Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi Struggles and Emerging Political Alternatives: BAPSA in JNU

 

Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan Struggle in campuses and emerging BAPSA as a political alternative in JNU: Special reference to Rahul Punaram Sonpimple

Joy Prafful Lakra

Mr. Mahadev Toppo, a noted Adivasi writer has said that Adivasis have to take up 'कलम, कूची और कैमरा' (Pen, Paint Brush and Camera) to express themselves and extend their struggle. This notion of empowering the self and reclaiming their own voices does not fit into the savarna/ brahmanical discourse which has historically looked upon these groups as weak and incapable. The narrative of a poor and weak Dalit/Adivasi has always benefited the upper castes/ ruling elites and legitimised their role as their leader/spokepersons. It is a known fact that Dalits and Adivasis have historically been foot soldiers of the RSS/BJP and the Left Front political parties where their roles were limited to campaigning and voting.

panel bapsa

The Left movement in the tea-gardens of North Bengal was built by the sweat and blood of the Adivasis but any prominent Adivasi leader is unheard from this region in West Bengal. The leaders were always Bengali Bhadrolok whereas the Adivasis remained tea-garden workers (chamojdoor) occupying lower ranks in the Party hierarchy. Colonial and missionary writings have contributed heavily in creating a happy, cheerful, smiling, carefree, and hard working Adivasi, which have been reproduced by the upper-castes and the ruling elites masking the historical injustice done to them. According to one of the myths, it is believed that the people who are depicted as vaanar-sena, who helped Rama in conquering Lanka, were Oraons (an indigenous community in Chotanagpur). The religious texts have not only depicted Oraons in this manner but the same has been repeated for other Adivasi communities who are depicted as subservient and docile followers of the Hindu gods and goddesses.

Seeing some of the non-Adivasis (who most of the time are upper-castes) on the dais during the Adivasi Sahitya Jatra (Adivasi Literary Festival) on 27th-28th August 2016, held at Ranchi, one Adivasi Research Scholar from Ranchi University expressed his resentment saying, "Why should non-Adivasis speak on behalf of the Adivasis."

Increasingly, Adivasis have started denying these portrayals of them made by non-Adivasis, which most of the time are romanticised as being peace-loving and merry-making in most of the literature, academics, arts, and aesthetics. Young Adivasi writers, poets, and filmmakers like Jasinta Kerketta, Anuj Lugun, Biju Toppo and Niranjan Kujur are fearlessly expressing their resentment, critiquing state and its development agenda, opposing all bigotry including religious and gender based bigotry through कलम, कूची और कैमरा (Pen, Paint Brush and Camera): a medium which till now was dominated by upper-castes.

The threat to both the Savarna Left and Right is that till now those for whom they had expressed their sympathies are rejecting them and demanding their just share. The current Dalit and Adivasi students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Hyderabad Central University (HCU), English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Osmania, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Indian Institute of Technology- Madras (IIT-M) etc., have experienced discrimination, faced poverty, and are victims of unjust economic structures, unlike their erstwhile leaders belonging to the savarna Left and Right who were presumed to be poor, marginalised and discriminated. In JNU, Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association (BAPSA) has not only succeeded in breaking the illusionary binary between the Left and the Right but also provided a forum for alternative politics. Bringing into the academic discourse the caste question, identity, gender and patriarchy, social- economic- political inequality, social justice and equality, they are critically engaging in debates and discussions. They are charting their own paths and moves, which is so un-Dalit and un-Adivasi if viewed from the lens of upper-caste. This emergence of un-Dalit and un-Adivasi has infuriated both savarna Left and Right equally.

When people like Rahul Punaram Sonpimple decide to contest for students' Union election, in a prestigious institution like JNU, it creates much uproar and tension because they do not fit into the savarna/ brahmanical/Left idea of being a Dalit or Adivasi. Coming from a slum in Nagpur, journeying into the portals of JNU has not been easy for him. He lost his father, a rickshaw puller at a very early age, and mother still works as a construction labour. As a student he did odd jobs as a daily wage labourer in construction sites to add to the meagre income of the family. Inspired by the thoughts and ideas of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar he kept on studying and inspired others to do the same. During his studies in Hislop College, Nagpur, he, along with his friends started 'Youth for Social Change' to help one another in studies. He has been an inspiration and motivation for many who are now pursuing higher studies in different universities in India.

Those who had been silent for hundreds of years have started speaking, and expressing their demand for social justice and equality. They are capturing the imaginations of the young and inspiring many to "Educate, Organise and Agitate" which is spreading like wild-fire not only in university campuses but also in bustees and villages. Student politics and activism is not going to be same in the coming days; Dalits and Adivasis have started expressing their lived realities of joys, happiness, sorrows, anger, hatred, and discontent, through कलम, कूची और कैमरा (Pen, Paint Brush and Camera).

~~~

 

Joy Praffu Lakra is Doctoral Candidate in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Other Related Articles

"I don't have much belief in the system": Actor Vinayakan talks to the Media
Thursday, 23 March 2017
  Rakesh Ram S Vinayakan, a Dalit actor from Kerala, began his career as a dancer and has been an actor for more than 20 years now in Malayalam and other south Indian movies. Initially he played... Read More...
Interview with Dr Manisha Bangar on Current Issues & the Mulnivasi Bahujan movement
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
  Round Table India In this episode of the Ambedkar Age series, Round Table India talks to Dr Manisha Bangar, Vice President, BAMCEF. In the interview, Dr Manisha Bangar talks about a wide... Read More...
भविष्य की दलित-बहुजन राजनीति: जाति से वर्ण और वर्ण से धर्म की राजनीति की ओर
Thursday, 16 March 2017
  Sanjay Jothe उत्तर प्रदेश के चुनाव परिणाम जितने बीजेपी के लिए महत्वपूर्ण हैं... Read More...
Brahminical Patriarchy and Social Media
Friday, 27 January 2017
 Bhagyesha Kurane Social media has become an integral part of our lives these days. There are various notions prevalent about whether one should use social media, and if at all it is to be used,... Read More...
ब्राम्हणी पितृसत्ता आणि सोशल मीडिया
Thursday, 26 January 2017
  Bhagyesha Kurane सोशल मीडिया हा आपल्या जीवनाचा सध्या एक अविभाज्य घटक झालेला आहे.... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

The Janeyu in My News Story
Thursday, 01 December 2016
  Rahi Gaikwad Years ago, while studying journalism, a remark made by a foreign national classmate during a class discussion on caste has stuck in my mind till date. From what I remember, she... Read More...
Hatred in the belly: Interrogating Internalised Prejudices and Supremacy
Sunday, 04 December 2016
  Kavita Bhanot [Excerpts from the talks given at SOAS and Manchester launch of Hatred in the belly: The politics behind the appropriation of Dr Ambedkar's writings] For some years now, I've... Read More...
Decoding the Spirit of Castes: A review of Pokala Lakshmi Narasu’s ‘A Study of Caste’
Tuesday, 01 November 2016
  Nidhin Shobhana This book review can be divided into three sections. The first part would briefly try to situate the book and the author in the social and political contexts of Colonial South... Read More...
Post-Truth Politics and Dalit Question
Thursday, 22 December 2016
  Vinod Kumar The world is moving in a new direction in its political spectrum. Most of the old, developed democracies have come under the influence of the right wing forces with populist images... Read More...
Tribute to Tipu Mahathma
Sunday, 13 November 2016
  Prof B.P Mahesh Guru Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan were indeed the great rulers of Southern India. They performed their best efforts for the expansion, consolidation and development of the state... Read More...

Recent Articles in Hindi

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

  संजय जोठे  इस देश में भेदभाव और शोषण से भरी परम्पराओं का विरोध करने वाले अनेक विचारक और क्रांतिकारी हुए हैं जिनके बारे में हमें बार-बार पढ़ना और समझना चाहिए. दुर्भाग्य से इस देश के शोषक वर्गों के षड्यंत्र के कारण इन क्रांतिकारियों का जीवन परिचय और समग्र कर्तृत्व छुपाकर रखा जाता है. हमारी अनेकों पीढियां इसी षड्यंत्र में जीती आयीं हैं. किसी देश के उद्भट विचारकों और क्रान्तिकारियों को इस...

Read more

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

(कृष्ण की लोक लुभावन छवि का पुनर्पाठ!)मानुषी आखिर ये मिथकीय कहानियां किस तरह की परवरिश और शिक्षा देती हैं, जहां पुरुषों को सारे अधिकार हैं, चाहे वह स्त्री को अपमानित करे या दंडित, उसे स्त्री पलट कर कुछ नहीं कहती। फिर आज हम रोना रोते हैं कि हमारे बच्चे इतने हिंसक और कुंठित क्यों हो रहे हैं। सारा दोष हम इंटरनेट और टेलीविजन को देकर मुक्त होना चाहते हैं। जबकि स्त्री...

Read more

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

संजय जोठे धर्म जो काम शास्त्र लिखकर करता है वही काम राष्ट्र अब फ़िल्में और विडिओ गेम्स बनाकर बनाकर करते हैं. इसी के साथ सुविधाभोगी पीढ़ी को मौत से बचाने के लिए टेक्नालाजी पर भयानक खर्च भी करना पड़ता है ताकि दूर बैठकर ही देशों का सफाया किया जा सके, और यही असल में उस तथाकथित “स्पेस रिसर्च” और “अक्षय ऊर्जा की खोज” की मूल प्रेरणा है, यूं तो सबको...

Read more