Sexual violence cannot be attributed simply to some men behaving in ‘anti-social’ or ‘inhuman’ ways: it has everything to do with the way society is structured: i.e., the way in which our society organizes production and accordingly structures social relationships. Once we understand this, we can also recognize that society can be structured differently, in ways that do not require – or benefit from – the subordination of women or of any section of society.
With the recent article by Prabhat Patnaik, the controversy over the ‘Ambedkar cartoon’ issue has now moved into a different terrain. In this important statement, Prabhat undertakes the task of pointing out the numerous red herrings that have entered into the debate. These include ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘sense of humour’ and the question of whether Ambedkar had actually seen and let pass this cartoon. Prabhat’s point about the changed sensitivities and increased audibility of the dalit movement today is also well taken.
We must also be thankful to Prabhat for stating his views so candidly over the past few years, on a number of critical issues ranging from Nandigram and the electoral defeat of the Left to the ongoing cartoon controversy. We must thank him because because in my opinion, all his positions on these disparate sets of issues are of a piece and take us to the very heart of the impasse, not merely in the Left but in our politics itself. But before I respond to some of the issues raised by Prabhat, let me restate my positions on some aspects of the ongoing controversy. This is also necessary in order to identify what exactly it is in Prabhat’s piece that is so disturbing.
Dalit Response and Hurt Sentiments
In its initial phases, the cartoon issue was certainly a ‘dalit issue’ – even if it was raised only by a section of the dalit political leadership and intelligentsia. Very soon, however, it became clear that there was a more cynical game being played where the most corrupt and compromised sections of our politicians – especially those in parliament – were using Ambedkar as a shield, in order to deflect the blows that were actually aimed at them. The amazing unity of purpose and determination displayed by the parliament has rarely been seen in recent times; nor has the love for Ambedkar ever been expressed with such vigour.
Guest post by KAVITA KRISHNAN (Editor, Liberation)
The people saying ‘I am Anna’ or ‘Vande Mataram’ are not all RSS or pro-corporate elites. They’re open to listening to what we have to say to them about corporate corruption or liberalization policies. The question is – are we too lofty and superior (and prejudiced) to speak to them?
Throughout the summer, student activists of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) engaged in this painstaking exercise for months. They campaigned all over the country, in mohallas, villages, markets where there is no visible Left presence. No, these were not areas of ‘elite’ concentration – mostly middle, lower middle or working class clusters, or students’ residential areas near campuses. In most places, people would begin by assuming they were campaigners of Anna Hazare. When students introduced their call for the 9 August Barricade at Parliament, they would be asked, ‘What’s the need for a separate campaign when Anna’s already leading one?’ They would then explain that they supported the movement for an effective anti-corruption law to ensure that the corrupt don’t enjoy impunity. But passing such a law could not end corruption, which was being bred by the policies that were encouraging corporate plunder of land, water, forests, minerals, spectrum, seeds… They learnt to communicate without jargon, to use examples from the state where the campaign was taking place. They would tell people about the Radia tapes, and the role of the corporates, the ruling Congress, the opposition BJP, and the media in such corruption.
[This post is a response to Prabhat Patnaik’s article ‘Why the Left Matters’ which appeared in the Indian Express on 17 March. A version has appeared in two parts in Jansatta]
पांच राज्यों में विधान सभा चुनाव हो रहे हैं. इनमें से दो, बंगाल और केरल वाममोर्चा शासित प्रदेश हैं. केरल में तो भारत के अन्य राज्यों की तरह चुनावों के परिणामस्वरूप सरकारें बदलती रही हैं , बंगाल ने पिछले चौंतीस साल से वाम मोर्चे के अलावा किसी और सरकार का तजुर्बा करना ज़रूरी नहीं समझा है. इसे अक्सर बंगाल की जनता की राजनीतिक परिपक्वता के तौर पर व्याख्यायित किया गया है. बौद्धिक जगत में साम्यवादी विचार की वैधता के लिए भी जनता द्वारा दिए गए इस स्थायित्व का इस्तेमाल वैसे ही किया जाता रहा है जैसे कभी सोवियत संघ और अन्य पूर्वी युरोपीय देशों या अभी भी चीन में साम्यवादी दल के सत्ता के अबाधित रहने से उसे प्राप्त था. बल्कि कई बार इसे अन्य राज्यों की जनता के राजनीतिक दृष्टि से पिछ्ड़े होने के प्रमाण के रूप में भी पेश किया जाता रहा है . इस बार स्थिति कुछ बदली हुई लग रही है. अगर बंगाल में अनेक स्तरों के स्थानीय निकायों के चुनाव कुछ इशारा कर रहे हैं तो वह सत्ता परिवर्तन का है.
संसदीय प्रणाली पर आधारित लोकतांत्रिक व्यवस्था में इस प्रकार का परिवर्तन जीवन का नियम माना जाता है, बल्कि इस अस्थिरता में ही उसकी जीवंतता का स्रोत भी देखा जा सकता है. लेकिन बंगाल की जनता द्वारा मत-परिवर्तन की संभावना एक विशेष बौद्धिक संवर्ग के लिए चिंता का विषय बन गई है. प्रख्यात अर्थशास्त्री प्रभात पटनायक ने कुछ पहले इस संकेत की असाधारणता की ओर ध्यान दिलाते हुए एक टिप्पणी लिखी है. बल्कि यह जनता और विशेषकर भारत के शिक्षित समुदाय से एक अपील ही है – भारत की लोकतांत्रिक क्रांति की रक्षा की अपील. उनके कहने का सार यह है कि भारत की सतत वर्धमान लोकतांत्रिक क्रांति पर प्रतिक्रांतिकारी शक्तियों के बादल मंडरा रहे हैं और इस बार यह खतरा वास्तविक और आसन्न है. इस खतरे का सामना करने के लिए प्रभात आवश्यक मानते हैं कि वामपंथ को चुनाव में प्रतिकूल परिणाम न झेलना पड़ॆ. उनके अनुसार वामपंथ को कोई भी चुनावी धक्का दरअसल लोकतांत्रिक क्रांति के लिए मरणांतक आघात साबित हो सकता है.
[Recently Prabhat Patnaik published an article “Dial M for modernity” in The Telegraph, about what is right about the CPI(M). This piece is a response to that article. There are some very elliptical Bengal-specific references in the piece that have been retained as they add to the flavour. AN]
The CPI(M) regime is alive in West Bengal and Kerala. As the numbers go, it could hardly be more alive in Bengal, its throbbing vitality being underscored by a now-famous comparison of assembly seats between the CPI(M) led Left Front and the principal opposition – “Amra 235, ora 35” ( We are 235, they are 35).This famous phrase was uttered by a self-proclaimed progressive writer with supreme empathy for toiling masses, who incidentally is the nephew of another writer-poet whose progressive credentials and dedication to people’s causes resonated in Bengal and beyond, without having the honour of being propped up by state sponsorship. Of course I am being snide and I do not intend to embark on a comparative literary analysis. To look for evidence of continuity among them is absurd – the filial accident being least of the reasons. However, conjuring up continuities do serve some purpose, occasionally.
Times shape people vice versa and such mutual shaping has always happened – sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes vigorously. They do bear the imprint of past times and ethos and hence in the absence of observable points of radical change, one may fall into the trap of assuming a kind of “historical” continuity. This idea of continuity can obfuscate continuous drifts in time. In the life of political organizations and ideologies , such feigned continuities primarily have a three-pronged way of self-maintainance. Let me call them – rituals, manifestos and lastly, for lack of a better epithet, kula-devatas ( clan deities). This permeates most political formations in the Indian landscape – the present discussion is about the CPI(M). However, a semblance of similarity in these Three Great cliches can be kept up.
[Partho Sarathi Ray writes this response to Prabhat Patnaik. It was first published in Sanhati.]
A spectre is haunting the CPI(M)- the spectre of the People. All the powers of the old Left (or to borrow their term, the “organized Left”) have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prakash Karat, Prabhat Patnaik and N. Ram, party cadres and state police.
The first step in the process of exorcism is delegitimization. The resistance of the people of Singur and Nandigram has long been attempted to be delegitimized by attributing it to the so-called unholy alliance of the Trinamool Congress, Jamaat and the Maoists. That is familiar terrain, to
brand all opposition as the handiwork of right wing or ultra Left forces, and hence deny it’s political legitimacy. However, what was unfamiliar for the CPI(M) was “so many intellectuals suddenly turn(ing) against the Party with such amazing fury on this issue”. That tens of thousands of common people would accompany these intellectuals, many of them long time fellow-travellers and supporters of the Left Front, out on the streets in a spontaneous show of outrage and protest was something totally unfamiliar to the CPI(M), which has converted “the people” into a fetish. And, Prabhat
Patnaik’s essay seems to have been born out of a fear of this unfamiliar.