The state of India recently introduced a number of divisive and controversial legislative acts, like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR), and a proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). Against these governmental measures, India has witnessed large scale public mobilizations and insurgent movements. This moment or event can be described as one of the greatest mass/popular movements in the country’s post-independent era. From the inception of this moment, universities such as Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and more have been the locus of these revolts and resistances.
As it has been unfolding, this mo(ve)ment has exceeded the premises of the university to become a pedagogic moment of a people-to-come. It has brought about a shift in the paradigm of education, which may be summarized as a moving away from the spatial segregations which configure pedagogy as a verbal-centered discourse,
Shaheen Bagh and the Coming-Community-of-Politics
The resilience of the women of Shaheen Bagh is a story of epic proportions. The polyphonic character of this epic produces an epistemological crisis in political thinking, be it in terms of its pragmatics, protocols, vocabularies, or idioms. They not only make new thinkability possible, but also provide an expressive idiom for the unthought. Unlike conventional (muscular) politics, which is reduced to a battleground of competing interests, here politics re-emerges as a space of the unknown—an interstice where faith is anterior to reason. The operative principles of representational politics and its accumulative logic are displaced instead by a politics of divestment, the emergent infrastructure of which is futurological. A mere historicization of women’s presence in politics (or women’s movements) alone may not enable us to experience the intensity of this embodied event. Historicization relies on the creation of stable categories, which subordinate difference to identity. Such a representational logic is incapable of engaging with the affirmation of difference. Thus, it may create a false depth and mediate everything, but mobilize and move nothing.1
The epiphytical infrastructure that enables the protest event at Jamia Millia Islamia and Shaheen Bagh brings into being multiple ecosystems of becoming, which, by traversing worlds of differences, reconceptualize both platforms and protocols. Their acts are not symbolic; they construct fluid-solids of what matters to the ontology of politics. The Left-liberal representative logic that struggles to contain their presence by reducing them to “photo-ops” of brave Muslim women only does them disservice.13More than the immediate outcome or debating the success or futility of their protest, what is significant is the fact that they are the “event” of becoming the “political-of-knowledge.” Their afterlives will undoubtedly produce, shape, nurture, equip, and celebrate a coming-community-of-politics.
- 1. Most of the accounts on the Shaheen Bagh protest, despite best political intent, fall prey to this representational logic. Perhaps what this moment demands is a “conversion”—making sense of old ways of thinking and seeing their morphologies, mechanics, technics, and design for what they are.12 Such a positioning is a partage—a proximal distance of partaking logic, or an illogism of politics of embodiment. This critical ontology pierces through the emptiness that has enveloped concepts such as freedom, equality, fraternity, and so on. It also unconceals the pitfalls of a symbolic economy that engulfs and contains the affective potentials of language, articulation, and expression. This politics beyond representational logic marks the emergence of a “new people” or “coming-community.” It aims to construct a new universal by divesting freedom from its juridical dependence. The locus of freedom here becomes the body of the participants themselves. It marks the dawn of a new critical ontology of politics—a threshold where the borders between bodies become porous, their identities fluid.