AISA Welcomes SFI-JNU’s Decision to Oppose CPI(M) Stands on Pranab, TPC, Singur-Nandigram

The JNU unit of the Student’s Federation of India (SFI) decided at a general body meeting held on the night of July 5th, to oppose CPI(M)’s support for UPA’s Finance Minister in the upcoming presidential polls. The resolution passed on July 5 by SFI’s JNU unit states that CPI(M)’s position is “unconvincing” and “not in the best interests of the left and democratic movement” (see http://sfijnuweb.wordpress.com/).

In a subsequent leaflet, the SFI-JNU also distanced itself from the stances of the CPI(M) on the murder of comrade TP Chandrasekharan, and also land acquisition and repression at Singur-Nandigram.

AISA welcomed the stand taken by the SFI-JNU. Earlier, AISA had also welcomed the resignation of the former SFI leader Prasenjit Bose from the CPI(M). AISA pointed out that “Left and democratic student opinion has time and again debated and overwhelmingly rejected SFI’s support of CPI(M)’s indefensible decisions: whether it is the forcible land acquisition and state repression in Singur and Nandigram, CPI(M)’s support for UPA’s anti-people legislations like the SEZ Act, or the CPI(M)’s dilly-dallying on the issue of the Indo-US nuke deal, or CPI(M)’s support for the draconian AFSPA. The SFI’s JNU unit’s refusal to defend CPI(M)’s support for Pranab Mukherjee, which is a welcome departure from its norm, is to be seen in this light.”

AISA also observed, “Going by the CPI(M)’s track record of elimination of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan, expulsion of Prasenjit Bose, restraining of Abdur Rezzak Mollah from joining the March to Singur recently, and rejection and ridicule of VS Achuthanandan’s solidarity with TP Chandrasekharan’s party and family, and ignoring of the constructive criticism of intellectuals like Prabhat Patnaik and Ashok Mitra, it is clear that the CPI(M) has, time and again, responded with contempt for any inner-party struggle against right deviation. It remains to be seen whether the SFI as an all-India organisation, and the CPI(M) party, take heed of this realisation and ferment in its unit in a leading Left campus of this country.”

Subsequently, the SFI All India leadership dissolved the SFI JNU Unit, and expelled four SFI leaders who are from JNU, from primary membership of SFI. The SFI-JNU have said that they will continue to function as SFI-JNU. Their statement says, “The decision to expel 4 SFI Delhi State Committee members from JNU because the SFI-JNU Unit has taken a collective decision on a political issue, smacks of an authoritarian, undemocratic and vindictive attitude. The All-India leadership seems to be under the misconception that by targeting a few individuals they will be able to browbeat the entire unit and divert attention from the relevant political issues... SFI-JNU Unit will carry forward the legacy of Study and Struggle and continue to function in the name of SFI-JNU and retain its adherence to the SFI Programme and Constitution. It is the All-India leadership of the SFI who have acted against the SFI Programme and Constitution. We appeal to SFI Units across the country, SFI State committees and SFI CEC members to register their protest against such violations and reverse the undemocratic decisions.”

Explaining why SFI-JNU held a GBM to decide its stand on support for Pranab, the SFI-JNU leaflet said, “In the past few weeks the SFI came under severe attack from ultra-Left organizations like the AISA over this issue. Students were asking about SFI’s position and we could not afford to remain silent.”

The same leaflet observed that SFI in JNU had failed to win a single office bearer’s post in 2007 and 2012 JNUSU elections, and that political reasons, “primarily those related to Singur-Nandigram and the general state of the Left movement in the country,” were responsible for this. SFI-JNU held that “In a left leaning political campus like JNU, these developments have eroded the SFI’s support base among the progressive and democratic minded students. The developments since 2007 have made the SFI vulnerable to attacks of ‘double-speak’” by AISA which “gained at SFI’s cost.”

The SFI-JNU leaflet also held, “The interests of the SFI-JNU are intrinsically linked to these political issues. Neither can SFI-JNU defend unconvincing political decisions in public like support for Pranab Mukherjee in Presidential elections nor can it remain silent on acts like the recent murder of RMP leader TP Chandrasekharan in Kerala. Several CPI (M) functionaries have been arrested in the case so far, while investigations continue. The outrageous statement made by a CPI (M) leader M.M.Mani has only made matters worse. This has become a major political issue in Kerala as well as JNU. The SFI-JNU has taken a principled position on the issue and demanded action against the guilty irrespective of political affiliations. The all-India leadership of the SFI has not adopted any stand on these issues till date.”

Meanwhile the official SFI unit in JNU launched its ideological offensive on the rebel SFI-JNU. Predictably, AISA-bashing figures prominently in this offensive. The official SFI claims that AISA since 2004 has been attacking the organised Left in order to attract right-wing votes, and even makes the fantastic claim that in the 2012 elections where AISA swept the polls, “the right-wing votes in the campus neatly disappeared into the AISA kitty.”

The SFI’s national leadership, in an official communiqué from its CEC to its state units on July 13 that has been carried in the July 22 issue of People’s Democracy, has also taken a similar line. The CEC, in attacking the rebels, promotes the idea that the student organisation must remain apolitical and leave politics to its elders and betters! The letter says that the SFI-JNU leaders were “categorically told that the presidential election of the country is not a matter directly related to SFI.” It makes a specious distinction between “political issues arising out of confronting questions facing the student community,” which it says is legitimate terrain for SFI, and “specific decisions taken by this or that political party,” into which SFI has never meddled. According to the SFI CEC, it is an ‘ultra-Left’ tendency that advocates that students become active on political issues that do not directly concern students. It castigates the ultra-Left for harping on Singur-Nandigram, claiming that by doing so it is serving the TMC agenda. It laments that “attitudes from the ultra-left are sometimes unfortunately finding resonance within a small portion of our activists.”

The SFI CEC is paranoid enough to smell a conspiracy even in a JNUSU Convention for campus democracy and against the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations! Long before Prasenjit Bose’s resignation and the SFI-JNU’s rebellion, the JNUSU leadership had been visiting campuses countrywide, mobilising support of unions and student groups against the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. The JNUSU also invited the SFI’s national leadership and CPIM leaders to attend the Convention. But this is what the SFI CEC letter, raising the AISA bogey, says: “In between, all-India general secretary of SFI got a call from Sucheta De, president of JNUSU and AISA leader. She informed that the JNUSU is going to organise an all-India convention on campus democracy involving different university unions throughout the country and wants the SFI unions to participate. Then we received information from different states that the AISA leadership met different SFI led unions almost one month earlier to the call made to the general secretary and asked them to participate in the convention. Interestingly, the SFI leaders of JNU were in favour of participating in the convention. The all-India centre felt that the incidents must not be seen in isolation and it was decided that none of our unions will participate in the convention. It is clear that AISA was moving unilaterally to address an All India audience at the cost of SFI.” So, even on an issue that directly concerns students, the SFI national leadership’s sectarianism and fear of the ‘JNU effect’ on its ranks, has led it to stay aloof!

Thanks to AISA’s intervention, political debate in a Left-leaning campus of JNU has sharply rejected any apologia for CPI(M)’s right-revisionist tendencies. This in turn has resulted in the realisation by the SFI-JNU comrades, that CPI(M)’s positions on a range of issues are indefensible among progressive and Left-minded sections of society. And in trying to insulate its ranks from this realisation, the SFI national leadership and CPI(M) are promoting a highly sectarian and apolitical model for student movement.

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