Dear Chintu Kumari,
Like you, I too felt the necessity to reply. I hope this assertion of your identity as a Dalit woman is not being considered as your 'immediate identity' by AISA/Liberation and by the collective left brigade. At the outset, I wish to state that, I didn't intend to hurt you. Rather, I have made an observation on your hunger strike photo which was posted by Kavita Krishnan. I had shared that post (you and your parent's picture) for the fact that I could relate to my immediate identity. However, I have realised that you have taken my points in ways I did not mean in that post. However, by any means if you are hurt, I am sorry for the same.
Before engaging with the allegations you raise on me, let me reiterate what I have written.
"Getting pain after seeing these pictures. I may be working in different organisation and we can have differences, still share so many things (including feelings, emotions) in common with Chintu and Ramo, what an upper caste shit can't understand at all. Want to tell one thing that Dalits fight for this upper caste led left organisations since its inception by giving their lives, careers and everything they have. But still they become alone in their own fight for survival. Still they become alone in fighting and dying,,,and the upper caste comrades keep on extending their token murderous solidarities every time. When dalits fight and works for yours organisation like manual labourers giving their entire time and energy, is it not your organisation's responsibility to save them in crisis instead of making them (victims) your guns and pushing them towards death. Our students are coming from the first generation unlike you with so many responsibilities, working in your organisations putting their career at risk and on the top you are pushing them for hunger strike till death instead of you doing. Shame on you. Sister Chintu Kumari and brother Ramo Nag may differ with me under your influence, no issue. But this is the realities."
Now in this entire post where did I dictate you or your political orientation? Where did I mention to you that you do not have your own agency? Rather, I have mentioned that we can have differences. At the end I have said that Rama and Chintu may differ with me under your (AISA) influence as you are part of AISA. Now the term "under your influence" is being taken as something antithetical to the idea of human agency. There is a sharp difference between the term "dictate" and "influence". In the sphere of force/dictating there is no scope for human agency, but in the sphere of influence there is adequate scope for human agency.
Now, let me say to those 'Savarna Marxists' who speak about human agency in the word of Marx:
"Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please: they do not make it under self -selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. (Marx, 1966/1852:398)
"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." – Karl Marx
Now tell me, where to locate human agency either in the above mentioned quotes of Marx or in the entire Marxist ideology. I'm still unable to grapple with the logic of human agency and Marxism. It elucidates two things, both you and the organisation you belong to must have taken some leave, hopefully only for the sake of giving reply to me as propaganda campaign, from the central philosophy of the Marxism (I'm assuming your organisation is with you) or Marxism is an inadequate philosophy. And most importantly how do you and your organisation see the concepts of false consciousness if it doesn't exist at least partially.
Marx theorised Human agency as necessarily social and the relationship between structure and agency is an unending cycle where agency is conditioned by the products of structure. He said that human have individual self-interest, but also interests derived from their positions in the social structures evolved in production. He again said, the conflict of class interest generated by differential positioning strongly influences all sphere of life particularly the political and cultural.
What I understand from this is that the human agency is not 'free' from the influences of the various products produced by the social structures. The products may be social, political, cultural, economic, etc. and human being since the first day of birth engage, evolve and live with all these products till the end of life. It means our agency is shaped, developed and influenced by all these socio-political, cultural factors since our childhood to old age. Therefore the thought or ideas you have in your mind is the aggregate accumulations of the influences of various factors you had and have in your surroundings. So also I have. Who said that the people who are joining RSS, BJP, CPM, Liberation and others do not have their agencies? They all have their own agency. They all know their aims and objectives, what to do and what not to do. Therefore I would request you not take it as a questioning of your agency vis-à-vis your affiliation with AISA/Liberation.
Let me tell you another thing that I have also worked in the same kind of upper caste led left organisation for 5 years (graduation to MA, 2006 to 2011) in spite of having many ideological differences. During those days, I also had similar opinion like many Dalits working in Left about the left and Ambedkar. And I do recognise the massive influences of Left on me in those days. But when I realised that these all left are led by the relatives of our class-caste enemies who hold a very casteist approach towards Ambedkar and Ambedkarite movement (including AISA/Liberation for reference look into the comments you received on your post motioned about me), who have deceived us many times and can deceive us any time, and cannot do anything without our support, therefore, I left the 'Left'. However I can openly say that I do respect Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin more than the casteist upper caste left. Therefore, please do not claim that you do not have any AISA/liberation's influence on your agency because I have already gone through your phase and know what exactly a Dalit student think if he/she is under left influence.
You might know that there are many Dalit-Adivasi men and women in the RSS and Durga Bahini. Can we say that they don't have any agency? No, we can't because they are not forced. They are convinced with the RSS teaching and here their agency is at play according to your logic of agency, any criticism of them is hypocrisy. It is same with the Dalits in Left as well. Therefore how am I "dictating" your political orientation because I cannot do that, the only thing I can do is I can have debate or discussion or might raise some pertinent questions.
The second thing you have mentioned that AISA did not approach you; it's you who joined AISA:
I do not know whether you remember or not, but I surely remember once we had an interaction with you where you spoke about your 'Papa' is working with ML since 20 years. Then I asked you whether he is holding any position in the party, then, you said he is part of the block committee. Therefore, I do not agree with your position that you did not know AISA or it had no influence on you. But here I want to ask one question to the AISA/Liberation that how come a person who has worked for 20 years in your party remains as a block committee member while some from Brahmin, Bhumihar and other upper caste communities with 5 to 6 or 10 years of activism get promoted to National President, State President, Central Committee, Polite Bureau of your party? Are you (CPI ML) not reducing Dalits to their immediate identities? Tell me please, whose agency works when people with same experiences promoted to central committee and Polite Bureau while Dalits remained as block level workers? Is it Manu's Agency or Marx's Agency? Are you (Party) not doing the mockery of the sacrifices by Dalits for your party? Is it not your (Party's) deep rooted Casteism under the Red Banner?
Regarding Hunger strike:
AISA and some others had consistently pushed for hunger strike in the first All Org Meeting when JNUSU President and some organisations were not ready to go for hunger strike in the beginning. Therefore, there is no question of conflict between Individual agency and AISA's agency at all. I was present in the All Org from BAPSA. We clearly said that BAPSA do not support hunger strike and therefore cannot be part of it. So once we opposed the method of Hunger strike, going to you in the middle of the hunger strike and asking about you would have touched the height of hypocrisy and would have been meaningless.
Now who were the people who sat in the indefinite hunger strike from AISA from the beginning till the end? They were three students against whom fine was charged, all belonging to the marginalised communities remained till the end of hunger strike. How many students from Upper caste-Class background from AISA sat in indefinite hunger strike till the end? Now Upper caste comrades will say we are reducing them to their immediate identity. What a logic! But, I doubt if a privileged can be reduced to their immediate identity! I say it vehemently that it is a stigmatised, degraded identity get reduced and not the privileged one. Because the privileged identity is valued and qualified whereas stigmatised and degraded identity gets reduced, disqualified, devalued and delegitimised.
New Factors on Agency:
Chintu, I am happy to see your Agency about the oppressed identity politics and left politics where you said that identity politics is not 100% right and left politics is not 24 karat gold. However this is not the stand of your organisation (AISA/Liberation) as far I know about their politics. In fact it is AISA and other left who hold the view that identity politics or Ambedkarite politics is 100% wrong and left politics is 100% right. It is the official position of the Liberation/AISA that identity politics or Ambedkarite politics is dividing the working class and promoting Casteism and detrimental for the revolution.
Let me show you some statements made by the great leaders of Liberation:
Vinod Mishra, the then General Secretary of the CPI-ML Liberation (AISA's parent party) had written in 1990
"Just as we do not approve of those politicians who want to take revenge on the present-day progeny of Babar, we also reject those theoreticians who would punish the present-day offsprings of Manu for the crimes of their ancestors." (CPI-ML) Liberation Central Committee's Message to the IPF Rally held on 8 October 1990, Liberation, November, 1990, http://cpiml.org/archive/vm_swork/3central_committee.htm).
Here Vinod Mishra cleverly defended the Brahmins and other feudal oppressive castes. He continued,
"Students and youth, particularly in and around Delhi, felt badly betrayed by a man (VP Singh) on whom they had reposed great faith... Instead, they found in him a scheming politician who was robbing them of whatever little job opportunities that were there." ("The Fall of VP Singh and After", Liberation, January1991, http://cpiml.org/a.../vm_swork/4fall_of_vp_singh_and_after.htm).
This is exactly the logic that the casteist 'Youth For Equality (YFE)' had given while opposing OBC reservations – that reservation mean robbing the youth of their opportunities in education and employment.
Kavita Krishnan, the then National President of AISA, had said after her organisation's victory in the JNUSU elections in 2007,
"AISA did not press for a pro or anti-stand on quota" (interview given to the Times of India, September 7, 2007).
Today they are claiming to be Champion of Social Justice. You are taking a different position from your party. Good to hear that. There can be many factors behind this agency, like emerging Ambedkarite movement, Social Location, Political Compulsions etc.
By the way AISA must answer it is whose Agency that works inside Liberation:
There are seventeen Polit Bureau members of Liberation. Can AISA and Liberation say how many of them are Dalit, Adivasi and minorities?
1. Dipankar Bhattacharya (Member, Polit Bureau)
2. Swadesh Bhattacharya (Member, Polit Bureau)
3. Kartick Pal (Member, Polit Bureau)
4. D. P. Bux i(Member, Polit Bureau)
5. Rubul Sarma (Member, Polit Bureau)
6. S. Kumaraswamy (Member, Polit Bureau)
7. Ramji Rai (Member, Polit Bureau)
8. Amar (Member, Polit Bureau)
9. Arindam Sen (Member, Polit Bureau)
10. Swapan Mukherjee (Member, Polit Bureau)
11. Kunal (Member, Polit Bureau)
12. Dhirendra Jha (Member, Polit Bureau)
13. Janardan Prasad (Member, Polit Bureau)
14. Manoj Bhakta (Member, Polit Bureau)
15. Partha Ghosh (Member, Polit Bureau)
16. Kavita Krishnan (Member, Polit Bureau)
17. Prabhat Chaudhary (Member, Polit Bureau)
Recently 3 Dalit ML workers were killed in Bihar. In a similar way we find the long list of Dalit martyrs for Liberation. However, we have never seen the list of Dalits in Polit Bureau Committee of Liberation. Is it 'Marx's agency' or 'Manu's Agency' working in Liberation? Where is the 'Dalit Agency'?
~ Chinmaya Mahanand, BAPSA
Cartoon by Nidhin Shobhana