Friday, May 24, 2024

Margins, Discourse and Phobia : Three Notes on JNU Campus Politics

Ummul Fayiza


During his speech in the public meeting on Sunday, BAPSA-Fraternity president candidate Jitendra Suna presented some reflections on his journey to JNU campus. I don’t know whether it was a collective exercise of recalling the pain and struggle of those of who gathered but I found myself overwhelmed with the journeys many of us made as first generation marginalised students while moving to JNU. I cried silently. I began to think about what it was that invoked such an emotional response from me. I realised that it was fortune or chance or luck that made me to reach this campus. It is not caste networks or family background or elite social clubs or academic privilege that allowed many of us to reach the JNU campus.

Why is the category fortune or luck or chance is worth reflecting? The figure of “Fortuna” in the works of Machiavelli always puzzled me. Machiavelli was speaking about the goddess “Fortuna”. The “Fortuna” was either good or bad for each person especially if you are a political refugee. We all know that bad luck caused the deaths of many of us, be it a literal or symbolical death that occurred in the corridors of these campuses. However, whatever the circumstances and difficult situations that we endured, those of us favoured by “Fortuna” were really blessed. What came out of these experiences was the building of movements and creation of spaces in which we could engage, simultaneously as teachers and students, in the language of the marginalised and oppressed. It is our own stories that we discuss – speaking and listening. So it is our duty – as exemplified by the great struggles of our president candidate Jitendra Suna- to remain steadfast in the struggle for a Bahujan future for our campus by fully understanding the fortune that we had been blessed with at this moment, in the form of unity – the unity of the oppressed and marginalised.

Jitendra Suna


There are many levels to Islamophobic discourse in the JNU campus. The worst expressions of which are uttered by Kerala based SFI leaders. What exactly is the social basis of Malayali SFI cadres in the JNU campus? These are the people who enjoyed the privilege of caste Hindu space in the name of secularism employing caste Hindu symbols and attires in the majority of Kerala campuses. For example, the universalisation of Onam celebration in the name of secular nationalism has never been criticised by SFI in Kerala. But they don’t maintain the same position outside of Kerala where minority religious/anti-caste discourse is really visible.

For the Kerala SFI leaders, the inclusivity of the new political space developed in the JNU campus cannot be tolerated. Furthermore, their rhetoric against the ABVP stands as a means to thwart the efforts of the marginalised to contest for their political rights and becoming the saviour of the oppressed identities. Apart from the political difference, the cultural affinity between Left and Right in JNU campus is well documented, as best portrayed in the debates of the number of Dalit Bahujan professors in the faculties.

The Islamophobic rhetoric of Kerala SFI leaders are partly due to the impossibility of running JNU as an anti-democratic totalitarian space of caste Hindu flavour, and their lack of opportunities of doing what they practice in Kerala.

However, most of the top level SFI cadres, when they enter the JNU campus space, they continue with their project of spreading the same hatred towards “others” and “minorities” because of their inability to run similar torture machine in JNU.

As mentioned by Praful Bidwai once, the non-parliamentary CPM is less social fascists in their everyday political behaviour as with the case of Tamil Nadu when compared to those who come from the CPM/SFI cadres of the state of Kerala. The model and brand of Marxism practiced by CPM makes them prominent social-fascists in the state of Kerala, where even the communist party’s internal committees have identified the problem multiple times but have thus far been unable to make any concrete reforms to rectify it.

Similarly one observes that the Kerala SFI is the worst propagandists of leftist Islamophobia in JNU campus because of their social fascist upbringing in Kerala society. The hate campaign against Waseem Rs by “Malayali caste Hindu leftists” has nothing to do with genuine political criticism but is merely an extension of the social fascism practiced by CPM and SFI in Kerala society.

One must realise that these are the social basis in which SFI develops its political criticism and it is their reified social vision that is in desperate need of critique and, ultimately, radical abolition.

Afreen Fatima


It must be acknowledged that the first victory of the oppressed unity movement led by BAPSA-Fraternity is the movement’s very emergence, inauguration, existence and visibility.

Before the emergence of the oppressed unity movement, there existed no space for the self-expression of the oppressed unity in the context of the electoral politics of JNU. Left Unity and Hindutva ABVP treated oppressed politics as the source of vote banks. There was no subjectivity when oppressed identities were reduced to vote-bank.

BAPSA-Fraternity is the first unity space of the autonomous politics of oppressed identities and socio-political imaginations.

The possibility of oppressed unity became a reality mainly through the historical rise of the BAPSA-Fraternity movement. Only after the emergence of oppressed unity could the various minorities and outcasts make visible their own autonomous voice and independent spirit in this election campaign.

The BAPSA-Fraternity rally thus became a celebration of difference, pluralism and counter-hegemonic politics.

Now building alliance with various other marginalised and social/political movements, the BAPSA-Fraternity alliance expanded the struggles of the marginalised to a new mode of politics.

BAPSA-Fraternity alliance made possible the rightless socio-political identities to assert the language of political rights in the debates around the JNU election, in a language of their own.

Throughout the election campaign, the BAPSA-Fraternity movement declared their victory in terms of political discourse. Even right-wing Hindutva candidates started to borrow the language of the oppressed identity. Left Unity forced to chant Jai Bhim instead of Lal Salam.It is a victory that BAPSA-Fraternity made possible through the political discourse as the autonomous movement of the oppressed unity.

Ummul Fayiza is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU


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