Is a new Dalit movement emerging from Maharastra ?
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
If television channels are to be believed then the Dalit rampage in Maharastra is an outcome of what they term as ‘simple’ incident of desecration of Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur. ‘Even when Kanpur was not burning why should the Dalit protester take Mumbai to ransom’, an anchor remarked. The responses on various websites were like ‘send’ these guys back to villages or ‘appeasement’ by the government. The other felt pain to term it as ‘political’ while liberals were questioning the wisdom of the Dalits about why they have been pained over a statue. ‘ Do we need statues in India, said a hypocrite TV anchor. Surely, we do not need statues in India but
who have more statutes then the parents and grand parents of these anchors and experts. Can they tell Lal Krishna Advani and his company, as why are they fighting to put two statutes where the Babari Masjid once stood. So many statutes of Hanuman and other gods are there taking our large space while very little for human being to live a life of dignity in India. If we become iconoclast in India, the Brahmin would go out of work for they have monopolized to keep all these statutes in every part of India. What are these temples about and why should they keep so many statues of so-called Gods. Throw them away and give these temples to the poor and all our housing problems would be resolved.
Coming back to main point of Dalit fury in Maharastra where life has been paralyzed. ‘It is ironic, said few experts, that Dalits in UP are not doing anything but in Maharastra they are unnecessarily agitated.’ Now, the powerful UP Police, which spinelessly goes around with the local MLAs, has arrested a young man called Arun Valmiki for allegedly defacing Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur. That is the best tradition of a brahmanical administration to covert an issue of Hindu hatred into an internal Dalit fighting. You can see how immediately after the Khairlanji incident, the one person who was suspended for dereliction of his duty was a Dalit constable. So the authorities feel that a constable has not filed FIR and therefore need punishment but the powerful upper caste hate campaigners sitting in the offices remain untouched and unaccountable. What is the power of a constable if a crowed is on rampage? Why no police officer was dismissed or suspended for dereliction of duty in Khairlanji.
Therefore, the uprising in Maharastra has a signal for the self styled mainstream Dalit political leaders and parties. Mend your ways or get lost as the young Dynamic Dalit leadership would emerge out of a crisis from Maharastra. It is certain that incidents like Khairlanji and Gohana would fuel the Dalit anger and turn them to streets. Out of this anger and frustration would emerge a leadership which would not compromise like their leaders.
Painful it is, when one see, how the mainstream Dalit political parties find no shame in aligning with the thugs of Hindutva and even campaigned for them. How can an Ambedkarite ever think of joining hand with fascist forces in India without offering an apology? And it is not just once; the same forces are again ready to embrace the Hindutva for their own ulterior motives.
One can see what happen to Hindutva. It is a philosophy of betrayals. It betrays those who it embraces. See how moralistic Lal Krishna Advani was yesterday in Parliament when he felt ‘shocked’ and ‘shameful’ as central minister Shibu Soren was convicted. And our CBI want death sentence for him. The same CBI, which cannot get punishment for Narsihma Rao or Rajiv Gandhi in the Boforse Scandal and which spinelessly, took order from Lal Krishna Advani when he was home minister and facing cases of Babari Masjid Demolition. I am sure, Advani would demand the same punishment and feel double shock after hearing Navjot Singh Siddhu, a BJP MP, very loud mouth, for allegedly murdering a person in Punjab. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held Siddhu guilty for the same. One hope we will have same kind of ruckus in Parliament by the Hindutva party.
It is more than shocking that our Parliament did not have time so far to discuss violence on Dalits. They do not have even time to discuss why the courts are intervening in the matter of executive. The fact of the matter is that our political class is the most opportunistic one in the world and the Dalit leaders are no different than their brahmanical masters. They have used money and funds to propagate their own interest while keeping quiet on the violence against Dalits. Over two months have passed and Parliament has not time to discuss Khairlanji while issue of Saurav Ganguli’s inclusion become more important for politicians to debate in the parliament.
Khairlanji was flashpoint in Maharastra. Incident of atrocities against Dalits are on the rise. Like every incident related to Muslims, the state had the easier way of describing the incident as ISI sponsored. Now with growing dalit violence, it is the Naxal intrusion in the Dalit ranks alleged the officials.
Those who do not understand the importance of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar in the lives of millions of Dalits world over make the folly of terming these events as shocking and well planned incidents as ‘nothing’ specific. Ambedkar’s statues are not like any one else’s statues. They are not erected by the governments as done in many other cases of so-called ‘freedom fighters’ and political leaders. Ambedkar symbolize Dalits fight for Dignity and honor. Ambedkar mean the strongest and most potent symbol of Dalit power and assertion.
Maharastra government’s failure to punish the perpetrators of the Khairlanji violence is like other incidents. We have not heard what happened to the conspirators of Kumher massacre in Rajasthan or Tsundur in Andhra Pradesh. There is virtually no information to what happened to the perpetrators of ghastly crimes in Gohana and Jhajjar in Haryana. Therefore, it is a pattern to attack the Dalits whenever they assert their identity. Whenever they perform better than any upper caste Hindu, Dalits would have to pay price, that is what our system has failed to protect the dalits against this savagery of the upper caste Hindus.
A friend recently asked me that the violence against Dalits is mainly being perpetuated more by the backward communities so why I had used the word upper caste violence against the Dalits. Agreed, that the backward communities are the front rankers in hitting the Dalits but they are faithful slaves of the brahmanical institutions of criminal violence against the Dalits. The entire brahmanical structure is based on caste based identities and every caste feel proud of identity in terms of ‘bigger’ than the lower one. Ambedkar defined it as ‘graded’ inequality. It was not a fight between equals and unequal. The battle here is more difficult because of the compartmentalization of our caste structure. Brahmanical values thrived on this rigid regimentation of communities in their identities and their contradictions. Hence, the backward classes or simply the hinduised shudras may be attacking the Dalits but they are simply following the guidance of the brahmanical scriptures and values which rule on the small contradiction between different communities. Lastly, every person above the level and who instigate violence is an upper caste in relative term because that is the nature of caste violence in India. It is important to understand this psyche of the Varna system. The Dalits, backwards and even the upper caste Hindus who feel uncomfortable here, must understand that as long as you are part of Varna system you would always oppress the lower one. That is for sure as we feel immense proud in our identities. Dr Ambedkar knew this and provided a humanist Buddhist alternative which he redefined according to his own convictions and embraced with nearly half a millions followers in 1956. It is important that without changing our social system, the Dalits and backwards would continue to fight against each other. The Dalits have taken the leadership. A large number of them have embraced Buddhism and do not live in the past of caste system. It is now essential for the backward communities if they feel that they too are victim of the caste system, they should follow the new path. Nothing will come out of anti Brahmanism if we are not embracing a new socio cultural system. Anti Brahmanism would only strengthen the next powerful communities and they would do the same as the Brahmins did as it has no philosophy only nepotism and identity to work on. The Thevars, Yadvas, Kurmis, Kunbis, Jats, Gujjars, Marathas and so on would continue to suck the blood of the Dalits as they inherently feel themselves as ‘higher’ than the Dalits and hence are not ready to follow the Dalits. How can they do it hence they are ready to follow various Brahmin Swamis but at the same time raise the slogan of ‘anti Brahmin’ movement for political purposes. Such political purposes will not solve the socio cultural crisis of India as long as we continue to be part of Varna system.
Now, there is some uproar in Parliament but that would not suffice. Political allegation would be made by parties to score their political points. The Hindutva party can blame every one from the SP-BSP to the congress and nothing will change. The silver lining from Maharastra’s spontaneous movement is that it has resurrected the new dynamism. Baba Saheb always felt that a radical powerful dalit leadership would always emerge from a movement or agitation though the Dalit leaders who retires from the government jobs first create a party and then want people to follow them in their pursuit for power. But, here the situation is different as Dalit youth have taken to the street and particularly the presence of women in the movement shows how far the movement has gone.
It is therefore important for these dynamic youths not to allow political parties use their initiative for their own political purposes. They should use this opportunity to develop a vibrant Dalit movement with strong political convictions which can send jitters in the spines of all those who want to co-opt the great legacy of Baba Saheb Dr Ambedkar. If the youths do not take the leadership in their hands, they would end up as what happened in the creation of Uttaranchal state. A spontaneous movement of the students created the state though wrongful demands yet after the creation it is the mainstream parties who are reaping the benefits of it. The parties have forgotten virtually all those who laid down their life. Nepal has similar example. The power is in the hands of those who licked the boots of the king and served him like slave and those died protesting against monarchy are forgotten easily. The followers of Ambedkar should not allow this to happen.
Dalits saved the democracy in India curtsy Dr Ambedkar. They vote in large number and participate in the festival of democracy more than any other community. And nearly sixty years have passed to freedom of India and our institutions and social system remain confined to a few elite caste and groups. Why have we allowed this to happen? How prophetic Ambedkar was, when he said that if there were no social democracy, the Dalits would themselves blow up the political democracy in the country. What happened in Maharastra was a clear case of frustration in the Dalit youth, when the system so laborious developed by Dr Ambedkar, refused to shed its biases and prejudices against the Dalits. How long will Dalit glorified this great democracy and Parliament when every day their life is endangered and their livelihood is snatched from them. It is not that the entire Maharastra burnt out of a desecration of Baba Saheb’s statue which was most unfortunate but the unease was there as the shameless government of the state had done very little to bring the culprits to the book. If the democratic institutions do not give justice to the Dalits on time, mere symbolic presidents, prime ministers and chief ministers would gladdened the heart of them for a few days but in longer term, would increase the unease. And remember, it would be difficult for any government to curtail the Dalit rage if political democracy does not pave way for social democracy. It is clear that Dalits have ideological clarity and strong convictions than most of the other communities. It would be nearly impossible to stop them now if the governments, political system does not behave in an unbiased way, without prejudices.
Already, newspapers are writing a lot on the so-called infiltration of the Naxal movement in the Dalit groups but the happy news is that Dalit Panthers are resurrecting and it is reassuring that Maharastra would again lead the Dalits all over the country with progressive ideas and uncompromising stand on various issues confronting the nation. If the movement has to survive and lead the country, the Dalit movement, who ever leads it, has to reassure its people to say a big NO in an unambiguous term to the communal fascist forces and secondly fight the honor of the people against the onslaught of international parties colluding with the national one, on their natural resources. In the meanwhile, those who say that UP Dalits are not agitated because of BSP is leading them, may be wrong in future. Dalits in Uttar-Pradesh may vote BSP for political purposes yet inside their heart they are highly agitated. And surely flirting with the upper caste and the Hindutva would further damage the cause of the Dalit empowerment. But the more the Dalit leadership fails the people, the better it is for a new radical Dalit leadership in the state. Maharastra, they say, did not have a Dalit leader but the movement would definitely throw leadership and surely, Uttar-Pradesh Dalit will also find a way out, if their political leaders continue to play games with the Hindutva as well as capitalist power elite. It is time of reckoning in the legacy of Ambedkarite movement and a time of introspection for our political parties and governments.
December 1, 2006