Friday, November 18, 2005

Indian Express' editorial on JNU

Shekhar Gupta is back to Left bashing and this time, his target is JNU. The editorial is a fallout of what happened in JNU on 14th November, when a few students of Naxalite persuasion, protested using black flags and slogans, when the Prime Minister of India came over to address the students of JNU. This later on created a huge furor in the National Media, considering the fact that a person of the stature and position of the Prime Minister was subjected to such treatment, ostensibly because some students were upset with policies, architect of which, they regarded was Dr. Manmohan Singh, recently referred to as the leading neoliberal intellectual of this country by Prof. Prabhat Patnaik.

The Editorial however deemed it fit to turn its ire on the entire campus for the doings of a few. Shekhar Gupta's left phobia has taken such a toll on him, that he thought he needed to throw some of his ire on the student activists of JNU as well. As a left democratic student activist in my university, I thought it was necessary for me to rebut what Gupta says...and this blog includes my letter to Indian Express, which of course would not be published by Gupta...for sure.

The Editor-in-chief,
The Indian Express

Date: 16-11-05

Subject: Editorial on JNU titled, "Little Stalinists"
For all the satire and perverted logic that your editorial spews, the truth is that it is far away from the truth! First, it is essential to refute the factual errors that permeate your odious editorial. You make the mistake of brushing the entire student union and the entire left wing in the campus with the same colour, forgetting unfortunately that shades of opinion exist, resulting in different political outfits with different ideologies. To make things clear, on 14th November, the left groups which do not subscribe to the notion that the Indian state is semi-colonial in nature, did not protest or disrupt the PM's speech. It was only those groups, who subscribe to that ideological understanding, which had disrupted the PM's speech, even as they defended their action as coming under the purview of "right to protest".

Secondly, your comparison of the US Air Force and the entire student activists of JNU is nauseating. A few sample things for you to consider: a) the student elections in this campus are entirely conducted by students alone, with a nominated body of Election Commission members who do this job purely to satisfy their "democratic spirit" unlike the US Air Force who in their endeavor to spread democracy go about pummeling thousands of Iraqis and justify the same by using inhuman “pathetic fallacies” such as “collateral damage”. b) The protests, marches, mess campaigns, public talks that feature in this university night in and night out are done with an objective purpose in mind, to keep the culture of debate and discussion alive, unlike the US who treats the UN with contempt and debates in the Security Council as a waste of time. The campus is forever kicking with sound political understanding of various shades and "bourgeois" culture of aping Western clothing, money power, expensive hoardings, etc, characteristic of other universities is absent.

It is true that a majority of the Civil Service recruits are from this campus, yet you make the mistake of including political activists as being the large chunk of these, which is patently untrue. India's leading Left leaders, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury were products of this campus. Your lead editor, C.Raja Mohan served both in the capacity of a student activist as well as an academic intellectual. It is also true that the faculty (excellent, by your own admission) is largely comprised of former students of this campus, who were the very same left democratic minded “agitpropists” of yesteryear that this current generation of left-bent activists wish to emulate.

Your deep-rooted left-phobia is already well known; you devote acres of column space just to prove one point: the Left is not right. This phobia is what that has driven you to go ballistic (pun-intended) on JNU's structure itself. Hence your convoluted logic about how JNU's low fee structure should be scrapped because a handful of protestors deemed it fit to wave black flags and shout slogans against the Prime Minister. Your idea of a civilized audience is perhaps a conformist, arm-chair intellectualist, isolationist conglomeration of individuals, least bothered about the effect of the PM's policies on the poor and marginalized of this country, information about which shall be available for your perusal in JNU's libraries and even in the term-papers and academic efforts of JNU's radical student community.

Finally, I don't consider the term, "Little Stalinists", pejorative at all. If we could be given the name of the leader of the Red Army, which defeated Hitler's Fascism and proved that an underdeveloped, worker-peasant nation can take on the might of imperialism and fascism, we are proud indeed. This campus has always maintained its anti-imperialist legacy, coupled with its pro-poor, pro-worker, pro-peasant notions intact. This is precisely why this campus has produced a P.Sainath, India's leading rural affairs journalist, a Gopal Guru, India's leading political theorist on Social Justice, and innumerable other academic, political leaders, who have taken the well known JNU adage, "What JNU thinks today, India thinks tomorrow" to the public sphere, outside the cushions of the red brick walls that dot our campus. It seems impossible for your paper, editored by a person, who seems almost an apologist for neo-liberal capitalism to understand the ethos of this campus, which "empowers" Indians from all backgrounds irrespective of the multiple crippling identities that characterize Indian society to take up lead roles in civil society, be it in the academia, the bureaucracy, the polity or even in radical opposition.