Friday, July 25, 2008

Democracy : by the poor for the 'bigger'

A no confidence in current form of Parliamentary democracy

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

There have always been debates on which is the right form of governance for India: a presidential form of government or Parliamentary system adopted from the British. It is not that only two forms of governance are found world over and whatever be the constitutional provisions, in the end, it is the people, who are responsible make or unmake a system. Unfortunately, a society like India and when I say India, I include all in the South Asian region, is feudal and undemocratic in nature. Hence, how is it possible, that undemocratic people could make democracy successful? This question needs to be investigated and ponder over.

Dr Ambedkar when pressed for separate electorate for the depressed classes, feared that in the Parliamentary form of government, the voices of dissent would always be decried. It is a majority vote but majority can not always be right. Secondly, he feared that those who will represent the oppressed community might not be the ‘well-wishers’ of the community as they will be more bothered about getting votes of other communities, particularly if they are fighting from so called reserve constituencies, their worry would be more on focusing on other communities rather than their own. This will only create a leadership which would be corrupt and could easily be co-opted. Hence there was upper caste leadership of a majority of parties giving the Dalits ‘symbolic’ presence in their parties. Babu Jagjivan Ram and Dev Raj Urs were exception and immensely talented and committed politicians who rose to those heights despite all odds. However, they did not challenge the brahmanical supremacy and were part of parliamentary set up. Tamilnadu was the perhaps the only state where this ideological challenge to brahmanical system was open and in a more crude fashion.

It happened till 1990 before the wave of the Mandalisation process changed the political set up in the country and our parliament saw a virtual change in its demography as it was the dominance of Dalit Bahujan in the apex body of decision making. A new set of chief ministers and regional kshatraps took over the leadership who were more autonomous and blunt in their attitude and never really depended on the mercy of a power centre. We had likes of Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Yadav who were rising high while Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav and others were ruling the state. Even in the Hindutva party of BJP, Kalyan Singh and others were enjoying their new found prominence. But one man was not in this entire scheme of things. Far away from the power brokers, he was silently making a revoluation in the villages and towns of India, waking the Dalits and spreading Ambedkarite perception. His name was Kanshi Ram. The Bahujan Samaj Party, that he formed actually could not succeed during his life time and remained confined to Uttar-Pradesh at large despite brave efforts to spread in states like Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. And he gave representation to those people who could never have even imagined to become even village Pradhan. It was a complete change from vote hamara raj tumhara to vote hamara raj bhee hamara philosophy. It changed the politics of Uttar-Pradesh so strongly that the brahmanical manipulators worked overnight to deconstruct the phenomena and break the multi caste alliance in Uttar-Pradesh. Ambition, egos created hurdles to further the cause of Dalit bahujans and the result is the reversal of strategies of two main political outfits from UP, mainly the SP and BSP. Both today target the upper castes who are enjoying this immense display of ‘affection’ from the Dalit Bahujans, as if they were dying for it from centuries.

The slogan of Dalit Bahujan grew up and we felt that leaders would do justice to their people. Instead they became Supremos and the distance from the party men and common man grew larger. We have more vehicles, armed commandos and power brokers surrounding them. These power brokers switch their loyalties according to those in power and their character was reflected very much during the no confidence vote in Parliament on July 22nd. But before that whatever happened not only shames us as Indian but will force us to think of whether we should really be proud of this democracy which is license to legtimise the illegitimate.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh smiled and the devotees of the high command danced in the street that their party has won the vote of confidence so that they can go further their grand international agenda, which once upon a time was the desire of saffron party.
The Hindutva party was talking of corruption that allegedly ‘purchased’ some of their MPs. The discussion was on nuclear deal which was an important issue as it will have long term impact on our foreign policy issue as well as internal maters. Unfortunately, it became a war between Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, his loud mouth deputy Amar Singh and Behenjee who came from Lucknow to ‘take over’ Delhi. And in this entire exercise whatever happened would make us ponder things whether this form of representative government and parties really help us or we are just happy that some one from us is ruling the country. The question remains whether the some one from us will remain some one from us or some one from them. That is the question.

The question I am raising is a bigger one. And it is not that we became worried by seeing a few member of parliament showing the displaying one crore rupees in parliament. That too is an issue but from the point of view of the Dalit Bahujan perspective, and what Ambedkar had perceived when he questioned the governance and sought protection and participation of the Dalits in the social set up.

Let us first come to what Ambedkar said about Indian democracy in an interview to Voice of America on May 20th, 1956. He asks this question whether there is a democracy in India and he says: ‘Democracy is quite different from a Republic as well as from parliamentary Government. The roots of democracy lie not in the form of Government, Parliamentary or otherwise. A democracy is more than a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living. The roots of democracy are to be searched in the social relationship, in the terms of associated life between people who form a society.’

What Ambedkar envisage and terms ideal are completely contrast to our political parties who are out and out there to hail their caste. As a Thakur MP of the BJP, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh switched his loyalty to Samajwadi Party, another one, Amar Singh said that he is a Kshatriya and never afraid of any one, he speak the truth, as if it is only his trait and all other communities are liars. But what Amar Singh was speaking was a deliberate attempt to create confusion and chaos in Uttar-Pradesh. With Dalits solidly behind Mayawati, Mulyam has to give a call for other communities to rally behind him. The problem in Uttar-Pradesh is not just caste identities but now sub stratification which is refusing to bring different Dalit communities together. Also there are many marginalized MBCs who need to be there are simply out. Hence the political mobilization in Uttar-Pradesh based on sub caste is becoming a self defeating exercise and will have wider consequences. Problem with identity and assertion is that they end up in creating a male dominance and a culture of hatred. Here Mayawati is definitely an exception. When the time was to sit together and discuss the issues, so much disbelief is bound to threaten the very cause of an egalitarian society which could be termed as democratic as Ambedkar perceived.

And to further his cause he points out: “The Indian society does not consist of individuals. It consists of innumerable collection of castes, which are exclusive in their life and have no common experience to share and have no bond of sympathy. The existence of caste system is a standing denial of the existence of those ideals of society and therefore of democracy. An Indian cannot eat or marry with an Indian simply because he or she does not belong to his or her caste. An Indian simply can not touch an Indian because he or she does belong to his or her caste.” Ambedkar questions the political system and how Congress party field its candidate and how they are selected carefully on the basis of their caste. Ambedkar says : “How does an Indian vote in an election? He votes for a candidate who belongs to his own caste and no other Further he considers caste system as a bane to democracy. ‘ Castes are not equal in their status. They are standing one above another. They are jealous of one another. It is an ascending scale of hatred and descending scale of contempt. The feature of caste system has most pernicious consequences. It destroys willing and helpful cooperation.”

Then formation of politics based on caste identities is relegating the basic issues and killing the individual concerns. Hence to come to power and attract more people, you just refuse to listen to your own people. While there is no doubt that Mayawati and BSP has got full support from her community in particular, the fact is that it is suffering in silence also. The prime ministerial posts, corporations etc are under the control of the bhudevtas. The same thing happened with Mulayam Singh Yadav who in technical terms should have been a friend of Dalits but unfortunately can not be given his track record, still being a farmer, his all efforts were to ignore Yadavas and attract the other communities. So, to remain at the top, the leaders are killing their second generation leaders. They do not get importance. Even when RSS made BJP, were the corporate honchos who were sitting with the party bosses in power. What I mean is that biggest fault of Indian democracy is its hypocrisy. Of course, like many, I too say that a bad democracy is better than any military dictatorship or a theocratic state yet if after fifty years of democracy, we have not been able to give justice to our communities.

Today, BSP is in power in Uttar-Pradesh. We all are happy and should rightly be so but what is the cost. You have got more than 65 Brahmins elected as MLAs and another 64 upper castes who had become redundant after the Mandalisation process particularly in politics. But today, they are the most sought after leaders. How can a villager, who has been exploited by these gangs, vote to same people, and simply because he has power to capture vote and the party has fielded him. Why are we denying individual his or her right to select people according her choice? Why can not we question their basic qualities? Why our leadership wants people to remain ignorant and worship them which Baba Saheb said would be damaging to the society as a whole. It is not that the Brahmins do not worship. They worship but then why should we follow their damn culture which has destroyed our culture and value system which was still much better and open in nature where individual had freedom to enjoy and life live of his own. Kanshiram’s slogan was virtually made redundant with the old philosophy of ‘vote huamara, top hamara baki tumahara. and this baki tumhara has created a lot of disquiet at the lower level as mafias, petrol pump owners, liquor mafias are the leader of the party but people still do not complain because those who have suffered for years, are waiting to see their leader in the position of the prime minister but whether it can change their fate or not does not matter.

Many of you saw the vote on the confidence Motion in Parliament. We heard speeches and found how politicians were organizing the press meets and happily claiming victory. A new alliance has been formed with BSP, left parties and other groups. One hope that the alliance will remain a long term friendship and will not disappear because change of commercial interest and political ambition of our leaders. In this age when politicians dine with you, sleep with enemy in the evening, come back to you for breakfast and vote on the motion once he is confirmed the deal as event showed, then we have to seriously think what exactly is empowerment of the community. Communities empowered through political process but unfortunately that has become highly apolitical. When left parties withdrew the support and Samajwadi Party decided to support the government, it was Amar Singh all the way on our television channel. Rajdeep Sardesai wrote an article how ideologies have become redundant and that the left has now become new ‘untouchable’. While, I have no love for CPM and its allies particularly not just because of Nandigram and Singur but because of the prevailing violence and discrimination against Dalits in West Bengal particularly against the immigrants scavengers in Howarah and Kolkata, one need to compliment them on the issue of nuclear deal, at least they were not party to government’s whims and fancies. They did not withdraw the support but were forced to do so. But question is different now. We have a UNPA and now Ajit Singh, Deve Gowda and Chandra Babu Naidu have expressed opinion that Mayawati is their ‘leader’. Actually, it does not mean that the upper caste supporters of these political parties will stop violence against Dalits. An alliance based on conviction is natural and long term but if it is on the basis of compulsion for survival then it would be damaging and defeat the purpose. All of them know the importance of Dalit votes in their states and want to have it at any cost. Despite their own parties virtually decimated in the states for their anti poor performances, they still feel to grab the chair in Delhi one day.

We might call it a strategy to reach the large segment or give it whatever name, it does not make any sense as long as the people who are victim remain the same as well those victimizing remain the same. If upper cast leadership used the Dalits for their purposes, the upper castes today are using Dalit Bahujan leadership for their own purposes. And that too when they are big mafias, who exploit our people, kill innocent lives and enjoy their freedom.

Yes, the most astonishing factor of the vote on the confidence motion was the MPs in the jail came voting. Facing with different charges, they were smiling and giving great sound bytes to television cameras. They never considered them criminal as ‘charges’ have to be proved in the court and nobody has power to do so. Not even state. During her previous tenure Mayawati taught Raja Bhaiya a lesson but her fight against corruption and mafias remain a matter of convenience as she targeted them according to their loyalty. Today, one man who joined BSP on the motion, was Atiq Ahmed, a member who won on Samajwadi Party ticket from Phoolpur constituency in Allahabad. Known for his ‘power’ in Allahabad region, Ahmed had allegedly been responsible for killing of a dynamic young Dalit leader Raju Pal from his own constituency. Raju Pal was an MLA. He was killed by the goons during the broad day light. Lot happened afterwards. As soon as Mayawati came to power, the police filed charges against Atik Ahmed and an Allahabad court issued non bailable warrant against him terming him as proclaimed offender. His property was attached and both he and chief minister Mayawati claimed that they face threat from each other. Interestingly Atiq Ahmed was arrested by Delhi police in August last year and then handed over to UP police. Though, Raju Pal’s widow Pooja Pal has won the Allahabad (West) seat, the question is how long will we compromise with those who are responsible to hit at our people at the ground, in the villages and small towns.

Hence, when somebody says that politics today has become non political, it reflect the grave reality. It has become a tool to legitimize everything that is anti people. Whether the criminals or other corporate interest, the common man, the committed activists remain frustrated. Where are the leaders with a vision and with pain and anguish of the community? We all feel proud of any one who is from one among us, if he or she reaches the height. It enlightens us, it gives us hope but when such situation comes, one wonder how is democracy functioning. In this democracy the biggest faith comes from the Dalits. It is they who votes in the largest number and elect our representative, but it is they who are betrayed. They elect leaders who later sale themselves and openly admit of bargaining and not for their community but for themselves and for children. They feel ‘our happiness is communities happiness and not the vice versa’.

Ambedkar had never envisaged this society. He talked of a Prabudha Bharat, an enlightened India. When we embrace his ideals we leave behind all those destructive and divisive brahmanical values which degrade us. Ambedkar, a man of dignity and modernity is again reminding us to create rebels who could question the injustice being done to them but also question. It is time to revisit the Poona Pact, and ponder over the warning what Baba Saheb had given to us, the ideals that he stood for and where do we stand. The perils of Parliamentary democracy were well-known to Baba Saheb and that is why he talked of separate electorate so that a responsible leadership is elected from the Dalit communities which do not succumb to upper caste lies and mischief. He was blackmailed to sign the Poona Pact and the rest is history. Baba Saheb himself became the first victim of the joint electorate system and could come to Lok Sabha from Bengal only. Though, some may feel this debate as outdated but given wide discontent in different communities which are still unrepresented in our system, is not it a time to ask for a responsible and accountable representation which could be proportionate to their numbers. Democracy can not go on become the mistress of corporate and mafias and doing all anti people things. It will have to rediscover it so that people do not have no confidence in the system itself. Prime Minister may feel happy but every right thinking person feel betrayed on the way things are moving. Before it reach cynical condition, its time to think over it and initiate a process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Find new ways of emancipating the real Dalits of India - the people who are poor, oppressed and starving. Ambedkar became redundant a long time ago when he played the caste identity politics. Ambedkar is just a statue thats all. His ideas do not have substance because it lacks foresight and he overlooked everything to capture power. Thats what mayavathi is doing - no values no scruples just hungry for power and personality glorification. I suggest you read Orwell's Animal farm and you won't be surprised by Indian politics.