The lifeless life of JNU’s politics

Ankit Kawade

ankit w I do not feel the need of reading the parchas of political organisations anymore. I think I will be speaking in tune with a lot of other students who feel similarly. The environment of disappointment, disenchantment, alienation, even hatred against the way the union has functioned last year is starkly visible and audible on the campus today. If the ruling union thinks this description is a wishful thinking of a few students, then one can only feel sorry for them. The levels of disgust against the compromises and step-backs of the union are harmful enough; what is infinitely worse is the distance one feels with all forms of political protest on the campus today. 

 The indifferent turning away of the necks at the sparse rehearsed shouting at the ad-block is visual proof for everybody who wished every passerby to heed to the appeal of common interest, yet walked on. Walking back to our hostels after every march seemed only to replicate the indifference of every passerby who did not- would not- show any interest. It takes special skills to lie to oneself of the meaning and necessity of even bothering about all this, it concerns our future yes, but why does fighting for our futures have to lead us to such a sorry feeling?

 This utter sorry condition, alienation not with this or that party but with the form of politics as such on this campus, has to be resolved, healed rather. That all parties may have a part in getting the campus to this condition is perhaps indisputable, yet AISA-SFI which compose the ruling union should have been forthcoming in at least acknowledging that it exists. That they as the ruling union may have something to do with it, and that they take it as their responsibility to resolve it with some conviction. Not only does one not see this sense of humility and responsibility from them, these parties have reached the shallowest depths of the rhetoric of the old variety- ‘ABVP aa jaayega’. Some have perceptively pointed out that Left’s real anxiety is not with ABVP but with BAPSA, about whom it maintains a cautious silence. This is in itself is the worst form of patronising- the Left tries to delegitimise BAPSA’s presence precisely by not taking note of them in public rhetoric, yet in private conversations, BAPSA is at the receiving end of deep hatred and ridicule from them.

 This public-private split in rhetoric is enough to raise suspicions about Left’s intentions. What we should rather grapple with at the moment is the essence of Left’s strategy- to replace alienation with fear. The source of this fear is not ABVP or BAPSA or any other organisation for that matter; such a view already raises these parties into an existence they, in fact, do not possess. The real source of this fear is the everyday betrayals and disappointments faced by the anonymous student- pronounced even more in marginalisation- the disappointment that comes not from failures but from the hubris of the ruler who does not acknowledge that failure even happened.

 If representational politics had any meaning, one would have seen the union giving voice to the students’ concerns of alienation with campus politics as such, rather than engage in the external shifting of fear- raising the dead ghost of ABVP to shift attention from the lifelessness of the Left in this campus. The sheer gap in the language of the representative (union) and the represented (students), which is unequivocal in its fear and disappointment respectively, marks the death of representational politics in JNU. It is the tyranny of this non-choice in our campus elections, where the possibility of a non-Left party coming to power is met with a near apocalyptic dismissal (“Campus khatam ho jaayega!”). The truth, away from this apocalyptic language is revealed in conversations when one hears of people wanting to give a chance to ABVP, BAPSA, and BASO, just to teach a lesson to the arrogant and preachy bunch of AISA and SFI- whoever comes to power does not matter, the Left must be defeated this time around. In place of the apocalyptic language of the Left (‘if the Left does not win, everything will be destroyed by the ABVP’) we find in this version a fatalistic language, which says, ‘everything will remain practically the same even if ABVP or any other party comes to power, at the most, the situation will go from bad to worse, but for all purposes it is not getting any better even with the Left’.

 It is a crisis born out of the cynicism of looking away from the fact of everyday alienation faced by students. The shifting languages of the apocalyptic and the fatalistic are two equally worrying sides of the political deceit happening through the rhetoric of elections. Students everywhere feel they have a vote, but not a voice, in that their concern of alienation with campus politics has become a matter of calculative displacements for the contending parties in the election, signaling a rotting of representational politics itself.

 The traditional description of Marxist proletarian agency is where the proletariat has nothing to lose, it has the world to win, and hence the ruling classes tremble in the fear of a communistic revolution. In JNU, we are faced with an ironic inversion, the Left is trembling with fear because it behaves as if it has everything to lose- hence it is tout court an establishment force. The apocalyptic language is a testimony to this fact- it fears losing its ground as the nourisher of JNU’s progressive legacy, and is sceptical of everybody who claims they can nourish JNU’s legacy better towards more egalitarian lines. The fatalistic language whose single agenda of making Left unity lose thrives on creating false equivalences out of the non-Left parties on the campus. It is morally defeatist and politically resigned to an uncertain fate, and hence should be completely rejected. It becomes imperative in this environment to support such parties then, who have nothing to lose in this election and everything to gain. There are parties which have a stake in the further movement of equality on this campus, yet fall outside the lethargic establishment concerns of Left unity. They must be supported if this campus is to gain a semblance of fresh energy in its progressivism. The dead weight of Left unity must give way to the more radical spirits this time around.


Ankit Kawade is currently pursuing an M.A. from the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


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