Student politics in the university campus can be seen existing in various forms in the campus. One such form is the shouting of Ambedkarite slogans by the people from oppressed communities during demonstrations and mobilization. These slogans, which are structured generally as a “two-liner” are emotionally and ideologically packed comments on the conditions of the unjust and unequal society. In the Indian context, to understand the Ambedkarite movement and the conditions of Indian society, one can look at the evolution and impacts of slogans by the oppressed communities across the country.
Ambedkarite movement having roots in the anti-caste movement, questions all existing oppressive structures in the society through the framework of caste. Its entry into university politics is a fairly recent phenomenon. Though the appropriated versions of Ambedkarite ideology existed in the higher educational institutions’ campuses across India, under the banner of “liberal”, and “progressive” ideology, its emergence as separate and distinctive students’ association is the last decade’s development. Students Associations such as BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association), ASA, TISS Mumbai (Ambedkarite Students’ Association), ASA-HCU (Ambedkar Students’ Association), and many more which follows Ambedkarite ideology, assertion and reclaiming of spaces becomes a core objective for existence. And forms of assertion including slogans, events, and discussions automatically take the front seat.
Slogans play an important role in the mobilization of the masses in a social movement. The anti-caste struggles in India have seen strong resistance to casteist and Brahmanical structure through writings, poetry, songs, protest slogans, etc from the oppressed communities, especially Dalits. Each of these is a form of resistance and reclamation and has equally important roles to play in taking forward the movement. Though writings, poetry, and songs have been discussed, referred and debated, slogans have not come much in the mainstream discussions.
“Jai jai jai jai.. (13 times) jai jai Bhim,
Jai Bhim Jai Bhim,
Jai Ramai Jai Bhim..
Jai Phule Jai Bhim…
Jai Jijau Jai Bhim…
Jai Jai Birsa Jai Bhim…”
is one of the recurrent ones shouted during protests and demonstrations in Indian universities by the oppressed communities starting with saying jai jai jai.. ( 13 times) Bhim. The emphasis on “Jai” which translates to “victory” reflects the strong assertion and wish for the victory of Ambedkarite thoughts. The inclusion of other anti-caste social reformers, along with Dr. B.R. Ambedkar reiterates the plurality of the struggle and its contribution to the movement across the country, thus uniting the oppressed masses.
Another anti-caste slogans “ Brahmanvad ki chaati par,
Birsa Phule Ambedkar,
Manuvaad ki chaati par,
Birsa Phule Ambedkar,
Pitrusatta ki chaati par,
Birsa Phule Ambedkar,
Jaatiwaad ki chaati par,
Birsa Phule Ambedkar
popularized by BAPSA ( Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association), JNU outrightly rejects the oppressive forces of Brahmanwaad, Manuwaad, Pitrusatta, Jatiwaad, and all oppressive structures and at the same time reclaims the ideology of anti-caste social reformers – Birsa, Phule, and Ambedkar. By reclaiming and accepting Birsa, Phule, and Ambedkar, who are social reformers coming from Adivasis, Dalit and OBC social location- the slogans unites people across this location. Historically the standpoint of Adivasi, OBC, and Dalit, and other marginalized communities have always been questioned and rejected – but by saying “ Manuwaad/Jatiwaad/Pitrusatta ki chaati par” ( on the chest of the ethos of manusmriti/ casteism/ patriarchy and all oppressive structures ) the slogan questions the standpoint of the oppressive structure itself.
Apart from rejection and reclamation of particular ideas, anti-caste slogans have also been a mode of celebration and assertion in the university spaces. For example the slogan
“Our Struggle for Social Justice,
Long live long live
Our Struggle for emancipation,
Long live long live
Our Struggle for freedom of mind,
Long live long live”
Celebrates the struggle of the Ambedkarite movement for social justice, emancipation, and freedom of mind by shouting “long live, long live”. It doesn’t talk about the oppressive structure of casteism, Brahmanism, and patriarchy anymore, but appreciates the struggles to fight it. It goes one step ahead from the spirit of “defense and resistance” to talking about emancipation and freedom of mind.
The evolution of the Ambedkarite movement can be tracked by its evolving slogans. The spirit of assertion and hope through “Jai jai jai jai jai.. Bhim”, the resistance and rejection of oppressive and exploitative structures of casteism, Brahmanism, and Patriarchy and all the oppressive structures through “ Brahmanwaad ki chaati par, Birsa Phule Ambedkar.. Pitrusatta ki Chaati par, Birsa Phule Ambedkar” and finally moving towards the questions of freedom of mind, emancipation and social justice through “Our struggle for social justice, long live! Long live.. Our struggle for freedom of mind, Long live! Long live!..” paints a clear picture of the direction the movement is heading towards. It reflects the transformation of Indian society and thus its history and politics as well.
Along with presenting the history and discourses on Indian society, the anti-caste slogan commands and defines the emotions of the people. Especially when the question is about the university spaces- which is still a Brahmanical hegemonic space, shouting anti-caste slogans gives a sense of belongingness to the oppressed people. A space where academic pressure, social exclusion, and administrative pressure chain down people in a set structure, shouting slogans frees them momentarily. The two-liner commentary condensing the historical oppression and humiliation of 2500 years of marginalized people, generates intense emotions among them. These emotions are met with further subjugating forces through state and Brahmanical coalitions. The calling of Police forces on the campus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai during the election campaign (2022-23), when the Marginalized students were campaigning and giving anti-caste slogans is one of the many examples of retaliation.
There is a flow of emotions and passing of leadership positions when multiple people take the lead to shout slogans and reclaim their social identity. The Ambedkarite people don’t shout slogans, they live it.
The bi-directional flow of emotional connect is generated among the oppressed people because of their historical and social subjugation. This is the reason why the appropriation of anti-caste slogans by the left/ progressive ideology does nothing for the oppressed masses. The slogans given by oppressed people are an accumulation of historical pain, humiliation, and subjugation, and thus have a significant impact on the minds and emotions of people. Now finally coming to the movement and history, these slogans carry encoded history and emotions of the oppressed masses and hope for a better tomorrow.