The Student’s Union Elections at the University of Hyderabad which concluded on 25th February saw the ASA-DSU-SFI alliance sweep all nine posts of the central panel. The elections, which were held after a gap of three years due to the pandemic, were also the first after the historic Anti-CAA NRC movement.
Throughout the campaign, the SFI-led alliance marketed itself as historic and progressive. However, it’s difficult to fathom such a claim when the very core idea of representative democracy – the participation of the most marginalized – was conveniently forgotten. Muslim representation was blatantly ignored not just in terms of having zero Muslim candidates in the central panel but also by the untouchability the left has shown towards Muslim organizations, branding them as communal and refusing to ally with them. This attitude at a time when Muslim students, in particular, are being ‘legitimately’ discriminated against in educational spaces and when the very existence of an Indian Muslim, in general, is being questioned is abominable. Instead, the alliance argued that it is the discourse and not representation which is essential. Such de-ideologization of even the Ambedkarite parties has been appalling.
The refusal of the Left to ally with Muslim politics with showing no such reluctance on its part when it comes to the case of Dalit parties makes it evident that the claims of an inclusive and united alliance in fighting Hindutva forces are, to the contrary, nothing but an insincere alliance merely motivated at electoral gains. Both Dalits and Muslims have been at the receiving end of Hindutva hatred and have organized themselves on the basis of this oppression. However, the Left, motivated only by electoral gain, selectively discriminates against one. This insistence on representation, however, does not entail that discourse be given less importance or be moved to the periphery. The two are not mutually exclusive or the choice between one and the other. Representation isn’t and would not serve as a panacea for all problems. However, it should also be recognized that discourse without adequate representation is lifeless and void. Indeed the functioning of a meaningful democracy does require the entry of the socially-marginalized groups into the political spaces; however, this entry should not be periodic as a ‘token’ representation or merely rhetorical raising of issues of marginalized groups but instead should focus on building an equitable political culture in which Muslims, Dalits and other marginalized groups can independently participate as legitimate entities and assert their claim for spaces for associated living and adequate power share.
It’s high time these parties realize that the Muslim question can only be effectively understood when viewed from the vantage point of the subjective lived experience of Indian Muslims. The foremost step one should take in countering Hindutva hate politics is the recognition of the existence of Muslims as a legitimate political entity. Instead, the Muslim entity is preferred to be a non-organized, powerless being at the margins, devoid of agency and seeking saviors in order to crawl out from its state of despair. This need for a ‘savior’ implies a constant conscious suppression of the Muslim psyche by the ‘Left savior’, for his subjectivity is recognized in the act of ‘saving’.
The Left in the campus has placed itself in the position of a principal arbitrator, the grant definer, best conceptualized in terms of the Hobbesian idea of the Leviathan or its successor, the Orwellian conception of the Big Brother. He creates and dictates the ‘required’ political culture by his own fiat, sets boundaries to what is the ‘acceptable’ political discourse, defines what is ‘permissible’ and ‘not’ in terms of political behavior, and imposes them on his ‘subjects’. He is the absolute and ultimate manipulator and owns the divine mandate to discourse on behalf of each and every community on each and every issue. He is an omniscient and all-pervasive being, which makes him capable of being the ultimate savior and protector. One has to deliberate and discourse in this space provided by the benevolent Big Brother.
The Muslim movements, ever since their inception in the campus, have always worked to counter this Left saviour narrative and to come up with novel conceptual frameworks to engage in discursive exercises rather than the blanket ones laid out by the Left. Muslims and Dalits have always been natural allies in their fight against the oppressive forces of Brahmanism. This was also evident in the campus politics ever since the inception of UDA, which saw the Ambedkarite, Muslim, and other Bahujan groups come together in an organic alliance. Even when ASA left the alliance in 2019, MSF and Fraternity contested alone, asserting their autonomy and capability to engage with the Muslim question other than in those terms that are dictated by the Left. However, solidarity has always been extended towards other Ambedkarite Dalit Bahujan and Tribal movements in the campus in the common struggle for dignity and social justice.
The apprehension of the Left towards organized Muslim political and the constant attempts to alienate and keep them in spaces of powerlessness is nothing but the institutionalized islamophobia of the party. It should be noted that this insensitive betrayal of Muslim political assertion has happened after the massive Anti-CAA NRC campaigns and Hijab protests across the country. Such marginalization provides for nothing but a breeding ground for the Hindutva forces to carry out their oppression more effectively and in finding more ‘legitimate’ ways to otherize the Muslim community. The supposedly anti-fascist alliance not only failed to recognize the political assertion of the Sangh Parivar’s primary victims but even went on to equate the victims with the oppressors, equating the genocidal politics of Hindutva to Muslim solidarity, which has been formed on the basis of the collective oppression faced by them.
It is in the raising of such questions that the Muslim organizations in the campus have come together with other Bahujan and tribal groups in forming ‘The Alliance for Social Democracy’. The Alliance for Social Democracy saw the coming together of five organizations – BSF, Fraternity Movement, MSF, NSUI and TSF – in their continuing struggle to assert their claims for inclusiveness and democratic political spaces. At the foremost, Man’s dignity as a social and political being must be recognized, and his ability to assert his own political existence be respected. Political democracy is not to be an end in itself, but a means to a much more noble aim of social democracy. The acceptance of legitimate political assertion from the margins should serve as the basis on which any successful anti-fascist movement can be built. The elections may have very well passed, but the questions that were raised linger. And it is hoped that such questions continue to unsettle the power structures in the future.
The author is pursuing Integrated Masters in Sociology at University of Hyderabad.