Why I Think JNU’s ‘Left’ Is Tearing Itself Apart

Posted by Mayank Mishra in Campus Politics, Campus Watch, Politics
September 3, 2017

JNU is undoubtedly one of the best universities in the country, validated by the ranking of the government itself. The culture of debate, which has an enduring philosophical value, is what makes JNU an island in itself amidst the hustle and bustle of the country’s capital. But outside the walls of this closed campus, there is an open opinion amongst the vox populi that the varsity is a hub of anti-nationals, drug-addicts, etc, and is a highly political campus. For me, it has been almost two years in the campus witnessing its dynamic environment and also observing the dominant left organisations from close quarters. However, are they really ‘left’ in principle?

A Politics Of Mere Numbers?

The left usually laments the country’s political scenario, calling out the centre and state elections as mere politics of gaining maximum numbers, where the end is just to secure a win. The approaching student unions, however, have themselves been reduced to a game of numbers as is a trend in the politics of this country. When the elections are quantified, it fails to call for qualitative changes, meaning that instead of being true to one’s ideology or principles, the so called ‘progressives’ have turned themselves into a class of ‘apologists’. This article will restrict itself to two aspects – religion and state – and the paradoxical stand of JNU’s left.

‘Left Unity’ Amidst Fundamental Differences  

The JNUSU (JNU Students Union) is round the corner. There are a number of parties contesting against one another, primarily including ABVP (BJP’s student wing), BAPSA (a Dalit organisation), AISF (student wing of CPI), NSUI (Congress’ student wing), and the much touted ‘Left Unity’ – an alliance between three left parties, namely AISA, SFI (Student Federation of India), and DSF (Democratic Students Front). These parties, despite fundamental differences, have delved into ‘brotherhood’. But voices inside the left unity as well were apprehensive of this ‘unholy alliance’. Why? Precisely because of the fundamental differences amongst the trio. AISA has a succinct stand on Kashmir, where one can easily find their activists not settling for anything less than ‘Kashmir ki Azadi ko laal salaam (red salute to Kashmir’s independence)’ and claiming that it is illegally occupied by India. On the other hand, SFI seeks for a constitutional solution to the Kashmir issue. SFI clearly detests Naxalbari, whereas the AISA is fundamentally premised on the Naxalbari movement. The DSF is the most gender sensitive party in JNU, that stands in contrast to parties like AISA. The call of unity is given on the pretext of ‘social justice’ that seems to be rather selective.

‘Class’ And ‘Identity’: A Marriage Of Convenience 

Marxism germinated during the later half of the 18th century, as a consequence of the adverse impact of the industrial revolution in Europe. The working class worked unabated for long hours, petty wages with no social security, in conditions that were dehumanising. The concept of class is Marxist in nature with the economy as its constituent element, that is divided into between those who control production (haves) and those who produce the goods or services and are not in control or own the mode of production (have-nots) in society. Now the left in JNU has altered this discourse where instead of ‘class’, ‘identity’ has started playing a role in the vote bank politics. Marxism should oppose identity politics because it serves the material interest of the bourgeoisie since it is divisive and breaks the unity of the proletariat (working class). In positioning the politics of identity and class as mutually exclusive, the left has commenced using the card of identity in a highly dogmatic way. Identity here, in this case, becomes a political tool to serve one’s own ends. Why is it a game of mere identity politics and not a ‘class war’?

This hypocritical stands taken by the left parties banks on appeasing minorities to garner greater support. For instance, the presidential candidate of left unity ostensibly rationalised instant triple-talaq by setting up a binary, asserting that a Hindu women run from court to court to get a divorce. Marx popularly regarded religion as “opium of masses”. Interestingly, the deafening silence of the left in JNU, especially with reference to atheism (or to reject the institution of religion altogether), exposes the hypocrisy of those who claim to be the true flag bearer of the left. The candidates for this election are the culmination of social engineering. Their credentials as leaders take a back seat (or it seems there is no leader left now on the left). The identity of the candidates takes a forefront and becomes a decisive factor amongst the parties, where each and every party competes to ensure that their panel of candidates offers a holistic ‘bouquet of identities’ which may include a Dalit, an OBC, an SC/ST, a minority, a so called ‘upper caste’ to attract voters from respective backgrounds and maximise their chance to win. Marx must certainly not have dreamt of such a revolution!

What Does The Student Union Stand For?

JNUSU is, first and foremost, a student body meant primarily for the welfare of the student in the campus. The union should definitely be acknowledged and praised for the struggle and achievements it has undergone in the larger political, social and economic discourse in both the national and international arenas. However, that cannot be justification for a complete negation of basic student welfare. Not a single ‘parcha’ from any of the parties calls for ameliorating the dilapidated infrastructure of the campus, sanitation facilities of the hostels, regularisation, and increment in scholarships or student exchanges.

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.