Home » Politics » Left drops Kashmir: Did Kanhaiya Kumar leave his Azadi in Tihar jail?

Left drops Kashmir: Did Kanhaiya Kumar leave his Azadi in Tihar jail?

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:55 IST

Millions of anti-fascists around the world, who still looked up to Moscow as their moral compass, were stunned when Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler on 23 August 1939.

Arthur Koestler fictionalised this moment in his book which he called 'Darkness at Noon'. Auden sitting in a bar in New York described in 1 September, 1939, how the 'the clever hopes expire/ of a low dishonest decade'. And Orwell, who fought in the Spanish civil war, could see this coming and wrote movingly about it.

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JNU student president Kanhaiya Kumar should have studied and remembered this moment. Not just because he's a student of the Left and this is one of the most important history lessons from the last century.

But because now having become the symbol of anti-right resistance in this country it was his duty not to commit a blunder like this.

His duty, being a young politician sworn to side with the oppressed, is towards the people of Kashmir and Manipur. To their youth frustrated by routine humiliation, to their old and to their women who've been practically living in a battlefield as far as they can remember.

It is his responsibility to keep lending his voice and support to those people. Azadi is a symbol of resistance in Kashmir. It is spray painted on walls and shouted, at serious risks in the Valley. But of course the problem is more complex than a slogan and if it isn't discussed among scholars, academics and students in universities, the question of Kashmir dies an unnatural death.

Will any of Kanhaiya's supporters organise a seminar on Kashmir, Afzal Guru or Kunan Poshpora again?

And of course he must have known that several Kashmiri students in his university have fled the university fearing attacks. Has he said anything to reassure them and to bring them back?

If Kanhaiya doesn't stand with these people, who are the most vulnerable lot in this country, who need voices in the capital of the country, whom does he stand for? What minority does he represent?

How many people whose hero Kanhaiya is, will organise and participate in a seminar on Kashmir, on Afzal Guru, on Kunan Poshpora again? Or on the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit minority from the valley?

The betrayal

They have betrayed those to whom Afzal Guru's hanging still seems unjust. Those who have never experienced civil liberties, who don't feel included in the democratic republic of India and for this reason call for 'Azadi'.

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These were the same people, who before the actual fight with the reactionaries had begun, had stood together with people from Kashmir, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Assam and several other areas which aren't governed by democracy, and demanded independence from India. Or at least from the laws like AFSPA, by which some of them were ruled.

Not even once, after his return to the campus, has he assured them of the same support. He has actually distanced himself from the demands of self determination, which by the way is not raised by Kashmiris alone.

suhas pov embed jnu left

A Kashmiri Muslim woman offers Jummat-Ul-Vida prayers in front of a wall bearing the above graffiti on 17 August 2012. Photo: Rouf Bhat/ AFP Photo

Kumar instead has come out of jail as a completely reformed man. A man who has forgotten that the call for Azadi, from India, is much more significant than him and all his friends.

What Kanhaiya has done, by way of distancing himself frrom 'Azadi' (not just from Manuwaad but from India), in which his supporters have stood firmly by him, is to have given away the hard-fought space to discuss the issue of Kashmir in Delhi to the right wingers.

Kanhaiya Kumar and his followers now stand shoulder to shoulder with the RSS. Both sides have agreed, through a tacit agreement, that places like Kashmir are not issues worth discussing anymore, not in Delhi at least.

Left & Right seem to have tacitly agreed that issues like Kashmir aren't worth discussing anymore

So thanks to them, Kashmiris have lost one more space and a set of people with whom they could share stories of personal tragedies.

In fact the most loudly heard liberal voices here, like that of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, actually called for Kanhaiya to be freed and for 'those Kashmiris' to be arrested. Several shameless articles have been written to practically instigate a witch-hunt of Kashmiri students, as if their struggle had become illegitimate overnight.

But this betrayal is hardly surprising. Kanhaiya and his friends are members of an ideologically bankrupt society. One that continued to take instructions from Moscow even after incidents in Kronstadt, the show-trials, Trotsky's purge and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. And bought the party line that British Imperialism was a bigger enemy than Fascism.

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And those who bought the argument that the issue of Kashmir isn't being raised as a calculated tactical retreat, just as Stalinists had argued for the treaty of non-aggression.

They are people to whom any position is better than capitalism. Who reluctantly, if at all, chose to stand with the cartoonists of Jylland-Posten or Charlie Hebdo or Salman Rushdie, when Islamic fundamentalists issued death warrants in their name.

They are members of a herd whose shepherd is Noam Chomsky, who while writing admirably against the invasion of East Timor, supported together with Tariq Ali and Arundhati Roy, a woman called Diana Johnstone who had denied the genocide of Bosnian Muslims.

Left's tactical retreat on Kashmir is no different from Stalin's pact with Hitler in 1939

This bunch didn't show much enthusiasm for freeing of Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, while coming out in thousands for support of Kanhaiya, and have completely forgotten about SAR Geelani, who's in jail for the same charges.

All of them must have been praying that a day like 9 February never comes because on such a day they stand exposed.

And then they wonder why their students of Kashmir never came out in their support!

(The writer is a Kashmiri Pandit who was displaced from the Valley in the early 1990s.

The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation.)

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 14 March 2016, 8:33 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.