Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dalit Dissent against Scriptures

Dissent or disrespect By V.B.Rawat

Dalits face charges of spreading communal disharmony in Lucknow

It was a meet to celebrate Periyar Jayanti under the auspices of Visha Shudra Mahasabha headed by Acharya Jugal Kishor Shastri, of Sri Ram Janaki Math in Ayodhya. Therefore, on January 15th (the date is not really related to Periyar but the programme was organized in his memory) to discuss the “ communalization of state machinery and behavior of state’, various activists, intellectuals and academics had gathered at the community hall of Dar-ul-safa, Lucknow. One need not to elaborate here that Uttar-Pradesh has seen a vicious campaign against minorities and marginalized since the independence. However, situation had worsened during the past 20years. The Hindu Muslim divide exists more than ever with regular bout of ‘communal’ riots. The state apparatus act as an upper caste Hindu instrument to protect their interest and Muslim, Dalits and other marginalized sections of the society have almost lost faith in them resulting in their ghettoisation and identifying their welfare with respective communities.

The Mandalisation process of 1991 helped many backward communities to look for their icons in Uttar-Pradesh and therefore Periyar, Jyoti Ba Phule, Sardar Patel and Shahuji Maharaj, came to Uttar-Pradesh. Among all of them, Periyar was the most fascinated icon, respected and loved by both the Dalits and radical backwards alike. The reason for this love and affection are the stories of Periyar’s Self Respect Movement in Tamilnadu and how he took on the powerful Brahmins and their divine beliefs. Therefore, the Hindutva group vehemently opposed the move of Ms Mayawati, as chief Minister of Uttar-Pradesh, to install a statue of Periyar along with other icons of Dalit emancipation namely Buddha, Dr Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba Phule, and Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, at the Parivartan Chowk, in Lucknow. They charged that Periyar had denigrated the Hindu gods and scriptures and his memories should not be allowed in the Hindi heartland. Yet, thanks to Mayawati, she did not buckle under the pressure of the notorious Hindutva gangs and went ahead with her plan.

It is equally interesting to note that Periyar had visited Lucknow in early Sixties on the invitation of some Dalits and Buddhists and was welcomed with brickbats and stones as the orthodox Hindus surrounded him and did not allow him to speak at his public meeting. No harm could be done to Periyar as he was surrounded and safely escorted by his supporters. It is another matter that Periyar did not visit Uttar-Pradesh again but his legacy continue to enchant thousands of radical activists all over the state.

Therefore, memory of Periyar was a right occasion for the Dalits, backwards and oppressed of the Hindu orthodoxy to vent their anger against the brahmanical literature and divine religious texts, which have denigrated Dalits and Shudras. As the seminar began to unfold the anger of the activists started building. It is reported that some of them burnt the Vedic scriptures like Upanishads, Manu Smriti and garlanded the idol of ‘Lord Rama’ as mark of their protest against the brahmanical values and system.

The news of the ‘ denigration’ of Hindu Gods and scriptures spread like wild fire in Lucknow and political parties jumped into the fray. The Hindutva gangs, who feel no shame for demolition of the Babari Masjid, had arrived on the scene and filed FIR against seven of the activists terming them anti Hindu and hurting the sentiments of the community.

It is another matter that most of these activists belong to powerful backward community of Kurmis, who are backbone of the Hindutva laboratory in the state against the Yadav domination of Mulayam Singh Yadav. Moreover, Acharya Jugal Kishore Shastri heads the Ram Janaki Math in Ayodhya and is editor of ‘ Aydodhya ki Awaj’. Among the ‘anti social elements’ the police have also arrested one Buddhist Monk. In all, seven activist of Vishwa Shudra Mahasabha have been charged by the Lucknow police for spreading communal disharmony and hurting religious sentiments of different communities under section 153A. The seven arrested activists are Mr Jagdish Patel, Usha Patel, Praveen Kumar, Rajesh Kumar, Jugal Kishore Shastri, Babri Tist, and Skand Das.

According to Mr S.R.Darapuri, vice President, Ambedkar Mahasabha, Lucknow, the activists were badly beaten by the police and no legal assistance was allowed to them. The gangs of Hindutva and Shiv Sena ( which has nominal presence) had already arrived at the scene forcing the police officials to act against the ‘culprits’. Darapuri also felt anguished as why as the police booked them under Section 153 A, for ‘spreading’ communal disharmony. ‘Do they not have a right to express themselves’ he asks. They were just protesting at a seminar in the Memory of a proclaimed atheist and rationalist icon of our country. Have the police taken any action against the provocative and abominable cries of Bal Thackrey in Mumbai. His goons can attack any media institution and spread a riot and halt the trains and yet the governments prove shamelessly spineless’, add Darapuri, who is also a retired Inspector General of the State Police.

The activists were not allowed to hire a lawyer. The upper caste Hindu lawyer threatened the backward community lawyer who decided to file case on behalf of these activists. He was also beaten badly. The court rejected their bail application on January 17th, 2006. Mr. Darapuri also charged that the activists were beaten inside the jail by the under trials in the presence of police. The activists were brought to a city court on 8th February 2006 but the court has reserved its judgment till 17th of February. The Hindutva organizations have condemned this incident and asked the state government to book all the ‘culprits’ in the National Security Act, as their act has threatened the nation.

Freedom of conscience and right to protest

Lucknow’s case has again highlighted the fact that article 153A could be misused by not only politicians but also by the religious gangs against dissent. Dalit’s dissent against orthodox Varna system has been projected not only historical writings Hindu values and Hindu social system is well-documented fact. Dr B.R.Ambedkar had burnt Manu Smriti, the law book of the Hindus, on December 25th, 1927 at Mahad, in Maharastra, along with a large number of his followers. In Tamilnadu, Periyar’s self respect movement was against the Hindu text and Hindu God, which he projected as barbarians. Jyoti Ba Phule also challenged the brahmanical orthodoxy in Pune and faced their wrath. It was not that all of them wanted to tease the Brahmins. Their grievances were that these divine books have been written by the Brahmins and aimed to lower the dignity of Dalits and Shudra communities to maintain the unchallenged brahmanical hegemony. Most of them wrote their own history with Ambedkar taking the lead with writing‘ Riddles of Hinduism’. The Hindutva protest against the same was countered by massive Dalit protest in Maharastra forcing the government to publish the book.

Dalits have on many occasions demanded that the so-called sacred text be rewritten or the denigrating texts may be deleted from these books. As caste loving Hindus want to retain these texts under the pretext of ‘freedom’ of the author, the Dalits have every right not only to reject that system but also to burn those texts, which belittle them and degrade their occupations.