OPINION | Congress Manifesto Gives Primacy to The Agenda Professed by Ultra-Left Parties
By seeking to make changes to AFSPA, the Congress has played into the hands of forces for whom the Indian security establishment is an enemy and the insurgents of all hues are friends.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi released his party's election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi. (Image: Reuters)
Posters professing “Freedom for Kashmir”, “Freedom for Nagaland”, “Scrapping of AFSPA”, “Fight against Divisive RSS”, “Deletion of Section 124A of IPC”, etc. pasted all over the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have been a common phenomenon. Such posters and pamphlets are mostly distributed by the student wings of various Marxist-Leninist parties who believe in the principle that “power flows from the barrel of the gun” and have been waging a war against the Indian Union. For them, India is not a nation but a conglomeration of, on the last count, at least 36 nations.
Looking at these posters makes one think that such negative and divisive propaganda is limited to at least just the four walls of JNU and that the mainstream public discourse is somewhat untouched by this vilifying propaganda. However, the election manifesto of the Congress party, for the 2019 general elections, has shattered this view by giving primacy to the agenda hitherto professed by the ultra-Left parties. The manifesto reads more like a pamphlet of the All India Students’ Association, the students’ wing of the CPI (M-L).
Abusing the RSS and making a reference to it is a typical feature of the pamphlets/posters taken out by the Left/ultra-Left student bodies in JNU and the influence of this thought process is evident from the very first page of the manifesto, a message signed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, accusing RSS and its affiliates for allegedly working to “destroy the idea of India”.
This calumny, notwithstanding, the fact that the Sangh has been tirelessly working on ground for the betterment of the country for more than nine decades. In fact, any discussion on any issue in JNU initiated by the Left/ultra-Left is not complete without bringing in the RSS and putting all the blame on it even though there is no correlation. I am reminded of a presidential debate where a candidate of this ultra-Left group, in answer to each and every question, would say that we will have to defeat these divisive communal forces.
The right to self-determination to Jammu and Kashmir has been a longstanding position of the Left and ultra-Left parties in JNU. Any talk about Article 370 of the Constitution is mocked at by invoking the treaty of accession and any talk about repealing this temporary provision is considered blasphemy. By stating that “nothing will be done to change the Constitutional position” on Article 370, the Party is endorsing the views of the ultra-Left. Similarly, these bodies in JNU are always conspicuous by their silence on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, which is reflected in the manifesto where an entire section is devoted to J&K but not a single mention is made to this issue.
The repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a legislation brought in by the government of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru to address insurgency in Nagaland and a brainchild of the Congress, has been an issue close to the hearts of the ultra-Left. By seeking to make changes to AFSPA, the Congress has played into the hands of these forces for whom the Indian security establishment is an enemy and the insurgents of all hues are friends. In professing to dilute AFSPA, the Congress is seeking to weaken the security apparatus of the country and make it vulnerable to the whims of the political executive.
It is an irony that while talking about balancing human rights and security concerns, the Congress has forgotten that the Constitution makes specific provision for taking aid of the armed forces in areas declared as “disturbed” by the state government. It has also forgotten that such declarations were made by the Congress party in the first place. It has also forgotten that terrorist and anti-national activities in many parts of the country are the result of its misgovernance. However, the irony is that the party which created all these problems in the first place is now seeking to find an escape route by professing changes to AFSPA.
Repealing section 499 of the IPC is something which has been professed by the Left/ultra-Left bodies and by giving it a place in its manifesto, the Congress is toeing their line. It’s a different matter that the Congress president is himself facing charges under this provision of law for his comments on the RSS and it is natural that he would the provision to be omitted.
Section 124A of the IPC has been on the statute book for more than a century and Nehru had vowed to remove this provision soon after independence, only to backtrack. The Congress has put this legislation to use on multiple occasions, but it is now professing to repeal this. Many would consider this a noble gesture, but the hard question to ask is whether this has emanated from the support that the Congress president extended to the “tukde-tukde” gang of JNU who were from the Left/ultra-Left groups and are now facing prosecution. Please remember that in February 2016, this group of students and teachers organised a series of lectures in JNU on nationalism. In one of these talks, Professor Nivedita Menon had even gone to the extent of saying that J&K is under forcible occupation of India. Clearly, the Congress is seeking to protect these elements and is nonchalant about its support to them.
Another common theme for all the Left/ultra-Left bodies in JNU is their grandstanding on the issue of gender justice but none of them ever speaks out about the plight of Muslim women or Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and all their energies are concentrated in proving how the RSS is regressive, how the Hindu religion is regressive extending to denigrating gods and goddesses worshipped by them. This thought process is reflected in the Congress manifesto on the issue of “Women empowerment and Gender Justice” to, certain extent, which is silent about burning issues like triple talaq and the UCC.
The issue of minority-run institutions is another one close to the hearts of the Left/ultra-Left, so much so that they have no qualms about the Right to Education Act (RTE) being not applicable to such institutions even though their double-speak has always been to provide free education to all. The manifesto, unsurprisingly, is silent about this issue while professing to uphold the character of AMU (Aligarh Muslim University) and JMI (Jamia Millia Islamia) as minority institutions when this issue is sub-judice before the courts of law. This clearly shows that when it comes to institutions run by minorities, the Congress brazenly extends its support and is even prepared to set the judicial process to naught.
Another interesting feature of the manifesto is the Congress’s stance on dealing with Maoist violence and only talking about dealing with them “resolutely”. Nobody knows how this term “resolutely” is going to be implemented. One is left to wonder that if the party could use express terms like putting down communal and caste-based violence with a firm hand, what prevented it from saying so in the case of “Maoism”. Is it something to do with having a soft corner towards Maoists who have come out in support of the Congress party as recently as the just-concluded Chhattisgarh elections when its leader, Raj Babbar, termed them as revolutionary? Or is it due to the influence of the AISA-turned-Congress advisor of Rahul Gandhi, a former President of JNUSU?
All in all, the influence of this advisor, who professed the Maoist ideology in JNU campus and is now a fellow traveller of the Congress, is writ large on the manifesto. If this be the case by 2024, we may see another manifesto that will profess the right of self-determination to all insurgents, treat Maoists as revolutionaries, and denigrate our security forces to forces of occupation.
(The author is an advocate and a former president of the JNUSU)
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