Recognize the unique credentials of each freedom struggle, says Saswat Pattanayak

Bhubaneswar Bureau

In social media Face Book, eminent media person Saswat Pattanayak has summed up his posting of March 5 in the following words: Every freedom struggle has its specific parameters, myths, goals, limitations and strengths. By being critical of one freedom struggle as antinational while hailing another freedom struggle as patriotic without necessary class analysis, is precisely what the ABVP/BJP does, and sadly the Left may be trying to outshine them in that, when they posit Rohith against Afzal.

In commenting upon this Mr. Binu Mathew has said “Well said Saswat Pattanayak. Seldom people have the courage to say it in this nationalist/seditious times”.

Sayed Ali Kazim has said, “This is why I have always considered Saswat Pattanayak as the most intellectual friend of mine. You start your thought process from the point we invariably abdicate. Keep posting these gems as regularly as possible so that we would be able to share it for our friends”.

“More than a superficial left unity, what is needed now is a left clarity. Comrade brother Saswat Pattanayak articulates that left clarity by speaking out against a highly problematic situation of “falling into the trap of nationalism binaries”. One could of course choose one’s struggle. But consciously letting down a group of people’s struggle, that actually created this situation, is simply reactionary. To fall in to that trap, at the behest of the national bourgeoisie, would lead to squandering away a historic opportunity to connect all struggles” has said Satyanarayan Ray Pitambar Mohapatra.

Below is what Saswat has said:

The reason why it is safe to appropriate Rohith Vemula while feeling the urge to discredit Afzal Guru is not one that has any basis in class analysis at all. So when communists do that in India, it is an alarming sign for the Left, not a sign for any victory of Left unity, etc. If today, we are able to drop Guru altogether and even paint Kashmiri freedom struggle as a divisive tendency supported by the authentic antinationals from outside the campus, then what is the guarantee that tomorrow we shall not drop V. Rohith and Dr. Ambedkar’s vision for social equality, when the court declares such aspirations to be dangerous enough and seditious too? Of course, Narendra Modi has already declared Rohith as son of mother India, but what if he had declared Rohith as anti-national in his man-ki-baat as some of his colleagues indeed had? And by extension, using such populist posture, what if the Court too would have taken “collective conscience” into account while labelling the supporters of Rohith Vemula as antinationals?

Indeed, Rohith was early on declared to be antinational because of his protest against death penalty to Yakub Memon – and it would be useful to remember that, he was not fighting against Modi regime on capital punishment, he was protesting against the oppressive Indian nation state itself. His birth and the subsequent treatments that he referred to in his suicide letter were not sarcastic jabs at Adaraniya Modiji to fill the country with new electoral hope, it was an honest appraisal of a country which had deliberately failed a conscientious Dalit individual from his childhood onwards, because that country was systematically designed to do precisely that (and hence, Rohith chose not to blame anyone in particular in his suicide letter and asked others not to play politics in his name after his demise).

By failing to recognize the unique credentials of each freedom struggle without falling into the trap of nationalism binaries, aren’t Indian leftists giving more credence to Modi’s approvals than to colonized and oppressed peoples’ struggles? Maybe there are peoples who want freedom from the State (in the Marxist sense, there is therefore a reason why the “State” needs to wither away, anyway).

Surely, this was not the first time Afzal Guru was celebrated in JNU, but isn’t this the first time, Kashmir was so publicly let down by the JNU campus which cleaned off its hand from the dirt, so to say, for all times to come? Shall we see anymore Afzal Guru t-shirts on campus, any more “Kashmiri peoples’ right to self-determination” posters on trees, walls and hostel dining halls of JNU? What did we exactly achieve that fateful night of electrifying speech is something we need to seriously think over.

I am not undermining the grave situation afflicting India today, where “antinationals” are under constant threats. But let us also not be so complicit as to make Kashmiri struggles and North-East struggles and working class struggles entirely invisible by reposing collective faith in Indian judiciary which has still not outlawed AFSPA, and has not demilitarized regions of Kashmir and North-East. Surely, Kanhaiya Kumar does not need to articulate everything and certainly he does not need to speak out in favor of Afzal Guru because that would be considered seditious by ridiculous judges. But let us not forget that he does not need to speak against Guru either by contrasting him with Rohith Vemula. That is what betrayal is in bold letters. What is also betrayal to various peoples struggles (including Dalit and poor and Muslim – who are the only ones that get executed by the State anyway) is when we claim to represent their best interests and yet we let the right-wingers and fascists make their “collective conscience” be heard over ours, and we let the lynch mob win every time by letting them prevail upon us. No one is saying the fight is easy and Comrade Kumar himself has admitted to it, but if some folks are still fighting despite military rulings, let us not be in such a hurry to discredit them.

Finally, on political correctness of Left movement, when we adopt such “you are with us or against us” policy, we fall into the same trap of nationalist/anti-nationalist binaries that we accuse rightwingers of. Every freedom struggle has its specific parameters, myths, goals, limitations and strengths. By being critical of one freedom struggle as antinational while hailing another freedom struggle as patriotic without necessary class analysis, is precisely what the ABVP/BJP does, and sadly the Left may be trying to outshine them in that, when they posit Rohith against Afzal.

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