Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Khairlanji verdict expose our national concern on violence against Dalits
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Khaurlanji’s verdict is out. The Bombay High court did not find the case rarest of the rare. Though, the Maharastra government is going to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court and we must wait for the same, the verdict has left most of us who were following the case deeply disappointed. But for me the High Court’s judgment not finding it as rarest of the rare reflect that, such things are happening regularly at different parts of the country and we are habitual offenders of the dignity and self respect of the Dalits in the country. Hence if the ‘honorable’ high courts give capital punishment on ‘such normal things’, then a large number of our friends will have to face gallows. We all know how judiciary is being put to pressure by media and political forces. They will shout loudly over the issues and convert a non issue into a national problem but when the issues which should be discussed and focused the media keeps that for a one minute byte or into the middle pages of their news papers.
We can easily establish how media publicized the issue of Jesica Lal or Ruchira case that their families become ‘social activist’ rather than a respondent and played an activist role asking people to protest and come in the street. How can the same media completely sidelining the case of Khairlanji? Why is this that the issue of boycott of Dalit cooks in Uttar-Pradesh and other parts of the country do not attract the same space as Jessica Lal or Ruchira case? The news of Indians being targeted racially in Australia has always made headlines in almost all the news channels and some of them actually following each and every incidents involving Indians in that country. The size of the news is enormous and many of the reports regarding Indians being racially targeted turned out to be faked. Yet, the outrage is high in this country which takes morally high ground against ‘racial prejudices’ yet the news in its own home turf do not make headlines. It is passed as another incident of ‘violence’ against the Dalits. It is not termed as the basic nature of Indian society which has not been able to digest the fact that we have a constitution that empower each citizen of the country and that the Dalits are equal citizens with equal rights. Our editors do not shout and grin as they do on Maoism or terrorism, that this country should hang its head in shame when children learn to discriminate. We always sang song that the children are innocent and do not believe in the caste system, do not know who is big and who is small but if you read what is happening in different parts of the country including Uttar-Pradesh, then we will have to hang our head in shame. Why don’t we discuss this issue so seriously and take the governments, the officials to task. Why does not it become our campaign against prejudices in our society? Why the feelings of our editors and news reporters are not hurt the same way when they shout on any issue and turn the non issue as a major issue. Well, we have to understand that for these racist, the wedding of Mahendra Singh Dhoni was more important than the racial prejudices of children who refused to eat with Dalit children or refused to eat food cooked by the Dalit cooks at school. Unfortunately, rather than taking action against them, the government seem to buckle under the pressure as if that has hurt the sentiments of the upper caste children. Is it because there is no one speaking for them? Is it because the media has conspicuously kept silent on this issue?
The irony is that a few weeks ago, a UP court asked police to file cases against some of the ministers and publishers of ‘Ambedkar Today’, a journal in Hindi, for ‘hurting’ the sentiments of ‘Hindus’ by writing vitriolic language against their Gods. Some years ago, the activists of Vishwa Shudra Mahasabha in Lucknow, were charged for ‘hurting’ the sentiments of Hindus. Periyar is out of Uttar-Pradesh and its BSP’s icon list as the upper castes do not want him as he is the most famously known Ram bashers. The Hindutva brigade said ‘Ram-drohi’ is desh drohi i.e. anti national. So, writing on any fictitious things hurt the sentiments of others but killing as well as justification of killings and discrimination does neither hurt our sentiments nor compel us introspecting our literature and religious texts. ‘How can they hurt our sentiments, traditions given to us by our ancestors’, said a supporter of ban. ‘But I consider Buddha, Kabir, Raidas, Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, Bhagat Singh as my ancestors’, I told him, and added that I too am bound to respect their sentiments too. All of them asked me to be a humanist and questioned the religious texts too. All of them were rationalist humanists who fought against the ugly racist caste order. How can one enjoy the festivals that celebrate the victory of a racist order on the others who they claimed were ‘Rakshashas’. Times have changed and a thing of 3000 years back may not be true to us and may not be respected. How can our judicial system justify those years old texts when we know well that our constitution which is just 60 years old has the flexibility of changing according to the needs and demands of the time? Why can’t we dump these holy text which continue to guide our children and deny some of them right to live with dignity while give a false sense of superiority complex to others. We need to learn from France in this respect where the constitution wants citizens to follow the egalitarian and secular values of its constitution. W do not need a secular constitution which glorify every act of regression in the garb of multi-culturarlism and where every act of questioning ‘hurt’ the ‘sentiments’ of those who never cared the sentiments of the others.
One is amazed to see why our sentiments are never hurt when children are told to discriminate against each other. How can a country planning to host Common Wealth Games, going to tell the world that racial brahmanical disorder is a thing of past. Is it possible to demolish the caste structure in this country which is suffering from ‘identity’ dilemma?
Caste is the biggest issue in this country. Daily the maximum violence that the Dalits face is because of caste. It is nothing but a false passport to superiority and further developing the clan culture where a few ‘respected’ men decide about the fate of others. Children are being brutally killed and we do not feel shame on it. In fact, we feel proud of ‘protecting’ our honor by killing our children who dared to love. Love is the most hated word in the town but watching the C grade ‘colored’ films are not bad in these sacred heartlands from UP to Bihar to Rajasthan. I do not believe much in the theory that some Indians are better than others as often comparative notes are given to us like Delhi is worst or Mumbai is better or Chennai superior to Hyderabad. All the diversity in India has a commonality of caste and gender discrimination. North, East South West caste seems to be the best for Indians who can not live with out, who are told infinite virtues of their caste and the great achievements of it.
My point is that as far as feudal structure is concerned, that remain intact in India despite a secular constitution. It is a bullying tactics to make all those who look different or dissenters to either fall in line or perish. Hence, if Baba Saheb Ambedkar writes something on the riddles of Hinduism, the protesters are up in arms to burn the book. Even if some body makes an expose of a so-called holy book on our religious faith that hurts the Bahujans and Dalits, he will surely face criminal action for hurting the sentiments of the people. In Indian context we will have to understand the exploitation and annihilation of the Dalit culture by these fascist elements. Yet, they want no further study on the subject. The subaltern history is coming with new ideas and new explanation of every brahmancial text and that is creating ripples in the minds of these elements. Hence a film like Teesari Azadi was termed as ‘ Zaharili CD’, a poisonous propaganda material by many in the media asking for a complete Ban on it while the film was just explaining how crooked our caste system was and how the Brahmins manipulated the system for their benefit. What is wrong in it? Have we not seen the annihilation of Buddhist culture, and its cooption as well as destructions of Buddha Viharas by the brahmanical forces? Why are the historians and social anthropologists silent on it? One has to understand the movements of the Dalit Bahujan and their effort to get out of the clutched of the brahmanical value sytem. One will have to understand the meanings of these festivals. Every major festival is a celebration of some killings or work of treachery over the Dalit Bahujan masses. How can any right thinking person celebrate such festivities, but these forces want us not to question those festivals, not to question those celebrations. Fine, but why should we celebrate them. Not celebrating them becomes a droha, a challenge to the country. Whatever we do but new thesis, new question will always be raised on these texts and we must be prepared to face all of them.
If we know the Indian system and how work then we should not be surprised. As a nation, we have not grown and develop into an egalitarian democratic society. A democratic society is only possible where social system is based on democracy. A society segregated so much on caste lines can not really built a democratic culture in the country. Here, we feel proud of our caste being higher then the other one. We continue to bow to those in ascending order and regularly assault and humiliate those in the descending order. It is not surprising therefore that we still have millions of manual scavengers, carrying human excreta manually and we do not feel any shame in it. Our heart does not melt when we see young children who should have been in the school but carry night soil. How will our heart melt when the so called civil society, opinion makers, middle classes have a small chhotu at their home who take the heavy bags of their children to school bus and regularly do the service. How can we ever feel the shame when we have employed these chhotus at our home virtually buying them from their helpless parents?
Khairlanji verdict shocked us but still the reaction is calm unlike the time of the incident that raised fire in Mahrastra. We thought a new movement is on the way when the Dalits protested there. A few committed workers worked on the case while a majority of forgot it after a few days pilgrimage. Why should case of such a magnitude which shook us is termed as a Dalit issue alone? Why as human being and fellow national we do not feel the same pained and agony on these issues? The attitude of Mahrastra government was disgusting. See the contrast. When you have fight against Muslim accused, the media, the Hindutva and the ‘nationalist’ all join hand in the common ‘national’agenda but Khairlanji does not bother them, the denial of dignity to Dalit children in school does not bother them.
The basic question is why is there a regular denial of justice? Who will judge the judges who do not take these issues seriously while give certain judgments that hurt the basic premise of our constitution? Our government and political class will have to think on these issues more seriously. How can a judge leave the cases in the absence of ‘credible’ evidence? But the fact is that the state has no desire to get justice. It does not provide any credible evidence and then want us to blame it to the judges only.
The word of Baba Saheb Ambedkar remained prophetic as ever when he describes the nature of our villages. Truly, the villages still live in darkness, in caste identities, in feudalism. Yes, when I went to Allahabad recently where upper caste goons tried to molest a Dalit woman, demolished her home, beat her mercilessly along with her child and her husband and to my deep shock and anguish none ‘saw’ the incident. Not a single person in the village ‘saw’ it. There are numerous incidents where we have brought to the notice of the authorities but do not have ‘credible’ ‘evidence’. That does not exist. Once, I filed a report on manual scavenging and I am still getting letters that it does not exists in that part because the municipality say so. How interesting is this system is that you file a complaint against some one and the same person is made responsible to answer your question.
How can you get credible evidence when an entire village turns up against the person belonging to a particular community? Where is the credible evidence against those who are killing their own children in the name of ‘honor’? Is not it a shame when those who kills people in the name of honor terming it their ‘culture’ and asking the government to ‘bend’ on their whims and fancies and look how it is ‘crawling’ to the demands of such ‘civilized’ people.
Indian society is still a primitive society which has no space for dissent despite its pretensions to look modern and democratic. Whether it is Khairlanji or Tsunduru, Dalits face violence for being biggest dissenters of the brahmanical system. The fact is once you realize the treacheries of the system, you will become a dissenter. Asking for your right to live with dignity and self respect has become the biggest obstacles for the brahmanical forces. They have turned these democratic demands as dissent and seek to suppress it with violence. Such violence is happening daily but the struggling masses do not cow down to such intimidations. The courts verdict on Khairlanji is similar like what happened in Kanpur where authorities just let the incident happen. But these have raised serious issues of propriety. As a democratic nation which is claiming to become world leader, should such incident be allowed to go unchallenged? When the Indians make so much noises of discrimination against them outside India, why should we not make similar demand from the Indians who go abroad? Should not the government ask its employees to take oath in believing in secular constitution and asking its people to be non religious and non casteists. Should we not ask the foreign government to be very strict with Indians and Indian government on these issues of caste discrimination and caste violence?
The issues of violence against Dalits in India put serious question mark about our judicial system. Why do the Dalits not getting justice in our institutions. India is already facing tribal revolt at the moment, a Dalit revolt will only add to its woes and it would be difficult for it to recover. Let the democracy and its institutions prove that they honor equality and dignity of human being and are capable of providing justice to each and every citizen of the country without any racial discrimination.
Khairlanji’s incident has proved that our courts have not yet sensitized to the Dalit cause. The incidents of children not eating food cooked by the Dalit cooks also reflect that Indian constitution has not yet been able to prove its supremacy over the rigid and outdated laws of Manu. The various forms caste violence, honored killings and inability of children to mixed up only reflect that Indian state has failed in secularizing the people and most importantly the political class itself has no faith in secular values except using it to satisfy the whims and fancies of caste and religious thugs. Nothing could be more shameful for a nation claiming to be a superpower in the 21st century. It’s a wake up call for all.