Let’s Stop Comparing Che With Others and Start Talking About Him
Umar Khalid, a PhD student from JNU compared Burhan Wani to Che Guevara. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Umar Khalid, a PhD student from JNU compared Burhan Wani to Che Guevara. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Let’s Stop Comparing Che With Others and Start Talking About Him

Burhan Wani, a 21-year-old Kashmiri was killed on Friday evening. For India and the world, he was a young Hizbul commander. For a lot of Kashmiris, he was the promising, dynamic face of the Valley’s insurgent movement. A series of violent incidents which followed his killing have claimed 23 lives till date. It will be yet another morning in the Valley tomorrow. Things will remain as they have been for many years now. Guns. Bombs. Men in uniforms. Dead bodies.

And somewhere in the foothills of the Aravallis (read JNU), an under-trial, labelled ‘anti-national’ has invited the ire of trolls, and right-wing voices for comparing Wani with Che Guevara.



Defying curfew restrictions, the people of Kashmir mourned Burhan Wani’s passing. (Photo: Reuters)
Defying curfew restrictions, the people of Kashmir mourned Burhan Wani’s passing. (Photo: Reuters)

My empathies, or sympathies do not lie with pointless trolls and regressive right-wing jabberwocks. But they also do not lie with Umar Khalid this time. And definitely not for the same reasons as shared by his trolls and inquisitors.

‘I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.’ These were the words of Che Guevara, but could have just been Burhan Wani’s too.    
Umar Khalid’s Facebook Post


Umar Khalid, a PhD student at JNU and an activist. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Umar Khalid, a PhD student at JNU and an activist. (Photo: The Quint)

Old Lessons: ‘Teaching Communist Thought’

It was a muggy monsoon evening. Trams, buses and rickshaws were transporting clerical and anti-clerical extraordinaires back to their homes after a sweaty Kolkata work day. Surya Sen Street, near College street in Central Kolkata was, as it still remains, a terribly clogged artery of a city, inching close to a cardiac arrest every passing hour.

A ‘Marxist’ reading group had just concluded one of its bi-weekly sessions. “You can’t expect rickshaw pullers to read and understand Marx. Teach them to read first so that they can save their meagre assets,” exclaimed one of the participants, exiting the premises of an ancient looking building.“Who says Marx can only be taught through textbooks? Actually, who says he needs to be taught?” retorted another.

Fashionably Misguidedly Che

It is probably the same problem of whether to/ and, if yes, how to teach Communist thought or practice. Che is perhaps the most popular Left icon in the world. He has already been imprinted on our t-shirts, caps, wristbands, and perhaps underwear. I also remember one of those early ‘social experiment’ like videos where people wearing Che accessories were asked who he was. The answers were astronomically bewildering. Yet those entitled, English-educated people had a completely unfair access to Che, thanks to all the merchandise.

When you compare Che with Wani, or put up a ‘sharp, sarcastic’ explainer after taking down your post following intolerable trolling, Comrade Umar, why does your language still retain a rhetoric accessible only by a few? Che should be an icon for that Dalit boy from Tamil Nadu who’s the first in his family to have access to higher education. But does just comparing Wani with Che achieve that? Quoting Che talking about fire arms is fine, but what about his ideas of organised violence? Tell us about those thoughts. Why be a vanguard when you can easily not be one?

A sign in Old Havana, Cuba. (Photo: iStockphoto)
A sign in Old Havana, Cuba. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Disseminating Progressive Thought

The problem is not comparing Wani with Che. You might not agree with it, but you are entitled to your judgement. But if the idea is to disseminate a ‘progressive way of thinking’, fashionably referring to already-abused Left icons does not seem the brightest way.

Something curious happened at one of those aforementioned reading sessions once. Two of my acquaintances, best friends with each other, ended their 10-year-old friendship. It involved a bitter fight involving Mao. The point of contention – Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung?

At the risk of being labelled a compulsive contrarian, let me fashionably part with some Che: “I have a wish. It is a fear as well – that in my end will be my beginning.”

(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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