On January 17, three years ago, Rohith left a suicide note. A part of the letter, in which he expressed disillusionment with Ambedkar Students’ Association and Student Federation of India, and their ambitions to change the world, was struck out. He had been a part of both.
What stands out is the despondency about the political situation — the hopelessness of our times. None of the present politics provides us with real utopia; something to believe in and fight for.
On the one hand, there is recognition-based Dalit politics, limited to issues concerned with middle and upper middle-class people. Their despise for ‘the green snakes hidden in green grass’ (Kanshi Ram’s phrase for communists) is detrimental to the 90 per cent Dalits living in conditions created by neoliberal capitalism. Dalit politics without an anti-capitalist stance is the politics of the particular class of Dalits. Along with caste-based oppression, Dalits are being exploited by the present production paradigm more than anyone else. Moreover, the same class position makes them the worst sufferer of the state expenditure cuts on health, education and other basic facilities.
On the other hand, we have orthodox Left parties still stuck in the 1930s. Their theoretical framework has become redundant to make sense of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. They have been unable to move beyond the obsolete theoretical questions of the past 50 years: American road or Prussian road? New democratic revolution or socialist revolution? Chinese path or the Russian route?
Since the Vemula struggle, many mass assertions have emerged on the political horizon. Jignesh Mavani tried to deal with material issues of Dalits, but with a narrow vision and an almost no organisational structure, he failed to have an impact. Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army seems to follow in Kanshi Ram’s footsteps, ignoring structural inequalities. These movements might play a crucial role in the BJP’s defeat, but so far, they have failed to create alternative politics.
The third kind of politics, which focused on material wellbeing, was the mass procession of Adivasis to Mumbai for their land rights and the gathering of lakhs of peasants in Delhi. These movements were backed by local organisations, most of them Left. However, the baffled Left fails to strategise and make something of these rare opportunities.
We have to first shed the attitude of political correctness. The stifling political culture created by the Left and identity politics — all have their own pantheons of gods. If you question these gods, you will be declared a ‘Brahmanwadi’, ‘Manuwandi’, ‘postmodernist’ or ‘Trotskyite’ by the missionaries of the great causes. This culture of political correctness is deadening in these depressing times. The culture that impedes us from having a political debate without fear and shame should be discarded. The creation of hope demands a political culture where ideas are exchanged, applauded, criticised, and denigrated without apprehension.