more than one year, HCU had witnessed a more explicit ghettoization of Bahujan students, especially the SCs and STs, the unscrupulous repression of any dissenting opinion, expelling of five Bahujan students for no documented crime, and the wrath unleashed on ASA/Bahujan students’ unions for conducting meetings/programs to spread Phuley Shahu Periyar Ambedkar ideology in the campus.
The campus had witnessed the sorrow filled face of Rohith, among the five expelled students, carrying under his arm a large portraits of not his mother but of Bahujan icons Savitribai Phule and Dr Ambedkar, looking for Velivada to spend the dark nights that were to become his lot.
It saw the abetment to suicide of the same incredibly intelligent and compassionate Rohith Vemula, a supernova, a leader in the making, an embodiment of truly enlightened young blood of this country. It saw the police brutalities on students, the arrests of students and faculty, suspensions and unspeakable atrocities which commenced on 22nd March when VC Appa Rao Podile was sent to resume office by the HRD ministry after striking a deal with the State government to repress any resistance with brute force.
The HCU campus saw all of this. The world saw this campus to be no longer a university campus but a fortress where each day new brutalities were enacted by the State.
This is why the HCUSU elections 2016 have attracted unusual attention and will continue to do so.
So, how do we see these happenings?
It’s undoubtedly commendable that ASA did not enter into coalition with communist students’ unions and tested its own strength with encouraging results.
With these results, the following points need to be pondered upon: though ASA’s performance is encouraging in a campus traditionally known to be a foothold of communist students unions, one cannot allow a very important fact from slipping away from our attention. That the ASA could not attract the other Bahujan Organizations (BSF, TSF, Dalit Students’ Union) towards it and they went and joined SFI-AISA, which are nothing but upper varna unions with the SC, ST, OBC and Minority students as followers, attached to communist Brahminical political parties.
Prior to the suspension of students in January 2016 also, the relationship between ASA and other Bahujan students organizations (like the Bahujan Students’ Front, Tribal Students’ Forum, Dalit Students’ Union) have been anything but warm and amicable. If the Rohith Vemula issue did bring them together to stage a combined resistance largely within the ambit of Joint Action Committee of HCU formed after Rohith’s demise; thereafter, rather than transforming this issue based unity into a durable relationship they seem to have parted ways.
Whether it’s the struggle for sharing of posts and positions alone that can be said to be at the root of the matter of this withering away or are these distances due to the distances in their approaches or could it be said that political forces and influences outside the campus acting upon each Union that could be the reason that a formidable unity could not take shape against a formidable opponent, be it the SFI combine or ABVP.
The Muslim Students Union, which has a small presence in HCU and which has mostly worked in tandem with the ASA, was also expected to emerge more clearly with larger participation but seems to have been overshadowed by the other unions. Until now, most of the Muslim students had been the members of SFI or AISA and still continue to be so.
This overall situation calls for some serious brainstorming by the student leaders of all the Bahujan students unions so as to prevent these shallow newly formed (ASA , BSF, TSF DSU are less than 3-4 years old) fissures from running deep eventually, again leaving no choice to each one but to side with SFI or NSUI or ABVP and survive or disappear.
ASA did come in third position for President’s post, but it did languish a lot behind ABVP. Whereas it is good that it did not go with SFI but a coalition with other Bahujans students organizations would have made a real difference to the point of winning. Why this didn’t happen has to be reflected upon.
With Rohith issue not settled at all and with so much of work and mobilization done over the last one year, ABVP should have been totally routed out. But this did not happen is a cause of grave concern as the ABVP can be seen to continue to have its influence of SC, ST, OBC students who swell their numbers.
The ASA and Bahujan Students’ Union need to have a blueprint to counter this if they wish that a tragedy such as Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder does not repeat again.
So therefore as much as this result calls for celebrations, but more than that it calls for more concerted efforts within and outside campus for the Rohith Act.
The task before that lies before us
The JAC which was formed after Rohith’s death and a number of organizations in University campuses across the country took its call. Thereafter, the ASA and JAC have been addressing a spate of meetings especially in Telangana along with social Organizations like Kula Nirmulana Porata Samiti (KNPS) and Mulniwasi Sangh (MS) to mobilize student and mass support to make Rohith Act a reality.
Though the campus is assumed to have returned to normalcy with the accused VC Appa Rao moving around unfazed in Campus presiding over the HCU Convocation on 18 th September and the other accused Sushil Kumar of ABVP Bandaru Dattatreya MP BJP and Ms Smriti Irani roaming scot free and none indicted under SC ST atrocity Act despite Rohit been proven a SC beyond doubt, the task before the ASA is to keep up the momentum and pursue legally the arrest of Appa Rao Podile and others.
And most importantly the demand for Rohith Act which if bought out and enacted would contain punitive provisions to be used against University authorities found guilty of exclusionary practices, must go on unabated.
This would be a real tribute and justice to all the Rohiths and Senthils who have been the worst sufferers of Brahmanvaad on University campuses.
For this a lot of work needs to be done from Phuley Ambedkarite ideology, cadre and political training point of view of students within and outside campus.
The hollowness of Communist parties backed students’ unions like SFI, AISA exposed
It’s a well known fact that for long that that student member base for SFI AISA and other Communist students unions have been the SC ST and OBC and Muslim students . It’s very recently that the Backward community students have started organizing on their own.
In the wake of Rohith Vemula issue the, JAC UoH was formed by coming together of all Organizations except the ABVP. Here too the SFI and ASA lead most of the planning.
However if the Communist comrades were seen giving slogans of Jai Bhim Jai Phuley Jai savitri they were also purporting the coming together for joint action of Bahujans and Communists by their sloganeering of Neela Salaam Lal Salaam. The campus reverberated with these exhortation.
But everything seems to have stopped at that. If the brutal discrimination and suppression of the Bahujans and all democratic voices in the campus has been recognized as the most grave problem needing passionate sincere efforts inside and outside campus then no other Student Organization was better suited to do this than the ASA with the support of other Bahujan Student Organizations in the campus because in SFI AISA office bearers are still the Upper Castes who may not be the right people to carry of this Struggle with same fervour.
This would have meant that SFI and AISA instead of haggling for post of top leadership like President etc should have supported the ASA for same and should have canvassed for them too. But this did not happen. The same was true of JNU elections this year. SFI AISA did not support BAPSA.
Whether it was major protest at the Jantar Mantar on 19th February to protest Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder or the media publicity or the supposed attempt to sabotage the Rohith issue by shifting focus to Kanhaiya Kumar and JNU or these elections – the Communists have called the shots by playing a predictable card that Communist are infamous for – to keep the leadership in their control and to ensure the keadership is strictly from Upper Castes.
They had responded to this quite lamely by getting Mr Prakash Ambedkar to woo the Bahujan students towards communists as seen in the Jantar Mantar rally and Mumbai rally much to the chagrin of Bahujan students’ organizations of UoH as they were not even allowed the rightful space on stage but rather were made to listen to the empty sloganeering and rhetoric of CPI leaders.
In future, they may respond to the mounting pressure by fielding Bahujan candidates for important posts but today they stand exposed that they do not want the Leadership to rest in the hands of the Bahujans in the campus. This Brahminical strategy will only allow the status quo to be maintained and prevent students from rising up their cause to say an emphatic no to all the unspeakable intrigues they face day and day out.
Both in UoH and JNU the placement of leadership and widespread support from SFI, AISA side should have gone to ASA/ BAPSA/other Bahujan organizations, whose members are the worst sufferers of discrimination on campus.
This would have also put the efforts for Rohith Act on the top of the agenda, which may not happen now with the Upper Caste students dominated unions who claim to be working for the proletariat.
Anyway, could anything better have been expected from those who have been trained on the fodder from their top that Dr B.R Ambedkar was a ‘bourgeois’?
Thus it is evident what happened during the Rohith Vemula movement was that the tremendous courage and righteous energy that it generated among the Bahujan students was i) not allowed to be taken to the masses outside the campuses and instead ii) the left successfully managed to hijack the core issue of justice for Rohith Vemula and thousands of other students like him and channelise the Bahujan students’ unrest into its own pet concerns championed by its own decaying Brahmanical ideologues.
ASA should take the lead with other Bahujan students’ organisations in working together towards the need of the hour, which is concerted resistance to hegemonic Brahmanical forces. In today’s context, the consolidation of the energy, intellect and social action of Bahujan youth inside and out of universities so as to march towards making Indian democracy a workable one leading to social emancipation of Bahujans has gained great importance. I would like to say that BAMCEF, Mulniwasi Sangh and Mulniwasi Vidhyarthi Sangh are committed to work in universities among Bahujan faculty and Bahujan students, both within and outside campuses.
It is for Rohith, it is for all that Phuley, Shahu, Periyar and Ambedkar stood for, that BAPSA in JNU and ASA in HCU have struck back with flames of determination. Determination to let these flames rise high and high not to burn, not to consume, but light more fires and spread the light of equality, rationalism, brotherhood and justice. The way the sun lights up the world in the day, the way the moon and the galaxies light up the dark nights. Rohith’s pen had created galaxies and stars for us to see. Now it’s for the Bahujan youth of India to let Rohith’s vision be realized in our beloved country India, and all over the world.
Dr Manisha Bangar is a leading organizer of Mulniwasi Bahujans of India (the Indigenous majority population).
Currently serving as National Vice President of BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation), she is former National Vice President of Mulniwasi Sangh and National President of Mulniwasi Mahila Sangh the mass based offshoot wings of BAMCEF.
A good orator, freelance writer and poetess she has continued to speak for more than a decade at Universities, Civil/Human Rights and Phule Ambedkarite Organizations, both Nationally and Internationally (USA, UK, Europe and Middle East) including the United Nations on issues of Caste, Gender Equality, Health and Education rights, Comparative Religious thought and Phuley Periyaar Ambedkar Ideology.
She is also a super specialised, practising Hepatologist and serves as Associate Professor in Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division of Deccan Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, Telangana, India.