As we in Kerala gear up for the long struggle that can cease only when the evil of Hindutva is finally uprooted from India and Kerala, and only after the toxins that it has spewed is wiped clean from the hearts and souls of our brethren, my only request is: please do not forget Allen and Twaha.
These two young men – staunch workers of the CPM – were recently accused of being Maoists and indeed – ‘urban Naxalites’ – and arrested on the flimsiest grounds imaginable. These are two curious young people who sought to make sense of arguments that Maoists made, by no stretch of imagination could they be considered Maoists. One of them, Allen, is a third-generation CPM member, and his family is extraordinarily well-connected within the CPM. Yet none of this mattered – after a long wait in which the families believed that the top CPM leadership would come to their aid, they were condemned by the party, the state government to face charges under the UAPA, and left to the mercies of the NIA. Much expression of grief from comrades and friends followed, along with protestations of helplessness now.
Even as I laud the efforts of the CPM to stand up against the ghastly plans of the central government, I cannot help thinking of how closely our lives are actually controlled by the Hindutva agenda even though it is not the ideology of the ruling government. Insiders claim that Allen and Twaha were sacrificed even though the government was fully convinced of their innocence. The leadership apparently fears the allegation that the CPM is a Muslim-controlled organization — that it will affect the majority voter-base comprised of Hindus. To think that two young people (one important reason why they are perfect sacrificial victims is certainly the fact that they bear Muslim names) could be thrown to the predators like this – without a shred of credible evidence – just because the dominant left is afraid of electoral collapse, or more importantly, because it is no longer confident of refurbishing its hegemony on secular causes, is galling.
Indeed, this is almost inevitable. The CPM rebuilt its hegemony in the 1990s on secular grounds – of local-level decentralized development – neutralizing the dalit, feminist, adivasi, and emergent Muslim critiques of the dominant left, but the present leadership is no longer committed to it. The open and flagrant patronage of crony capitalists by the present CPM leadership means that it really has no resources at all to build a new secular hegemony. This was abundantly clear when the CPM leadership chose to ignore the new civil society, mainly of young people, that emerged after the terrible floods of 2018. This new formation was centred around an ethics of reciprocal giving, what seemed an unbelievable release from the stifling culture of neoliberalism that had choked our ethical and political lives over the past twenty years. This would have been a perfect base for the CPM to revive its hegemony, for it brought a completely new, young generation of people – the millennials — into the discourse of sub-national pride and development. However, the present leadership of the CPM chose to remain within the warm embrace of crony capital and predatory extractors of natural resources rejected it and allowed it to dissipate.
For this reason, the only course of action that the CPM can possibly take in the collective struggle against the CAA and NCR is a dangerous tight-rope walk between keeping the Hindu majoritarians happy and assuming the position of the protectors of the Muslims. The easiest way of doing this is to project majoritarian insecurities on to the smaller, vocal groups advocating different purist versions of Islam, and those which advance radical anti-caste politics, or women ‘activists’ who breach the sacred space of Sabarimala, and so on, and crush them, thereby acquiring for themselves the image of a ‘fair’ secular protector. The other side of this ‘secular protection’ is that extremist versions of Hinduism, including Hindutva forgotten to the largest possible extent — even the torture camps set up by Hindutva agents to reconvert young people who were married to non-Hindus that were exposed during the Hadiya case were lightly pursued.
So it is easy to see the connection: those of us who answer the call by the CPM leadership to rally behind them in the anti-CAA-NRC protests must necessarily be aware of the fact that the CPM’s very ability to take that position rests on its continuous production of evidence for its commitment to the mainstream middle-class Hindu majority. That is, the CPM’s present secular image is built upon its rejection of these innocent young men, for, apparently, their defense would make the majority insecure! It is also built on going easy on Hindutva thugs – when they attack dalits, women, muslims and other people deemed lesser by the reigning order of brahminism.
In this context, it is not clear anymore if intellectuals who have built their careers through accepting the dominant left’s patronage have any role left, even. Many of them who I have known over the past many decades seem to be slipping slowly into a pained silence, or even depression. Many of them hold public offices handed to them by the party leadership; many others have secured jobs through influencing appointment committees and other authorities directly or indirectly. Many of these people did think of themselves as possessing an independent position despite their dependence on the CPM; or, they did not feel that their close adherence to the CPM would require them to censor themselves seriously. But the Allen-Twaha case seems to be indicating otherwise. The whole incident seems to be underlined even more firmly the serf-like submission the leadership expects of them.
I however still can’t help asking: why did not these people see the injustice perpetrated on those two young men as an occasion to assert themselves? What would have happened if all of them condemned the government’s and leadership’s injustice openly and announced their resignation from public offices?
The truth is that bullies will continue their bullying as long as the victims are unable to display the moral courage to stand up to them in a sustained way. That is the lesson that CPM and all its acolytes who have, rightly, pointed to, as they plunge into the anti-CAA-NCR struggle. But it is also one that the latter needs to learn – if they have any self-respect left.