With the Jawaharlal Nehru University being the epicenter of anti-Sangh-Parivaar protests by various Left-wing students’ unions this year, and the death of Rohith Vemula having set off a chain reaction strengthening Ambedkarite movement across the country, a three-cornered contest for the JNU Students’ Union between the ABVP, Left and the Ambedkarite alternative, BAPSA, has raised interests.
And BAPSA has found an exciting ally – Kabali.
So what is BAPSA and what is their politics?
BAPSA, which stands of Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association, describes themselves as thus,
“The BIRSA-AMBEDKAR-PHULE STUDENT ASSOCIATION (BAPSA-JNU) is an independent student organization committed to unite socially-economically-politically-culturally oppressed students' to fight uncompromisingly against Brahmanism and Capitalism and to establish a society based on EQUALITY, LIBERTY and FRATERNITY. BAPSA has been consistently fighting and taking part in the Ambedkarite movement which is striving to annihilate caste system and Brahmanism. BAPSA firmly believes to fight against privatization and communalization of education and to promote scientific, inclusive, humanistic education and knowledge production which leads to the liberation of oppressed sections.
“JNU, as a premier institution is known for its intellectual calibre and so called progressiveness in the country. However, the campus still suffers from the casteist brand of student politics which is advocated by both left and right.” (emphasis added)
You can read about Birsa Munda, of the Munda Adivasi community, here.
BAPSA isn’t just taking on the ABVP and Sangh Parivar, but also on the Left, which it believes is about as Brahminical in their working as the right-wing. The death of Rohith Vemula, who was strong in his criticism of the Left, has also exposed the deep-fissures between Ambedkarites and the Left.
In a social media post, HT’s Sudipto Mondal made a few observations about BAPSA.
“- They are not about Dalit politics. They are about the Ambedkarite alternative.
- They are an alliance of the discriminated and the excluded. They're not making you choose between identity politics and Class politics but forcing you to look at where they intersect. Caste is Class which is Caste
Trivia: The BAPSA has also been organising the contract workers on campus to fight for better working conditions and wages (where were the "worker's unity" people?)
- They have taken a legally correct and morally upright position on Kashmir. In her interview to Dalit camera, Arti Rani Prajapati BAPSA was brave enough to say, "India should not force Kashmiris to be a part of the country. We should ask the people of Kashmir what they want. And I think they have made it very clear what they want."
Unlike kanhaiya Kumar who said, "Kashmir is an integral part of India," and then smoothly slipped in, "We want freedom in India not from India."
- BAPSA wants a broad alliance of marginalised identities. Says solidarity from upper castes is welcome but is clear that the leadership of this social movement will not be handed over to people of privilege.
- Its likely that they chose the name BAPSA because its tough to make slogans ring with a name like ABPSA or APBSA. But the idea of Birsa before Ambedkar and Ambedkar before Phule has a nice feel to it” (sic)
BAPSA takes on the Left and the Right with both traditional and unconventional means, and the latest addition to its arsenal is Kabali.
Here is a video, where Kabali track Neruppu Da is used to introduce BAPSA and its politics. Check out the video here:
What is equally illuminating, is this speech by Sonpimple Rahul Punaram, who is contesting the President’s post. (Watch from 4:55)
What Sonpimple says in the context of the JNU polls speaks volumes about the Left, and Kabali.
He says that the Left keeps creating a fear among students, that ABVP will take over the campus if you vote for the BAPSA. Sonpimple counters with: “Friends, how long can they say ‘Gabbar will come, Gabbar will come’? Gabbar won’t come, this time Kabali will come, Kabali!”
There are two important points to note here. One, this speaks to the larger strategy of the Left in India, where they keep their own Brahimincal structures alive by keeping the threat of Hindutva and Fascism “imminent” forever. And thus, a true Ambedkarite alternative never emerges.
Two, Kabali has perhaps given the oppressed classes a figure they can embrace as their own. He was strong, worked for the society, fought for the oppressed, took on the elite, wore good clothes, respected women and spoke the language of empowerment. He didn’t spout ideology and yet worked within the same Brahminical systems and broke the mould.
And this has been in the making for a while. Remember Dalit autodriver Chitralekha in Kerala who was physically assaluted by Leftist unions, and the women of Pembilai Orumai who were beaten and pushed to suicide by Left parties in Kerala?
Even if an exaggerated and over-rated student union election in the noisiest public university of India, BAPSA’s narrative at the JNUSU polls could further encourage several other such anti-Left, anti-Right, Ambedkarite movements already existing in India.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.