Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Spectre of Left Haunting Raisina Hills

- Apoorva Gautam

Adding a few decibels to the cacophony of bizarre public statements in this country, officials from the Intelligence Bureau have alleged that ‘ultra-Left’ organisations, from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University are fueling violence in the protests in Delhi against the gang-rape and murder of the 23-years old paramedical student. They are “exploiting the existing fault-lines". This, the officials believe, is the strategy on part of the 'ultra-left' groups to tap into the urban unrest in order to expand their base outside of university campuses. A few days back, the Home Minister revealed his anxieties about having to meet Maoists if he went out to listen to the protesters in India Gate

Interestingly, in the same breath, these officials put these Left organisations in the same category as right-wing groups with intriguing names like Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena and Hindu Sena. 
India Today report, 6th January, 2013

There are times when one feels it is pointless to pay attention to these comments, that they are plain funny. But it would be naïve to just treat these as mindless attempts by the state to divert from the questions and demands that the ongoing agitation against sexual violence has put forth. These statements, in fact, reveal to us the complexity of the issue. If one traces the trajectory of important events of recent past and the statements given by stooges of authority -MPs, MLAs, police officials, etc., one sees a near-paranoia against protests. Often treated as aberration, even a cause of embarrassment, the power-that-be tries its best to either deny or ridicule them. And depending on the level of embarrassment caused, sometimes even legitimizes the use of violence or threat of it against them. 

Unable to deal with people's anger, from Koodankulam to Tinsukia, the State has found an easy way out - blame it on the 'ultra-left' (whatever it means) and label them as Maoists. A few months back, the clash at Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar was also painted in the same shade by the intelligence officials and power-that-be. There too, “Maoists were trying to infiltrate the hallowed space of urban India, coming out of the jungles.” And now their comrades are fuelling violence and hooliganism near Raisina Hills. Here one is reminded of Anand Teltumbde’s argument of this being the ‘method of madness’ of the Indian State, where any protest against structures of oppression and exploitation is quickly bracketed as “anti-national”, “seditious”, etc 

To quickly revisit what happened on 23rd of December, the embarrassing Sunday for Indian State, various groups of protesters gathered near India Gate, partly because of the anger fueled by the violent crackdown on previous day’s protests, but largely to protest against widely prevalent culture of rape and sexual violence. Till about 3 pm, protesters gathered in different groups and depending upon their political leanings and understandings of the issue, they raised slogans and staged a non-violent demonstration. But as the afternoon progressed, some really charged groups of young men found their way in, and in a planned fashion started attacking the police and instigating them to do what they had been preparing for. As we tried to dodge the tear-gas shells and baton charges, some of these young men totally changed the nature of the protest site. The same bunch was to later on overturn vehicles and set things on fire - such was their zeal. We have been meeting these energised, 'patriotic' young men at many protest sites. They have hurled many emotional diatribes at us - “you shut up, we are here for our sister”, passionate recitals of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” - upon being requested to stop being aggressive etc. Reports show that many of these zealous men were ultimately among those picked by police from the protest site on 23rd December. None of those booked for instigating violence that day were from the so called ultra-Left groups that have been allegedly fuelling violence according to Intelligence bureau. 
Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena activists leading the violent mob at India Gate, 23rd December, 2012
It is important to note that in the myriad of opinions and positions being put forth in the ongoing protests in Delhi, there are few who are asking deeper and uncomfortable questions. Of course one has to take into account the intensity of public outrage, but even in that there are few voices which are raising questions beyond the immediate context of the particular gang rape. Of course one has to agitate against the government and demand accountability. But one has to, also, question the deeply held values of a misogynist society which sees women as carriers of community honour and national pride. The question of effective legal mechanisms has to be raised along with questions about the attitude of a State which is paternalistic (using the language of safety and protection) at best. It is these set of protesters - the so-called 'Ultra-left' - allegedly the masterminds behind the violence, like many others, are posing challenging questions not just about rape or sexual violence of any other kind, but also about the Mohan Bhagwats and Asaram Babus, the State and its machinations, the Baaps and the Khaps - all of them self-proclaimed custodians and violent agents of patriarchy. 

And we know what happens to those who raise the uncomfortable questions in this country- the workers who challenge the owners, the irrepressible young women who wish to marry out of their choice, the Dalits who question the atrocities of the upper castes, the left activists who protest against a proto-fascist neo-liberal regime. A deeply oppressive and complicated structure and its various representatives show us their most paranoid and ugly sides in the face of real, powerful challenge. It is easy to quell some hyper, pointless mobs apparently upset about what’s been done to their sister - they are like badly behaved children letting out family secrets in public. The problem for the State and misogynistic society at large begins when the questions asked are too uncomfortable to answer, which was precisely what the 'ultra-left' was doing in Raisina Hills, India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and at many other places, not just in this city but across the country.
This is what the so called Ultra left was doing. Photo: Tara Basumatary
So we have one Seema Azad languishing in jail for being anti-national because she talks of civil rights. We have young Muslim boys being picked from mofussil towns (based on intelligence reports, yet again) because after all one has to justify Batla House encounter. We have Sudhir Dhawale accused of being anti-national because well, he is a Dalit poet. Members of Kabir Kala Manch are accused of being Maoists because they present the vision of a society free of prejudices of caste. Maoists are also found in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki because the agitating Maruti workers wouldn’t bow down to the combined might of factory owners, feudal Khaps and the Indian State. As pointed out earlier, one needs to look at the trajectory of bizzare accusations continuously meted out by the power-that-be. Any serious challenge has to be crushed; every form of dissent has to be silenced. And what better way than to follow ‘intelligence reports’ and protect the nation from ‘the greatest threat to internal security’.

Apoorva Gautam is an activist and a Post-Graudate student in Department of Sociology, University of Delhi.


Subhash Gatade said...

I was just reminded of the way the massive protest against the gangrape and killings of the Bhotmanges' at Khairlanji - which raised similar troubling questions - was treated by the state. The then home minister is reported to have said that it was 'instigated by the Maoists'. Till date hundreds (or may be thousands) of those people who participated in the movement are facing n number of cases.

New Socialist Initiative Delhi Chapter said...

Comment received from Peter Decosta via email. Part I :

Being their for some time made it quite clear to me that those who were indulging in such acts were there with a plan to sabotage the whole agitation so that the state finds a way to crackdown. These were people from ABVP, Bhagat Singh kranti sena and more precisely I believe they might be also organised bunch of people that belongs to ruling party. I saw some of these who got injured in front of my eyes next day with ABVP and Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena bunch. They did not get another chance after that, though on various instances they must have tried to do so. Only a handful of these people who took over the agitation in last hours at India gate will never be booked rather at some point of time they will be rewarded. I do not have a problem with a militant agitation, a fight with police if that is necessary but with a purpose that take the movements into new heights.

I suppose, if the left groups had any such intentions or plans it would have occurred in many more instances. There is a pretty long history of such attempts where state and capital tried to attack on movements by using such intelligence inputs. with every uprising of this kind certain groups within the state tries to turn the balance of power in to their side so that a more centralized power and command can use this moment for unleashing violence on many many people and movements. The attack on the workers struggle at Maruti seems to me is a clear example of such tendencies. Since Manesar is going to become one of the most central automobile hub in the world, capital wants a disciplined work force and any struggle for collective bargaining is the sign enough for them that the labour process is not under the control of capital. State got mobilized by capital and results we all know.

Now it seems in order to keep middle class educated people out of the influence of left and progressive forces and win over them toward the ruling classes this strategy is been planned. It will work in two ways. First, state and its functionaries will try to come out as the most progressive force that can work and resolve the problem of sexual violence and secondly, simultaneously it will categorized the organised groups as anti-state, anti nation, anti development etc. Once this is done and there is no large scale wave then onslaught on these organised groups and individuals might start. State can deal with 'mass' more easily when organised groups are not part of it. When certain ideologies and groups enter or when this mass finds various connection of these issues with others in society ,state gets alarmed,it has to be. It finds that not only its monopoly over violence is been challenged but more then that the a counter rebellious or revolutionary discourse is emerging. State is state of dominant class at the end of day and who else know this fact apart from state and ruling classed itself?

New Socialist Initiative Delhi Chapter said...

Comment received from Peter Decosta via email. Part II :
In this movement such attempts are not directly made but such forces are not absent. left did not tried to be ultra and that's more a problem for the state. if such progressive and left forces tried to be ultra so mindlessly then it's easy to target them and more so because the average consciousness of most of the sections is not raised to the extent that they will stand with these anti-capitalist socialist organisation. at this moment left can be attacked easily since the state is not challenged internally by its constituent social groups and also because it's very much divided in itself over many issues.

Having said that, one shouldn't forget the its the society, culture and civilisation that is primary source of gender oppression. It is rather easy most of the time to jump on state for each and every things. Left has to reinvent the politics of revolutionary social reform movement. It has to inherit the modern elements from its past and there are many such histories of struggle that were understood as reformist agenda. Ideologies and structures of social oppression was explained as the superstructures of relations of production. This kind of dogmatic interpretation of modes of production or base/superstructure models in many ways are still part of not only political language but it determines the degree of focus and play a key role in planning a strategic intervention. it is not without reason that justice is mostly demanded from state whereas cultural, social practices of our people are left to be resolved by socialism.Can we demand justice from a society in which violence and subjugation of women is deeply entrenched? We do not necessarily need to mobilized state in order to make claims for oppressed section always. We do not need to externalized and naturalise state at the same time. what is to be done then? when we attack society or culture of violence we should understand that we are attacking the state in some ways too. It is at the same time very clear that state is not only collection of social. it is constituted by a definite kind of relations that we know as capitalist mode of production. it can not be challenged unless the core of the system is shaken by all the working people. However, here for right reasons emphasis has to be manifold. I see that through the slogan I hear from groups like yours I read all the articles that were posted in your blog and this makes me feel that NSI is correct in its orientation. All it has to do, and it must be doing, is to keep finding ways of ideological and political intervention from many corners. Times are changing! and we all are witnessing it.

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