Summer of Rage
Wrote a hunger striker in JNU, who is still going strong on the 10th day as I write this, a simple Facebook post: “Water is the elixir of life.” He would know, because he has survived just on water for the last ten days in this heat which walks on the streets like sleeping snakes. And this is water from an earthen pot with the smell of the earth and the scorching season of summer of the Hindi heartland. And, yet, he is quiet, like a poet, and he smiles, like a tree. And when the slogans and the songs become a crescendo, an orchestra of a classical and robust catharsis, he too joins, like water, mingling with the young voices, his lean and wiry body, moving in a rhythm like a river on a full moon night. Suddenly, the world changes, the world has already changed, the circle of life has become a full moon too. The cruel sun seems less cruel, the sad season seems less sad, the stark hunger seems like what it is in its bitter realism: an indefinite hunger strike.
The faces of the young, women and men, those fasting and those not fasting, they are faces of amazing dignity and serenity. She smiles, fasting on the 10th day, and it spreads across the walls and finds a moment of redemption in the poster of Rohith Vemula and people’s poet Vidrohi. She gets up, falters, and a dozen hands come up to help. Eyes reddened by the heat, and the suffering of body, soft and serene eyes, in pain but refusing to accept defeat, young transparent lotus eyes, telling epical stories of shooting stars in the sky.
Luminescent, innocent, aware, intellectually steadfast,aligned with the poorest of the poor, in solidarity with justice and the fight for justice, absolutely certain of the historical moment, stoic and non-dogmatic, refusing to succumb, building one scaffolding after another, singing Faiz and Habib Jalib, sometimes Bob Dylan too, holding hands, eyes, fingers, dreams, revolutions, like a semi-circle of eternal desire.
This is a movement which will be etched on the waters of time, and they can bring all the wax of the wax statue, but they will not be able to melt the memories of this struggle. Give flowers to the rebels who dream: the students wrote the graffiti on the walls of JNU in 1989, and in Sorbonne in France in May 1968. Yes, give dreams to the rebels with flowers.
I know what it means. In Tihar jail inMay 1983, I too sat on a fast with other students. It was a short fast. In 1989, as JNUSU president, we stretched the fast to 19 days, with two PhD scholars sustaining the fast till the 19th day. Thousands of students spent the night and the day at the site with many fasting during the indefinite hunger strike; while students were lifted and sent to hospitals one by one. Processions would begin in Poorvanchal and find its own trajectory, while Ganga Hostel would start another one, even while Godavari girls would march and join them. It was like one river meeting another in a continuous stream of consciousness seeking liberation from oppressive structures and rules, redefining the lost ethos of JNU’s political unconscious, carving new paintings of freedom, dissent and joy.
And yet, we carried the pain of the hunger strikers, worried sick about their health, relying on the expert opinion of comrade-doctors of the AIIMS, holding on, fighting on, touching each other, reaching out, making posters and songs, singing about the dawn before the darkest hours, even while the cops waited outside the gate. In the night I would come after midnight and in the early hours, checking out if all was fine, and all I could see was hundreds of students sleeping together, in sublime harmony, boys and girls, like flowers and paintings. That was the end of winter, so we had that advantage. This is the peak of summer, and hence it is tough in JNU. Hence, the fight is difficult and hard.
And yet, this is a fight we all have to fight with the young faces of JNU, Jadavpur, FTII, Hyderabad Central University, and all over India. This is a movement which the fascists can’t defeat, because they can’t understand how a struggle spreads its wings. They have no history of struggle, they are parasites of power, they only grow under State patronage, they have never made sacrifices. They are fake, as fake as their leader, BA/MA degrees included.
That is why, JNU will teach them a lesson. For all times to come.