Beyond “identity” it’s crucial to see the NRC issue from the class perspective
We may or may not agree with what Sharjil Imam, a research scholar of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), had recently said in his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). However, it’s the task of each conscious and just person to oppose the sedition charges filed against Imam because in no civilised and democratic society sedition can exist as a penal offence. It’s the right of the citizens to speak against the state machinery! The stark difference between the medieval state, that mankind had left behind long back, and the modern bourgeoisie state is that the latter can’t claim itself to be an institution above the people, or superior to them.
Imam had said that to stop police repression on the unprecedented people’s struggle against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Muslims must bring at least one non-Muslim friend each, that each non-Muslim participating in the movement must recite Allahu Akbar — God is great — or else it should be considered that the non-Muslims are merely coming to utilise the Muslims as pawns. Before this, a Jamia Millia Islamia student named Chhanda Yadav had said that she is fighting against the CAA despite being a Hindu. This shows that many of those who have been at the forefront of the anti-CAA and anti-NRC movements, including well-learned students of reputed institutions are believing in the notion that this movement, this struggle is merely for the cause of the Muslims. These people, including intellectuals like Imam, are unable to see beyond the identity question and are simply playing within the fences set by the ruling dispensation.
Imam is not solely responsible for what he said in AMU. The extremist Hindutva fascist regimes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, along with the so-called left-liberals are equally responsible for the fiasco. Both sides are propagating, covertly and overtly that Hindutva fascism is merely an anti-Muslim cavalcade.
Like former Jammu & Kashmir governor Jagmohan, who in order to promote sectarianism selectively killed and persecuted Kashmiri Muslim protesters, the Adityanath regime is persecuting Muslims to hoodwink the overwhelming Hindus — especially the poor and downtrodden Hindus — that the CAA and NRC issues are only Muslim issues and the government is cracking a whip to control Muslim vandalism. This is also making the Muslims feel that they are persecuted due to their immediate identity and the legislations that the Modi is bringing or the oppression unleashed by the Adityanath regime is driven by sheer Islamophobia, with no other political and economic background. Such a smokescreen is created so that the Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Hindus remain isolated from each other.
Imam, like many other middle-class or elite Muslims, who have been tempered in the flames of identity politics, is entrapped due to the same myopic politics peddled in order to protest against the CAA and the NRC
In another article, we have shown that the NRC will snatch the citizenship rights of people irrespective of their religion. The majority of them will be Hindus (Dalits and other backward castes), and then Sikhs because these two communities were the biggest victims of the partition. Alike tribals, the Muslims of states like Uttar Pradesh are too indigenous residents of India. Among these indigenous people, a large number will lose citizenship due to the NRC as they won’t be able to prove through documentary evidence that they are Indian citizens.
The CAA will grant citizenship only to 31,313 non-Muslims, as we have shown in this article; none else will get citizenship outside these 31,313, though they can apply for the same. Thus, the CAA and NRC aren’t anti-Muslim conspiracies, rather, these will be used against all Indian citizens. The CAA is a clever manoeuvre of the Modi regime to keep the 86% Hindus, especially, the majority of them, ie, the poor workers, peasantry, toiling people, etc, outside the anti-NRC movements.
Still, in this situation, the so-called left-liberal intellectuals aren’t exposing the fact that the CAA isn’t securing the interests of the majority of the Hindu community, rather, they are presenting some strange logic in their opposition to the CAA, which have no real foundation. Thus, the irresponsible anti-CAA propaganda of these so-called progressive intellectuals has fed the Hindutva fascist propaganda. Both camps are saying the same thing — the CAA and the NRC are anti-Muslim — albeit from two different angles.
This propaganda has one undertone, which says the 86% non-Muslims must not worry about these threats, or that the Hindus should come out on the streets either for the sake of the Muslims or save the Constitution, but not to save their own lives, which will be at stake due to the NRC. Thus, through such propaganda, the so-called left-liberals have made participation in anti-NRC and anti-CAA struggle optional for the Hindus. This has helped the Modi regime’s communal polarisation agenda to achieve success. The stupidity of these left-liberals on the issue of CAA-NRC is now becoming a criminal conspiracy against the poor.
“In July, the Union government had sent instructions to all state governments to set up detention centres in all major cities”, Scroll.in reported on 7 September 2019.
Who does not know that land is quite scarce in the metro and Tier-II & III cities and that the land prices are skyrocketing? Then why did the government plans to set up detention camps near cities and towns? Actually, the “illegal immigrants” lodged in the detention camps (or even if they stay outside the detention camps) will not have the bargaining power. They will turn into cheap labour providers without bargaining power. And if the majority of the population is forced to work for a minimum wage or for free, then those who retained their citizenship after the NRC will also lose their bargaining power and will be under compulsion to sell their labour at a cheaper rate.
So the whole country will run like a detention camp. Cities are built on the basis of large industries and the service sector. In order to increase profitability in the time of financial crisis, it is necessary to reduce the production cost. And in order to reduce the production cost, wages need to be decreased. The way NRC would destroy the rights and bargaining power of labour, it would not have been possible even after passing multiple anti-trade union labour laws.
Detention camps have been launched in the name of curbing illegal immigrants in various capitalist countries, including the United States, Italy, etc, to produce more and cheaper labour.
Fascists rose to power in Italy and Germany by fuelling racism, ultra-nationalism, and bigotry. They also enacted various laws to increase the profits of monopoly and finance capital. The workers’ opponency to the capitalist was termed as treason. Without the consent of the capitalists, the workers could not quit their jobs. In this way, the workers were converted into modern slaves. Between 1927 to 1932 in Italy and 1933 to 1935 in Germany, the wages of the workers were reduced by 60% and 75% respectively.
Today, the slavery of labour is absolutely necessary for the survival of the crisis-ridden monopoly-finance capital in the global economy. Thus, NRC or detention camps aren’t quintessential Indian project or of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); there are the interests and directions of the global monopoly-finance capital-owned corporations and their native Gujarat-based big crony-comprador capitalists behind the NRC and disenfranchisement exercise. So the NRC programme isn’t introduced to shift the focus from the financial crisis, rather, the capitalists are trying to find a temporary solution to the financial crisis through the NRC.
As a result, one would err in distinguishing between friend and foe in the fight against NRC if the cause and importance of the problem aren’t properly comprehended. The BJP is not a representative of the Hindi-speaking people or protector of the interests of the Hindu majority of the country. The proposed Hindu Rashtra (an upper-caste Brahminical-feudal theocratic state) is not going to serve the interests of the majority Hindu population. The Hindu state is being created to serve the interests of the oppressors, to enrich Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Gautam Adani and their ilk. The BJP and its parent body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh propagate Hindu extremism for fooling the Hindu majority and involve a section of them in their evil deeds.
A section of progressive people in West Bengal is pushing Hindi speakers and Hindus towards the BJP by promoting NRC as BJP’s anti- Bengali project. However, the Hindi-speaking workers, toiling people and small traders can be powerful allies of the Bengali working class, peasantry and toiling people against the NRC exercise. By mistaking them as foes, many progressive forces are discombobulating the crucial task of identifying and distinguishing between friends and foes of a political movement.
Whenever the peasants and artisans in British India rebelled against feudal landlords, the ruling classes used to portray such rebellions as or turned them into communal riots. The same tactic has been followed by the ruling classes even after 1947. For example, Indira Gandhi asked the Hindus to take the responsibility of remaining united when the national liberation movements gained strength in various parts of India. Earlier, when the ruling classes used to give any social conflict a religious angle, the communists or other progressive people used to oppose them and expose the real essence of the problems. But the ruling classes are now able to easily drag the progressive opposition in their own dirty game. It’s easy now to cajole a large section of the progressive, anti-fascist forces into the fold of the ruling classes. There is no critical assessment or analysis, which causes erosion in the progressive camp.
But why these progressives are overwhelmed by the largesse of the ruling classes? At present, many of them have started writing depending on the version provided by the Congress party and other ruling parties without doing proper self-study. Others have developed their outlook on the face value of the ruling classes’ propaganda. But these aren’t the actual reasons, but the result. For a long time, the practice of identity politics and postmodern philosophy, the domination of corporate-controlled press and educational institutions, or according to Louis Althusser the “ideological state apparatus” has taught everything to be regarded as Identity or Consciousness, except material conflicts. This philosophy, on the one hand, brings antagonism in labour class, on the other hand, it hides the self-interest of the feudal power along with the interests of the Ambanis-Adanis-Tatas and their foreign masters.
Some celebrities who call themselves Marxists, often say, “mansikta ko samajhna hoga”(have to understand the mentality). If mentality is the only source of social problems like gender, caste, nationality, etc. then it paves the way for the communists to do counselling after learning psychoanalysis instead of seizing the political power by practising class struggle. From Karl Marx to Mao Zedong and other post-Mao Marxists have never denied the role of identity and consciousness. Yet the institutional Marxists have attacked Marxism by calling it merely “economic determinism”.
Although renowned Marxists like Frederick Engels, VI Lenin, Mao, etc, have clearly denied “economic determinism,” the institutional Marxists and a section of their accomplices from the liberal, democratic camp continue firing a salvo at Marxism for the same reason. The wealthy classes also try to protect their wealth philosophy using a plethora of methods. They desperately try to show that there is no relation between the wealth and the social problems, between class and identity.
The Establishment is building such a concept of anti-establishment theory where the capitalists and their mode of production can remain secure. It tries to fully protect the oppressors from the immense class hatred of the oppressed. They wipe out the concept of revolutionary class struggle using reformism. It is not surprising that those who don’t have the idea of class and revolution resort to either the Supreme Court or mainstream parliamentary parties.
Meanwhile, this philosophy has entered in the divisive politics of the ruling-BJP and, as a result, the Resist-NRC movement has been abandoned by most of the non-Muslims and non-Bengalis, who are not going to boycott the National Population Register (NPR) exercise. This is a severe blow to the secular and democratic forces, and will eventually snowball into a major crisis in the future if not addressed now.
Only the real Marxists can determine the actual class character of the NRC-NPR-CAA and take the path of resistance rather than falling in the trap of identity politics. It’s imperative for the real Marxists to comprehend the NRC issue from a class perspective and mobilise the working class, the peasantry and the toiled people against the conspiracy hatched by the Indian ruling classes, following the diktat of their foreign masters. It’s only the class struggle of the poor against the rich, the big comprador capitalists, feudal landlords and the big foreign corporations that the attempt to disenfranchise and humiliate the poor can be thwarted and a total political transformation can be brought.
Soumo Mondol started his journey as a student activist in West Bengal. He is a radical Marxist thinker, a left-wing activist who fights for the cause of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed people.