(We are Making this Public, as the SFI CEC Note has also been made Public)
Adopted in the SFI-JNU Unit EC Meeting held on 29.07.2012
The CEC Members, Students’ Federation of India
We write to you on behalf of the SFI-JNU Unit with the hope that you would kindly consider the issues raised and the facts mentioned in this letter, which is a response to the Note on behalf of the ‘SFI CEC’ circulated by the all-India President and General Secretary of the SFI on the recent developments related to the SFI in JNU. The SFI-JNU Unit considers the Note to be nothing more than a compendium of false allegations and half-truths being spread to create confusion regarding the recent events in JNU.
A General Body Meeting of the SFI-JNU Unit held on 13th July 2012 passed a Resolution stating that it:
On the same day this Note prepared by the SFI all-India Centre was circulated on behalf of the entire SFI CEC to all State Units making the following charge against the SFI-JNU Unit –
“The issue of Pranab Mukherjee’s Presidential candidature seems to be an excuse. Broader designs to disrupt the SFI have been chalked out earlier. We call upon our state units across the country to be vigilant in this regard and keep a close watch so that these disruptive elements are unable to create any confusion and disunity in our organisation.”
We are not aware whether between 10th July 2012, when disciplinary action was taken by the Delhi State Committee and the date this Note was circulated, i.e. 13th July, a CEC Meeting of the SFI was held. The CEC is the highest decision making body of the SFI between two Conferences. An 83-member CEC was elected in the 13th All India Conference of the SFI in 2008. Has the entire CEC endorsed the undemocratic decision of the Delhi State Committee of the SFI in a meeting attended by 12 members, to expel 4 Delhi State Committee members and “dissolve” the entire SFI-JNU Unit? This Note is nothing but an attempt to misinform the CEC members and SFI units across the country and vilify the SFI-JNU Unit, in order to pre-empt any informed and democratic discussion within the SFI CEC or All-India Conference on this important matter. This is against the principle of democratic functioning as enshrined in the SFI Constitution.
SFI-JNU Unit reiterates its appeal to the entire SFI CEC to consider the facts as well as political issues raised by the SFI-JNU Unit in an objective manner and reverse the unconstitutional disciplinary action taken by the Delhi State Committee, in keeping with the progressive, democratic and independent character of the SFI.
It is ironical that after arguing at length that the “SFI has never indulged in going into specific decisions taken by this or that political party,” and “that it is absolutely imperative to maintain the independent character of SFI and not be overly bothered by decisions of political parties,” this Note has been made public in Peoples’ Democracy, which is the official organ of the CPI (M) and not through the all-India organ of the SFI – Student Struggle. Such actions erode the credibility of an independent mass organization of students that has over 43 lakh members across the country.
Regarding approach to politics, the SFI Programme clearly states in ‘Our Perspective’ Para 2:
“Every demand for education, employment opportunities, and the right to work, and every slogan in defense of civil rights such as right to speech, assembly, and association, and every protest against any injustice or oppression are invariably connected with the policies of the state and thus assume a political character. In the face of this reality, it is hypocritical to subscribe to bankrupt slogans such as ‘students should abstain from politics’ and ‘education should be apolitical’. The Students’ Federation of India is of the considered view that such deceptive slogans have the political motivation of perpetuating political ignorance among the student community to conceal from them the harsh implications of the anti-people policies of the ruling classes thus help the conservative, exploitative social order to stay.”
The SFI Programme also states in the ‘Aims and Objectives’ Para 5:
“The Students’ Federation of India, while stressing the duty and necessity of the student community for diligent and industrious study of the humanities and the sciences to equip themselves with adequate knowledge and enlightenment, simultaneously seeks to encourage and promote their thirst for political and social knowledge and consciousness. The students should thus be adequately prepared, on leaving school or college, to play their rightful role as conscious citizens of this fast changing society of our times.”
It is to be noted that JNU is a university where approximately 60 percent of all students are MPhil/PhD students, another 30 percent are post-graduate students (MA/MSc/MCA) and about 10 percent are BA students. In the nature of student politics in JNU – the SFI all India leadership’s position that “the presidential election of the country is not a matter directly related to SFI” does not hold. For over forty years, the SFI-JNU Unit has adopted numerous positions on national and international issues and never has it been the case that the SFI all India leadership has questioned the “purview” of the JNU unit to adopt such positions given the realities of student politics in the campus. It is not only the SFI but all other student organisations, from the AISF, AISA to NSUI and ABVP, who take positions on national and international issues and serious political debates take place around them. Constitutional provisions of the SFI have never come in the way of SFI-JNU Unit taking such positions.
Moreover, the SFI all-India Centre or the SFI CEC did not adopt any position on the Presidential elections issue. Therefore, the question of violating any all-India line of the SFI does not arise in this case. As is evident from the Note, there has been no political response or engagement on part of the SFI all-India Centre with the genuine political difference of the SFI-JNU Unit with the CPI (M)’s support to the former Finance Minister from the Congress, Pranab Mukherjee in Presidential elections, which led to disunity among the Left parties. The SFI-JNU Unit expressed its disagreement with the CPI (M)’s decision after democratic discussion in the Executive Committee of the Unit and a General Body Meeting attended by available SFI members. Rather than discuss and debate this political difference the entire issue has been dismissed off-hand, and the SFI-JNU unit members are being advised to either remain apolitical or being ascribed other sinister motivations.
Coming from the SFI all-India President who is an MP of the CPI (M) or the General Secretary who unsuccessfully contested in a Lok Sabha by-election from CPI (M) ticket and is regularly seen on Bengali TV channels speaking on behalf of the CPI (M) on all kinds of issues, this is extremely disappointing. If the SFI President and General Secretary can debate and discuss matters on behalf of the CPI (M) in public platforms, why couldn’t they discuss them with their fellow comrades of the SFI-JNU Unit? Why admonish them for raising issues related to “political parties” in a hypocritical manner and then initiate such drastic disciplinary action against them?
The Note states that “It is clear that left sectarian tendencies which target the united and democratic character of the student movement by giving precedence in criticising the organised left have obviously created conditions for spreading confusion. And we are disarming ourselves from our political legacy by capitulating before such diversionary tactics.” SFI-JNU Unit wants to know from the President and General Secretary how criticising CPI (M)’s support to Pranab Mukherjee is a reflection of a “left-sectarian tendency”. The CPI and RSP abstained in the Presidential elections. Are they also victims of “left sectarian tendencies”? How did the CPI (M) land up voting alongside its sworn enemy the Trinamool Congress in the Presidential elections? Is this a desirable political outcome? Running away from political debates and trying to use the stick of disciplinary action to silence political dissent can never help in strengthening an organisation like the SFI.
The unconstitutional disciplinary action has been justified on the basis of baseless conspiracy theories against the SFI-JNU Unit for seeking to “disrupt the political-organisational unity of the SFI and strengthen our adversaries.” It has been alleged that SFI-JNU is indulging in “attempts of disintegration that unfortunately is being masterminded by a very small section of individuals” and that “Broader designs to disrupt the SFI have been chalked out earlier”. Not an iota of evidence has been presented by the President and General Secretary while making these wild allegations. In fact the disciplinary action was taken citing the violation of Rules 4 (a) and (f) of the SFI Constitution in the press release issued by the “acting” president and secretary of the Delhi State Committee, which relates to the decision making purview of a primary unit. Allegations of organisational disruption were never made against the JNU Unit or the Delhi State Committee members from JNU before disciplinary action was taken, therefore denying them the right to defend themselves within organisational forum.
If the activities of the SFI-JNU Unit were considered to be disruptive by the SFI all-India Centre, have they ever raised these matters either with the JNU Unit leadership or discuss them in the CEC? Two functionaries of the all-India Centre including the General Secretary were present in the JNU unit conference held on March 30-31, 2012. The General Secretary addressed the Conference at length on 30th March. Why did he not raise these issues before the general members of the SFI in JNU? The truth is that these unfounded charges are being leveled ex post facto because the all-India leadership is unable to answer the political questions raised by the SFI-JNU Unit.
It is very unfortunate that the SFI-JNU Unit’s opinion regarding participation in a JNUSU Convention held on 21st July 2012 organised by the AISA-led union has been held up as a proof of an alleged political conspiracy. The JNUSU once elected has legitimacy of the elected body of all JNU students and our only plea was that the SFI as an all-India organisation be seen to be genuinely serious in all efforts to strengthen campus democracy. While AISA has a majority in the present JNUSU Council, SFI also has three councilors and other student organisations are also represented.
In view of the Supreme Court stay on JNUSU elections citing Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, successive appeals have been made in SFI CEC meetings to take some initiative on ensuring democratic rights of students across campuses. The issue of political attacks faced by the SFI for having ‘broadly welcomed’ the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations in 2006 vide a PD article written by the then SFI General Secretary was also discussed seriously in the JNU Unit Conference held on 30-31 Mar 2012, and the General Secretary assured the delegates that the organizational stand would be re-examined in the All India Conference of the SFI scheduled soon. The General Secretary while addressing the JNU Unit Conference in 2009 had also mentioned about a Resolution passed in the 2008 SFI all-India Conference against the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. The SFI General Secretary had also addressed a public meeting organised by the Joint Struggle Committee in JNU during the struggle for the restoration of the JNUSU elections, where he criticized the Lyngdoh recommendations and had promised before the JNU students that the SFI will fight them at the national level. Unfortunately, we never received active cooperation from the SFI all-India Centre during that difficult struggle.
Very serious efforts have been made by the SFI-JNU unit for the restoration of JNUSU elections while the AISA has indulged in mere tokenism. Therefore we requested the SFI all-India leadership as well as SFI led student unions across the country to participate in the JNUSU Convention. The participation of numerous students’ unions that the SFI holds across the country, far from damaging the SFI could have helped in countering AISA’s tokenism and lack of support among students across the country, apart from helping the SFI-JNU Unit. The decision to boycott such a programme in the absence of any major nationwide initiative on our organization’s part appears to be driven out of subjective and sectarian considerations.
As far as the SFI-JNU Unit’s approach to the left-sectarian AISA is concerned it is contained in our pamphlet dated 9th July 2012. Some excerpts are reproduced below:
AISA considers CPI (M)’s “right deviation” as the sole reason behind the Left’s decline. This is a shallow and skewed analysis. While the AISA has always held the SFI in JNU accountable for the omissions and commissions of the CPI (M), it has refused to engage with the reasons behind the major erosion in CPI (ML) Liberation’s support, especially in Bihar and Jharkhand. Is the CPI (ML) Liberation also suffering from “right deviation” leading to an erosion of its mass base? Why has the CPI (ML) Liberation failed to emerge as a credible Left alternative to the CPI (M) despite being vocal against its “deviations” for so many years? A little introspection on AISA’s part is certainly in order. Success in Left politics is contingent on mobilising people in mass movements and forging broad alliances of progressive political forces. CPI (ML) Liberation, or other CPI (ML) groups for that matter, has never given much importance to these vital tasks. CPI (M) bashing has remained to be the be-all and end-all of their “revolutionary” activity. Such sectarianism has naturally led them into a blind alley.
….While the AISA waxes eloquent on the “right deviation” of the CPI (M), it remains totally muted on the destructive left-adventurism of the Maoists. The mindless violence perpetrated by the Maoists and the brutal repression by the Indian state has created a vicious cycle which has inflicted untold sufferings on the tribal people in many parts of India. The Maoists joined hands with the right reactionary Trinamul Congress in West Bengal and assassinated hundreds of grassroots activists of the CPI (M) and other Left parties who were mostly poor peasants, labourers and school teachers. Were they class enemies? AISA’s criticisms of the CPI (M) on political killings ring hollow in the face of its silence on the horrific crimes and anti-democratic acts committed by the Maoists in West Bengal and elsewhere. Does the AISA consider the violent tactics of the Maoists as a legitimate form of Left politics?
AISA should also introspect why it has to invoke the dissenting views of CPI (M) leaders like Comrades VS Achuthanandan and Abdur Razzak Mollah or Left intellectuals like Ashok Mitra and Prabhat Patnaik to attack the CPI (M). Isn’t it because the more authentic and credible criticisms of the wrong trends within the CPI (M) comes not from the CPI ML but from within the members and sympathisers of the CPI (M)? With all its current problems, the CPI (M) continues to remain the largest Left force in the country. There are thousands of dedicated Left activists within the CPI (M) – much more than all ML groups put together – who continue to brave repression and selflessly fight for the cause of the exploited and the oppressed. Even while criticising the erroneous decisions and wrong trends within the CPI (M), SFI-JNU considers all the fighting activists of the CPI (M) as comrades who are struggling for a common cause.
We fail to understand how even after such publicly stated positions, the SFI all-India Centre can come to the conclusion that the SFI-JNU Unit and its leadership has “helped to strengthen the hands of AISA”. In fact by putting the cart before the horse, it appears that only strengthening the AISA can now vindicate the SFI all-India Centre’s Note. By immediately announcing a parallel SFI-OC in JNU it is the SFI all-India Centre that is strengthening the hands of the AISA. This ad-hoc committee of the “official SFI” comprise of a handful of students in the campus. These students are issuing malicious pamphlets, slandering the SFI-JNU Unit and trying to break the unity of the organisation on very petty parochial lines, giving a bad name to the SFI as a whole. Some former SFI functionaries who had left JNU over 10 years back have been deployed in the campus to participate in such retrograde activities. Their activities are meant to weaken the SFI-JNU Unit which is the main opposition force against the AISA in JNU campus.
Elaborate allegations have been made against the SFI-JNU Unit for wrong organizational practices. The Unit Conference of SFI-JNU Unit was held on 30-31 March 2012. The Conference Report was self-critical about many political-organizational shortcomings, and the need for rectification. However, there exists a dialectical relationship between politics and organization and the two cannot be seen in isolation to each other. We genuinely accept the need for organizational improvement. However, holding organizational reasons solely responsible for our electoral reverses is missing the woods for the trees. The political issues at stake cannot be denied. Issues like Singur-Nandigram and other developments related to the Left in West Bengal had a major role to play in SFI’s electoral reverses in JNU, just like they played a big role in the electoral defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal.
While genuine organizational shortcomings will never be denied by us, the SFI-JNU Unit emphatically refutes and rejects the baseless and slanderous charges contained in the Note.
Contrary to the allegation made in the Note, no attempts have been made by the SFI-JNU Unit to disrupt organizational unity of the SFI. Our’s is a case of genuine political dissent. In response we are facing vendetta, vilification and slander. We once again appeal to the CEC as well as all units of the SFI across India to stand in solidarity with us against this undemocratic and unconstitutional disciplinary action.
There could be nothing further from the truth to denigrate the collective opinion of the SFI-JNU Unit’s Executive Committee and GBM as being driven by a handful of individuals. The resignation of the former SFI State Secretary from the CPI (M) that has been mentioned in the Note happened on 22nd June 2012. The SFI JNU Unit held its first GBM to discuss the Presidential elections issue on 5th July 2012, i.e. after two weeks of that incident.
The activities of the SFI all-India leadership along with the Delhi CPI (M) leadership during this period (23rd June to 4th July) has been on utterly factional lines, violating all norms of organisational functioning. Rather than allowing a Delhi State Committee meeting of the SFI to take place, a separate meeting of the SFI comrades from Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia was convened in the CPI (M) Delhi State Committee office on 23rd June. The SFI Delhi State Committee members from JNU including the SFI Delhi State President were not informed about the meeting. The comrades from Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia were deliberately provoked against the SFI-JNU Unit and asked to treat them as suspects. This vitiated the atmosphere and created divisions within the Delhi state organisation.
A meeting of SFI activists was called in the SFI central office bypassing the Delhi State President and other State Committee members from JNU. Later, when the Delhi State President and other State Committee members from JNU expressed their wish to attend the meeting, it was cancelled.
The SFI all-India leadership also refused to attend any meeting of the SFI JNU Unit to discuss the issue despite invitations from the SFI-JNU Unit leadership. Whatever discussions took place between the SFI all-India leadership and the SFI-JNU Unit leadership, happened in the presence of the Delhi CPI (M) leadership. In all such meetings with the present and former all-India leaders of the SFI, we found no satisfactory answers to our political questions. On the contrary, factional attempts were made on non-political lines to divide the SFI-JNU Unit. Advice was also given to the SFI-JNU Unit to remain silent on the Presidential election issue, despite the fact that the AISA was attacking us continuously by issuing pamphlets and releases.
This ham handed manner of dealing with political differences and dissent forced the SFI-JNU Unit to convene its EC and subsequently a GBM on 5th July 2012 to adopt a position which was in the best interests of the SFI in JNU. Disciplinary action was taken in a Delhi State Committee meeting convened on 10th July 2012. No efforts were made on the part of the SFI all-India leadership between 5th and 10th July to discuss the political differences and arrive at some resolution of the matter.
We also wish to bring to the notice of all CEC members that the Delhi State Secretary of the SFI and CEC member Com. Robert who is available at least on E-mail during his study leave was not even consulted before taking such a major disciplinary action. He resigned as SFI Delhi State Secretary in protest against the undemocratic disciplinary actions on the very same day, i.e. 10th July.
We hope that the All India Centre would truly uphold the independent and democratic character of the SFI and conduct a free and frank debate within the SFI CEC on these issues before taking positions on behalf of the entire CEC.
We appeal to all CEC members and comrades of the SFI Units across the country to consider the following questions: What was the great haste in expelling 4 Delhi State Committee members and “dissolving” the SFI-JNU Unit after the SFI GBM? Why could not the SFI all-India leadership conduct discussion with the SFI-JNU Unit and explore the possibilities of a democratic resolution of the differences, by convening another GBM? Why has the CEC not been taken into confidence on this issue so far? Why are lies and slander being resorted to against the entire SFI-JNU Unit which has nearly 600 members, who have remained committed to the SFI even at a time of adversity?
The SFI-JNU Unit is grateful to all the signatories of an appeal issued by former SFI members and sympathizers from JNU, including many senior faculty members from JNU, addressed to the SFI all-India President to withdraw the undemocratic decisions against the SFI-JNU Unit and it leadership. It would have been prudent on part of the President to present this appeal before the CEC and take a considered view on the matter, rather than again hastily issuing an arrogant retort.
SFI-JNU Unit has already pledged that it will continue to adhere to the SFI Programme and Constitution and shall arrive at all decisions following widest possible democratic discussions among all SFI members. We appeal to all CEC members of the SFI to consider the facts mentioned in our appeal and the issues raised in an objective manner and do the needful in the best interests of the SFI.
Sd/- Anagha, President, SFI-JNU Unit Sd/- Lenin, Vice President, SFI-JNU Unit