With protests taking place across the country, left’s slogans of Azaadi which are now associated with Kanhaiya Kumar and which originally have roots in Kashmir’s independence struggle, have become every protestor’s rallying cry. The slogans that call for freedom from communalism, casteism, hunger, patriarchy among many other social vices fill every gathering with a renewed passion.
However, the context in which the word freedom is used in these slogans needs a better understanding. The left-liberal and progressive stand on freedom stems from an unflinching faith in constitution. Every fight they associate themselves with, they call as a ‘constitutional fight’. Hence the freedom they seek is also bound within the ambit of the constitution. But our constitution is an organic document which was left to evolve itself with the exigencies of time. Barring the basic structure, the constitution can be amended to fulfil the needs and aspirations of its people. Till the time the aspirations of a certain category are not satisfied by the existing constitutional provisions, it may be tempting for the state to call any such demand treacherous or seditious. But the question is are the aspirations on their own illegitimate even when they go beyond constitution or sometimes against it and when it can’t be said with certainty that what provisions are so sacrosanct today may not be relevant tomorrow?
Going back to the word freedom, its usage as a popular slogan and it’s appropriation by the left, one wonders that all those chanting it have common aspirations. What if the aspirations of one group of people are not in sync with the other or worse go against each other? Say for instance if a victim of triple talaq criminalization law and a disenchanted Modi supporter have both congregated to a protest site against CAA, would they have common aspirations. While the latter may have listened to his conscience and extended solidarity by walking into the protests, would he be able to comprehend the mental trauma that the former has gone through. What would happen to the constitutional fight if a Kashmiri and a citizen from mainland India march together in Delhi chanting Azaadi slogans. Can the aspirations of both be justified at the same time? If not, can it be rejected altogether? Perhaps not. It is in light of this dichotomy that a left-liberal and progressive critique need to be developed.
Not all fights are constitutional fight, some fights are fought for existence. Hence it is not necessary that all aspirations that converge in freedom shall find mention in the constitution of a country. Sometimes the welfare of the people may call for scrapping the constitution altogether.
Calling for Muslim politics doesn’t amount to calling for an Islamic state. Calling for Muslim politics shouldn’t also be confused with a call for reforms. Muslim politics is all about securing equitable and proportionate citizenship rights. Ask a Tamil and he talks about Tamil first. Ask a Malayali and he talks about Malayali first. Ask a Marathi and he talks about Marathi first. Ask a Dalit and he talks about Dalits first. Ask a Backward class and he talks about BC’s first. Ask a Tribal and he talks about tribals first. Ask a feminist and she talks about females first. But you ask a Muslim and he talks about secularism first. In fact, he doesn’t talk about himself at all. He will talk only about what the left-liberal and progressive class from the majority community has fed them. He will live in self-pity, die in his ghetto, be systematically get disenfranchised, be labelled political untouchable but will never ask for his rights first. All because he has never learnt to do his own politics. Even when neither constitutionally nor logically there is anything wrong in practising it. In fact, the constitution gives you the right to form your own associations, assert your religious identity and demand your rights from the state. Logically speaking being at the margins and at the bottom of all socio-economic indicator, it’s only natural that Muslims talk about themselves first. On the other hand, it’s also natural that state should be made to understand that to keep such a large populace deprived of equitable rights is actually a drag on the overall development of the country. It was in same light Manmohan Singh said that the minorities have the first right on state resources.
Politics is not just limited to electoral politics. Muslim intellectuals must understand this fact. To take a political stand or not, to speak on a certain issue or not, is not the only parameter which determines whether one is doing politics. Besides this, the politics of convenience and politics of options is the privilege of those who can afford it. But sadly, not everyone who is doing politics is in a position to afford such luxuries and has options in front of them. If they are so convinced with the muted stand of secular parties in the wake of rising fear of polarization Muslim intellectuals should go and tell Kashmiris in their face that they support the secular parties despite them being in favour of revocation of Article 370, they should go and tell the Muslim underclass that they support the secular parties despite them giving thumbs up to UAPA, Triple Talaq and Ram Mandir judgment. They should go to Jamia and AMU and tell the students that they support the secular parties despite them being mute spectators to the atrocities committed by the police administration. They should go and tell the Muslim mass that they support the secular parties despite them being hand in glove to every attempt at their systematic disenfranchisement and social exclusion.
That an affluent elite more interested in realpolitik and electoral outcomes may choose to stay silent on critical questions pertaining to rights doesn’t mean those questioning the further marginalization and questioning the supposedly pragmatic stand of anti-fascists don’t know how to do politics. If at all the politics of marginalized go beyond electoral triumphs and defeats. It’s a constant struggle that will attain its goal only after the realization of a just and equitable society. But the Muslim intelligentsia will not understand this. They have acquired borrowed wisdom and lent their intellect to left-liberal and progressive manipulation.