Why I Think The Rise of BAPSA Is Not A Good Sign For JNU Politics

Posted by Mayank Mishra
September 21, 2017


Like last year, this year’s JNUSU (JNU Students Union) election saw the ‘Left Unity’ sweep over all the four central panel posts but simultaneously witnessed a paradigm shift in terms of vote share. Empirically ABVP stood second, apparently emerging as the single largest party in the varsity with neck-to-neck competition from the BAPSA, which came third. The dramatic rise of BAPSA (formed in 2014), in terms of vote shares in the campus, as a force to reckon with is interesting. The party claims to work on the lines and ideologies of B. R. Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule and various other leaders coming from marginalized sections. But predominantly it invokes the ideals of B. R. Ambedkar. The BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association) is the only prominent student organisation in JNU that does not have any parent organisation, unlike ABVP, AISA, AISF, SFI or NSUI.

A Bit Of Ambedkar For Everyone

BAPSA’s Facebook page succinctly asserts that the party is an “Ambedkarite students organisation guided by the revolutionary thought of Birsa, Phule and Ambedkar.” They claim to fight for the oppressed, but to what extent they are true to their ideological credentials was revealed during this year’s JNUSU elections (2017-18). The beauty of ‘Ambedkarite’ thought in toto is that every party appropriates it, whether it is the left (like AISA) or the right (like ABVP) or centrist parties like NSUI. The appropriation of Ambedkar has been either out of compulsion or fear, or because of sheer admiration for him. BAPSA, however, has been a frontrunner in owning Ambedkar primarily because of his identity.

The problem is that all these parties are not propagating the comprehensive thought process of a genius like Ambedkar, but rather sheepishly cherry picking the lines and paragraphs that apparently further their political agendas. Coming back to the BAPSA, the way they have been carrying themselves on the campus has been controversial. They get into arguments on the slightest pretext and are irascible. They raucously tag anyone and everyone ‘Brahminical’ as per their sheer convenience (they allegedly called an election committee member ‘Brahminical’ for which they subsequently rendered a written apology). Rationally speaking it is easier to take radical and polemical positions if one keeps invoking their lack of privilege as a premise that is consequentially justifiable. The point of contention is to what extent that serves a purpose in annihilating a regressive, unscientific and imbecilic social structure like caste.

Why was there need of separate Dalit organization? BAPSA argues that the left does not give enough representation to Dalits and ergo structurally the left in JNU is a Brahmanical force. Hence they are detrimental to the cause of upliftment of the marginalised. Contrarywise, ABVP gives representation to Dalits (does that mean they are really up for the cause of the oppressed? No) – to which a BAPSA member would retort that it does not serve any purpose either, as ABVP is a Brahmanical force – which ultimately makes BAPSA the sole harbinger for Dalits.

A Problematic Alliance

Lately, JNU politics has witnessed a fascination towards the banausic vote bank politics (myriad left parties consolidating under a brolly of ‘left unity’ serves as an ideal testimony). Following the same dictum BAPSA also aligned with organisations like SIO (Student Islamic Organisation) and its true-blue comrade YFDA (Youth Forum for Discussions and Welfare Activities), which claims to be a non-political organisation (but isn’t, really). The YFDA seems quite liberal and emancipatory in its credentials, but it serves as an ineffective liberal camouflage for a credible number of SIO sympathisers.

As far as SIO is concerned, it is a student organisation whose parent party is the radical Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. To start with, Article 3 of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s constitution says “The basic creed of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is “La Ilaha Illallahu Muhammadur Rasulullah,i.e., the Divine Being is solely Allah, there being no god except Him, and that Muhammad …is Allah’s messenger.” Further, the constitution explicitly states that a man “should accept in the spheres of moral behaviour and conduct in social and civic spheres, in economics and politics… in every sphere of life — only Allah’s guidance as ‘the Guidance’ and acknowledge only that code as ‘The Code’ which is laid down by Allah …should reject all that which goes against His Shariat (Law)” and further focuses on spreading Islam and its ideas prima facie. Every member is required to discharge their obligations as per the Shariat Law. Furthermore, SIO touches a new nadir by prohibiting women to have membership in the organisation. So the ‘prophecy’ of a fight for emancipation comes under the scanner when BAPSA aligns with a party which is overtly gender-insensitive, irrational, and ostensibly propagates Shariat law. BAPSA sees a concatenation with respect to right and left wing politics encouraging them to give a call of ‘laal-bhagwa ek hai’ which is apparently an ideal example of an antinome. Rather, the call of ‘neela-haraa ek hai’ seems to be a more appropriate correlation.

Are They True To Their Cause?

Ambedkar was spot on in exposing the regressive elements in Hinduism, and these encouraged him to convert to Buddhism. His critiques of Hinduism are well known. However, BAPSA cleverly evades the interrogation wherein Ambedkar categorically explained why did he didn’t convert to Islam. He dedicates fourteen chapters broadly on Islam (Abrahamic religions) in his oeuvre ‘Pakistan Or The Partition Of India’, a collection of his writings and speeches, first published in 1940; but none find even a petite mention in the parchas of BAPSA. This selective silence on the Babasaheb’s idea exposes their hypocrisy to the claim of their politics of the oppressed. Despite their alleged thought process being on the lines of Ambedkar et al, the fact that what they preach is antithetical to what they practice invites many questions about the politics they claim to do. BAPSA’s clandestine politics for the oppressed is premised on the perpetual sustenance of caste and not its annihilation.

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