Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Star is Born (?)

The Kanhaiya Kumar phenomenon continues to dominate headlines in the Indian media, the latest example being this article in the Indian Express today which appears to be a direct fall out of his now famous speech in the JNU campus on 11th February. Having heard his speech, I must say that he is an excellent orator. Unfortunately, knowing as I do a bit on the subject matter, it left me skeptical and even a bit cynical.

A little bit of background information would be in order here. Kanhaiya Kumar is undoubtedly a communist. He left no doubt where he stood in his speech, frequently using the words लाल सलाम (red salute)- the communist greeting. Secondly, the speech is primarily anti-RSS. Given his communist background and the history of bitter and bloody enmity between the communists and RSS, Kanhaiya Kumar's entire speech appears in an altogether different light. 

The young man claims to be fighting on behalf of the poor and downtrodden. The problem is, communism has been a proven failure across the world. Seven decades of communism left all former Soviet countries desperately impoverished. China too remained a backward country after nearly four decades of communism, until it chose to open up its economy to market forces and much the same can be said of Cambodia and Vietnam. But why go that far? West Bengal- ruled by communists for over 3 decades- is also one of the most desperately impoverished states in India. The state government's debts stood at a staggering 1,87,387.4 crores when the comrades were voted out in 2011- over 50% of the state GDP at the time.

Equally undeniable is that fact that communists in Russia, Cambodia and  China oversaw genocides which wiped out (using the most conservative estimates) over 30 million people -roughly the entire population of Kerala. If you think I'm exaggerating, just google 'pol pot', 'soviet famine of 1932-33' and 'great leap forward'. Anyone who imagines that communism is going to rescue millions of Indians from poverty has to be either plain ignorant or blind to reality.

Coming back to Kanhaiya Kumar, he said of the RSS that: "...अंग्रेज़ो के साथ मिलकर इस देश की आज़ादी के लिए लड़नेवालों के उपर गोलियाँ चलाई है ((they have) fired bullets at those who ought for freedom in collaboration with the British). Later in his speech, he denounces them as अँग्रेज़ों के चम्चे (British collaborators). There is a certain element of truth in that allegation. The RSS steadfastly advocated cooperation with the British during the second world war. 

Kanhaiya Kumar

But what about the communists? Having initially opposed the British in their war effort, they took a U turn on the instructions of their bosses in Moscow. Once Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the communists wholeheartedly supported the war against the Nazis, who were threatening to destroy the only communist state in the world. In short, our comrades placed their ideology over the nation during the second world war. Under the circumstances, a communist who denounces anyone else as a traitor is on morally shaky grounds.

If that was not bad enough, Kanhaiya Kumar went on to demand reservation for Dalits in the private sector. I'm afraid the idea will do far more harm that good. Economic progress is a pre-requisite for upliftment of backward classes and that cannot be achieved without a vibrant private sector. As it is, India is one of the toughest places to do business in.  If the private sector has to grow, we need to make the regulatory environment easier for business, not introduce new rules. Age old prejudices will be wiped out the day the backward castes are economically strong and self dependent. As the experience of the last two decades have shown, capitalism has done far more to improve their condition than reservations could have ever done.

Lastly, he keeps speaking about the present government trying to suppress freedom of expression. Interestingly, he even made a passing mention of the emergency in that passage.
For starters, Its hard to reconcile that claim with the fact that he was criticising the ruling dispensation before a huge crowd. You can bet your last penny that he would not have dared to do that in a communist country like the former Soviet Union or China and if he had, he would almost certainly have disappeared without a trace by now. 

In any case, its not as though communists have covered themselves with glory in the states ruled by them. The manner in they hounded out non-communists from all major institutions in West Bengal is only too well known. Equally well known is the fact that they used political murder as weapon to intimidate opponents and stifle dissent in that state. Their comrades in Kerala are no slouches in that regard- the brutal, bloody rivalry between them and the RSS is legendary. And talking of the emergency, its worth remembering that the Communists were the only political formation which cooperated with Indira Gandhi's government during that period!

With that background, it can be safely concluded that Kanhaiya Kumar is at best a misguided young man with half baked knowledge, who is passionately advocating an ideology that is a proven failure. And that is after giving him the benefit of the doubt. If his knowledge is not half baked, there can be no doubt that he is just a cynical politician who has been given a fillip by the incompetence of Delhi police and the foolishness of a few fringe elements in the RSS. 

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