Left must identify with Dalit-minority issues

Writer and orator Sunil P. Elayidom, former chairman of Maharaja’s College Students’ Union and a vocal critic of communalism, wants the Left parties to address in right earnest issues of resource-sharing and alienation flagged by Dalit-minority organisations. “Identify with their issues, not with their movements hinged on identity politics,” he tells
The Hindu
in an interview. Excerpts:

How do you respond to the debates that followed the murder of Abhimanyu?

Politics based on religious identity is nothing but fundamentalism and it will not be wrong to say that it is religious terror born out of the ideology of political Islam that took Abhimanyu’s life. Behind the façade of Dalit, Muslim rights issues that these outfits raise lies a monolith of religious identity using which they are attempting to fragment society. Their commitment is to their religion. That said, the issues they flag, that of Dalit persecution and alienation of minorities, aren’t totally irrelevant. The Left should take the lead in addressing them.

But a section of Dalit intellectuals are in concert with them…

Just a few who could be mercenaries, as M. Geethanandan recently called them. They get a platform as well. Just see how hard they tried to invalidate Abhimanyu’s identity because he worked for the SFI. They should realise that a person’s identity is not only relative to lineage, but also draws on social and historical factors. There’s nothing like a lifelong unchanging identity. Evidently, Anand Teltumbde has proven that there’s no major difference between Leftist ideology and the path laid by Ambedkar for the emancipation of Dalits, as both believed in equitable share of resources. Kancha Ilaiah may not agree with everything, but has no issues cooperating with the fundamental politics of the Left.

It is only a section that has assimilated itself into a different class that puts up roadblocks. They would not lunch with the Left, while the BJP’s politics is attractive to them.

Has the Left erred in its love-hate relationship with these identity groups?

On occasions, the Left had come close to identifying with these groups, religious groups, rather than with the issues that characterised them. Some of these groups had then made unsuccessful infiltration bids too. As such, it is not for the ‘identity groups’ to raise the issues of the backward sections and minorities. While they compartmentalise society and take an exclusionist stance, the Left should be able to put its theory into earnest practice by incorporating these issues into their political programme. Over the decades, issues concerning the middle class have become the focal point of Left politics in Kerala. Now, there should be mainstreaming of the issues of the marginalised.

If even after 70 years of Independence, the lot of the Dalits and the Advivasis remains by and large as earlier, there should be a rethinking.

The Left had stood for their cause earlier, but it should do it again. For the government, the approach should be to go really hard on terror elements while ensuring that the larger community doesn’t feel insecure or out of place.

How well equipped are today’s youth to face the challenges of fundamentalism and terror?

The organised Left should make itself more contemporary to be appealing to the youth. For this, there should be theoretical rigour. The latest theoretician most would have read would be Gramsci. But then there are contemporary thoughts addressing ecology, gender, and identity which aren’t part of popular Left thinking.

When advocates of terror use post-modern and post-structuralist philosophies to denigrate science as being in a state of flux in favour of their absolute God, our youth should have the theoretical base to counter that.

‘There should be mainstreaming of the issues of the marginalised.’

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