Saturday, January 16, 2016

"How the Left Won JNU"

It's a year late, but the excerpts at from Rakesh Batabyal's book JNU: The Making of a University are interesting. Here's a familiar figure:

SIS had a students’ union that was active with Prakash Karat and a couple of active students leading it. Prakash Karat had returned from the United Kingdom where, during his studies, he had come into contact with Victor Kiernan, a Marxist and a great scholar who had taught in Lahore in the pre-Partition days. With a sharp political eye, Karat got into close contact with CPI(M) leaders like P. Sundarayya and E.M.S. Namboodiripad. This was the time for the CPI(M) to start its students’ wing and Karat was an ideal choice. He was articulate and was someone acquainted with the British Marxists who were held in high esteem by even these anti-colonial communists whose minds were not totally decolonized. His being from God’s own country, Kerala, also helped in befriending many gods in the party.

As soon as the Students Federation of India was set up, north India seemed to be within communist grasp. From the standpoint of CPI(M), JNU was like a clean slate where it did not have to fight it out with the likes of the Chhatra Parishad in Bengal or the National Students Union of India in Kerala or the socialists and the RSS in UP and Rajasthan. Karat’s popularity among the mostly apolitical students of the ISIS was an excellent opportunity to establish the credentials of the fledgling party and its new students’ wing.

With Karat’s initiative, the SIS union was amalgamated with the SFI-led union, which had come into being following much discussion and efforts. ...