(An account of a Historical struggle and constructive politics)
We live in a country where a murder is nothing more than just a news. We pass by a road see a dead body but feel nothing. By the time we reach home we see the same body flashing on our TVs screen as a news and we suddenly realise ‘Oh! Somebody died’. A death has to be a news in this highly commercial age to make us realise that it is a death. Just imagine the situation when there is a systematically executed institutional murder by the corrupt state machinery and which is called as a suicide. We do not bother to investigate the reality and to think of justice for the deceased person. Then who should we expect to fight for justice? Literally, nobody is left. In this hopeless scenario, suddenly some activists make you realise not everybody is down and dead. There are few youngsters still left who take the responsibility to fight against the exploitation and atrocities carried out by the brutal state machinery. There are still voices who cry and shout for ‘Justice! Justice! Justice’.
In a recent case, Ishwar Singh from Jind, Haryana retired from his job on 30 April 2014 and had been working on extension. He was sent to Jail on 30 September on fraudulent grounds in CONFED scam. On 29th, September 2016 CONFED DFSC ( Ashok Rawat, a higher official) reported that Ishwar Singh was working on illegal grounds . His family filed an RTI to prove that Ishwar Singh was still a legal worker but DFSC deliberately avoided to answer RTI. The family members of the deceased went to SHO and asked the police to investigate the case fairly. The SHO assured that the case would be investigated fairly. The DSP felt no need to intervene in the case and didn’t respond to the family. Instead of investigations, all the state officials namely Ramnivas (SHO), Ashok Rawat (DFSC) and Thekedar Rakesh Kumar worked unitedly to prove Ishwar Singh as guilty.
The district police couldn’t produce evidences to prove the allegations on Ishwar Singh and he was granted bail on 20th December. After his release, Ishwar Singh had to go through lot of mental trauma, humiliation and societal pressure because of casteist mentality rampant in our society. He was forced to commit suicide on 18th January, 2017. Before committing suicide, Ishwar Singh wrote a suicide note in which he mentioned the nexus of high officials, police and contractor. He mentioned that the SHO took Rs. 5 lakh as bribe from DFSC Ashok Rawat to manipulate the case in favour of Rakesh Kumar, the contractor. He mentioned the name of all the corrupt officials very explicitly in his last note.
Prima-facie, the suicide note in itself should have been an evidence enough to arrest the alleged people in normal scenario. But here the alleged was an SHO, a DFSC and a contractor with influential contacts in state government of Haryana. So the state machinery was trying to shield them.
This has become a routine business for the corrupt state officials all over the country these days. They can easily manipulate things to save a culprit and victimised the person who needs to be given justice. But in this case, some youngster from Jawaharlal University (JNU) which itself has been a target of central government time and again took responsibility to fight for the victim on ground. JNU has a tradition of lending its voice to the poorest of poor and the weaker sections of society and their struggles all over India. So in a crony capitalistic state, this is understandable why it has been projected as a so called ‘den’ of anti-nationalist activities. Actually in present times, everyone who speaks against any form of exploitation is termed as anti-nationalist by people in power because for them the government is above the nation and everyone who speaks against its exploitative machinery is an ‘anti-national’.
In Ishwar Singh’s case, Pradeep Narwal, a JNU student and also a close relative of the deceased person decided to fight for justice along with the people of Jind. He was joined by fellow JNU students Saumya Gupta, Shubhanshu Singh and Shreya Ghosh who decided to fight for the real nation which comprises of the exploited masses and not just a piece of land. They played an important part in the people’s struggle to bring justice to the corpse of an exploited man Ishwar Singh. On 18th of January Pradeep reached the civil hospital in Jind, Haryana and convinced the relatives of Mr. Ishwar Singh not to cremate the dead and fight for justice. Next day, Saumya Gupta, Shubhanshu Singh and Shreya Ghosh also joined Pradeep and the protestors who were staging Dharna at Civil Hospital to meet the demands in the case which includes immediate arrest of the culprits, compensation for the family and C.B.I inquiry in the case.
The students from JNU helped build a solid ground to mobilise more people to launch a historical agitation in Jind. They convinced the masses to agitate till the end and not to cremate the dead body. Though, the police tried to pressurise local people to cremate the body and vacate the site, but it was the resolve of these four youngsters that forced the police to back-off. Presence of young determined women activists in a highly feudal state with a shameful sex ratio and crime rate against female made other women to believe in this struggle. It was because of them that the women also joined the agitation in full solidarity. The local BJP MLA Premlata (also wife of a central minister) tried to create a binary of outsiders and insiders and blamed the JNU activists to instigate ‘innocent people’ against the government and urged them not to support the agitation. But the way she was handled by these four was exemplary.
Shubhanshu Singh exposed her in his speech who said that “Outsiders are those who are trying to shield the culprits not us”. As a ritual in all such agitations, there are always some petty politicians among the protests with their partisan interests who tried to score few brawny political points to take political advantage over others. But in this movement, the involvement of JNU students ensure that they stand for the principled politics and fight for justice. People saw the dawn of a new era of constructive politics by the youth of this country in this case. Pradeep Narwal has rightly said that Dalits are not only associated to a particular caste, but women, poors, workers, farmers and whoever are oppressed by the society are Dalits. Oppressed people should enforce an ‘oppressed unity’ to fight the power structure in the society.
What make these young people from JNU different is their consciousness about the issues. They feel the pain of the victim and then articulate it in their arguments against the local administration and state government. They understand the traditional rotten way of politics but they define their own politics in a constructive way. They don’t eliminate weak and marginalised but empower them to ask for their rights. Very refreshing to see a young man talking of the inclusion of the last man standing in line. In harsh winter and bad weather they stayed put near a mortuary and refused to cremate the corpse.
The government as usual played the caste card by sending some officials and leaders from the victims’ caste. These caste leaders shed few tears to buy the tears of victim’s family. But it was not like any other ordinary movement where people can be threatened, bought, influenced or sentimentally manipulated. It was the real youth power in action. The youth who understands, feels and is sharp in taking decisions and making other people to be a part of the process in a really democratic way.
This agitation also had its share of some highly insensitive moments from the people who do divisive caste politics of downtrodden and exploited lot of society. These self-proclaimed champions of social justice convinced the deceased’s sisters to announce self-immolation. May be it was just a political stunt but the insensitivity of those who tried to make these naive women a tool was shocking. Here again, the young leader took a stand and make his point clear to people. “We have struggled for ages to abolish Sati in India how can we encourage Sati pratha in another form?” It was the speech of Pradeep Narwal which made people realise the plight of women in a patriarchal set up India has since time immemorial. He hailed the participation of women as the biggest motivation in that fight for justice. It was because of him that the people recognised the struggle of women and hailed slogan of ‘NARI SHAKTI’ from the dais. The way Pradeep showed how the inclusiveness of different castes and gender was a strength for people’s movement is exemplary for everyone who sincerely wants a change in present system of exploitation in one way or other.
Though other people participated, JIND agitation will essentially be remembered as a Dalit agitation. But here , the result were different from other popular Dalit agitations in this part of Haryana notably Mirchpur and Bhagana Movement where rapes and other atrocities were committed on Dalits but even after years of struggle justice is still a far cry. On the fifth day of JIND agitation, it was because of the coordinated efforts of resource less but determined people for Jind especially from Dalit community who forced the government to meet all the demands of the agitators. It was like never before in the history of Dalit struggles for Justice in Haryana. It is one of the very few successful Dalit agitations where the government had to kneel down to people’s struggle and accept all their demands. The government was so threatened of the joint might of poor labourers, farmers and youth power that a cabinet minister had to visit twice in 24 hours and finally had to accept the demands of the victim’s family. In times to come, success of JIND agitation will inspire other similar agitations to bring justice to those who are killed by the oppressive caste system and state machinery every day.
The success of this agitation was not only about those JNU students who fought on ground zero but also helped by spreading the massages to people through social media and covering of the issue in local media . The protest on Haryana Bhavan in New Delhi also put significant pressure on Haryana government. The contribution of young people who came in solidarity from Maharashtra and Haryana can’t be neglected.
It was here in JIND that people exposed the hypocrisy of political leaders comfortably sitting both in opposition (Congress party) and in ruling party (BJP). It was here that the people chose to fight their struggle themselves over influential leaders from political parties to get justice and keep their trust till the very end. It was here that a team of four young people from JNU combined across genders, castes and cultures came together to empower people to demand justice, believe in the collective strength they have, assert their rights, not just cry and go home but to organise themselves to struggle for justice even if the heart is heavy with pain and osdds are not in favour. It was here in Jind, Haryana that people appreciated the start of constructive politics through struggle for justice by young leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
By : Surender Kumar