Aysha Renna: Protest against Casteism and Islamophobia must continue

Aysha Renna

The text of Jamia Millia Islamia student leader and anti-CAA activist Aysha Renna’s speech at the Elgar Parishad 2021 on January 30.

Revolutionary salutations to the organizers of this great event here.

I salute the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for our dignified existence.

I salute our activists who are imprisoned under draconian laws.

Neelsalam Assalam Intifada Inqilab….

Dear brothers and sisters in the fight against Brahminic fascism,

I am standing here among you with immense pleasure and gratitude. I salute the courageous resistance of our Dalit Bahujan brothers against the Casteist Peshwas two hundred years ago. With those everlasting memories lying down here, we have gathered here to commemorate the struggle and sacrifice of our dear brother Rohit Vemula, who inspires us in this survival struggle against all forms of hegemony of discrimination. As this conference hopes to serve as a platform to forge eventual alliances over common grounds against the neo-peshwai Brahminical Hindutva fascism and corporate capitalism, I would like to reiterate the significance of solidarity among the oppressed communities and classes in the current Indian political landscape. Our united struggle must hit the citadels of power with all vibrancy and vigor.

The institutional murder of Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad and the enforced disappearance of Najeeb Ahmad in Jawaharlal Nehru University reveal that agents of Brahmanical fascism in universities have selected students from marginalized communities as their targets. Rohith Vemula’s humiliation and the Sangh violence against Najeeb should remind us that there are entrenched histories of casteism and Islamophobia even in premier universities. These histories of subjugating students hailing from deprived backgrounds include systematically discriminating against them at the time of entering university, alienating them within the university, or even erasing their existence itself, as is the case of Najeeb Ahmad.

While the institutional murder of Rohith is intended to intimidate Dalit students into silence and acceptance of Brahmanical dominance in universities, the enforced disappearance of Najeeb is intended to prevent Muslim students from aspiring to study in universities like JNU. Both Radhika Vemula and Fatima Nafees have to face the double trauma, of witnessing the death and disappearance of Rohith and Najeeb while also negotiating for justice with the same state which unleashed violence on them. The legacies of Rohith and Najeeb, carried out by their mothers and the Bahujan students in the campuses as well as streets have shown us the path of education, organization, and agitation for a dignified life and existence. It is evident in a matter of fact that the potential mobilizations of Bahujan students in the premiere universities have made a significant impact on the existing Casteist and Islamophobic structures and narratives.

As we are witnessing a farmers’ protest against the controversial agri laws, India has seen a historic struggle against the discriminatory and repressive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) since its resolution was proposed in December 2019. Citizenship debates in India have been evolved with tremendous impacts on the lives of millions of people often targeted through various agendas of the proposed NRC and NPR. With the enactment of the CAA in both the houses of parliament, the struggle found new avenues of protest spanning through rallies, sit-ins, road blockades, and hartals.

These Anti-CAA, NPR, and NRC protests were widely appreciated due to its democratic and inclusive nature and most importantly its sustenance spirit during the peak of maligned hate campaigns by the state machinaries and Sangh Parivar propagandists. While the initial struggles were coordinated by the students, the violent suppression over those peaceful protests led to the emergence of more sustainable protest sites modeled upon ‘Shaheen Bagh’ across India under the leadership of Muslim women, student activists, journalists and socio-political groups.

Speakers at  at the 2021 Elgar Parishad in Pune on January 30.

The governments in the Centre and the States have been targeting the activists involved in the anti-CAA, NPR and NRC protests with unjust arrests and detentions. Students of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia faced much brutal suppression from the state machineries since the protest started on 13 December 2019. The peaceful protest sites and marches to the parliament were sabotaged by both the police and Sangh Parivar criminals with hate propaganda and arrests. During the peak of struggle, the Sangh Parivar unleashed a violent anti-Muslim pogrom in North-East Delhi murdering more than 40 Muslims in order to destabilize the protest sites.

The state has been using arrests and illegal detentions of leaders to frighten the common mass about the consequences of dissent. A series of arrests are going on across the country even during the emergency condition of the COVID-19 pandemic while putting the lives of leaders at grave risk. Leading student activists such as Sharjeel Imam, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal, and Devangana Kalita are currently imprisoned in various jails. Leaders of Anti-CAA protests such as Dr. Kafeel Khan, Khalid Saifi, Safoora Zargar, Gulshifa Fatima, Akhil Gogoi, Ishrat Jahan, and many more are arrested under various draconian laws. Meanwhile, the Sangh Parivar culprits and hate mongers are continuing their propaganda with full impunity. Our teachers and activists are arrested and imprisoned after a bogus media trial on their people’s activism against fascism including Varavara Rao, Stan Swamy, Hany Babu, and many more.

In this troubled situation of state repression and pandemic, protest against Casteism, Islamophobia and Fascism must be carried on through all available platforms. It is high time to continue our resistance with rejuvenated vigor and sustenance by taking inspiration from the ongoing struggles across the globe for equality and justice.

I would like to conclude my humble speech with an inspiring quote from Malcolm X: Time is on the side of the oppressed, it is against the oppressor, Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it is against the oppressor. You don’t need anything else.