Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Double Standards of life hamper the growth of social movements

Double Standards of Life hurt our social movements more than anything else

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

At a public meeting in Uttar-Pradesh recently where I was one of the speakers, I found that speakers after speakers loudly and radically talking about the Gods and Goddesses and how they had suffocated us, deprived us and killed our spirit. Songs were played and people clapped whenever any reference to any particular god was being made. I was quite disgusted at all this as those of us who have been in the Ambedkarite movement for long know that somewhere we have developed this infatuation for Manusmriti and various gods and simply have lost new ideas and agendas.

I know it is not unusual for hitting on gods and goddesses and then escaping from the bigger problem of how we have to change personally. We can fight a lot with others and abuse others but is not there a need to change our self internally. Crying against the Hindu gods means that we are still interested in negotiating with them in being part of that fraternity which denied people justice and dignity. Dr Ambedkar tried his best in the 1930s when he led various protest movements only to realize it later that there is no benefit in crying loudly as it will only hamper our energy. It is better to chart your own path which he clearly felt Buddhism would provide to all of us. And afterwards, he did not take much interest in what the Hindus were doing and preaching. His bigger concern was how can Dalits be liberated and what could be the right path for the community. And he started thinking on it. He made a clarion call that though ‘ I was a born Hindu, which was not in my hands but I would not die as a Hindu’. The clear meaning of this sentence was that he decided to do what he could do.

Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar and all others who we consider our icons actually led from their personal examples. That is why despite all differences, people used to respect them for their high level of integrity. When Periyar married to Maniamma at the fag end of his life, many of his colleagues were not happy but given his radical views he did not care for those who thought he was a pervert. His decision was entirely his own even at the cost of a possible negative public opinion yet that did not change him. He did not hide anything in public life and never felt apologetic about his wedding.

What makes the difference between the current political class and the great icons of yesteryears? What keep them apart from others and people still love and revere them. If we analyze each one of them we will find that the biggest aspect in their life was their personal integrity. What they preached they practiced. Today, a number of our leaders whether they are politicians or belong to another generations of ‘social activists’ have different faces at different places. At home they are following the same pattern to keep their family alive while outside the home challenging those very facets. How is it possible? Is not that practicing a double standard?

Well, one of my dear friends always argues with me not to bring personal matters into public life. My argument was about our political class which preaches one ideology at the gate and other inside their homes must be exposed and it has resulted in failures of our movements. Our families have become biggest scandals to stop liberation of people. She rightly says that parents should not be blamed for the fault of their children. I agree to that point. When I say about personal integrity, that does not mean that every parent should decide everything about their children or do away with it. If we are ideologically clear, that ideological practice should be reflected in our family also. That is the root of our argument. At least, till 18 years of age, your children will follow your dictates. This article does not mean that our children should be hold responsible for our deeds or parents should face punishment for their children’s misdeeds. It is about ethics in public and private behavior and I am trying to explore where we fail.

Two great leaders from Uttar-Pradesh, late Chaudhury Charan Singh and now Mulayam Singh Yadav have a great fan following among the farmers. Both of them claimed to be secular and supported the cause of poor and farmers. And both were against modern technology. Charan Singh’s party’s manifesto condemned the technological advances in agriculture. Charan Singh’s son Ajit Singh got his education in an American University and learnt computer that time when the very usage of IT was never known. Now Charan Singh who preached people against English education and technology send his own son to US. Ajit Singh could not have done without his father’s support? Ofcouse, Charan Singh could easily say that what Ajit Singh does is his own concern, but can any one deny the fact that what will be Ajit Singh minus Charan Singh. If he were not Charan’s son, would any body vote for him? Though we respect our leaders yet we normally never question their double standards in life.

Similar is the case of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, who claimed to be following Dr Ram Manohar Lohia’s path. Mulayam officially abhorred English and warned that all the signboards of English languages will be blackened in Uttar-Pradesh. He responded to mails in Hindi only. But look the irony, Yadav’s son Akhilesh went to best educational institutions in the world. Can it be called personal matter of Mr Yadav. If he can think that English education is good for his son then why he preach it is bad for farmers and poor. If English could help his son why and how would it be detrimental for others. It is ‘thankfully’ to Mulayam’s education policy that the students of Uttar-Pradesh remain far behind than their counter parts in other parts of the country.

This double standard is every where particularly those who claiming to represent the ‘poor’. We know Jyoti Ba Phule, who practiced first and then preached. Educating his wife before going to others was a revolutionary work. They did not care what other would say about it. Bhagat Singh wrote of atheism and had courage to shorten his hair against the wishes of his father; Baba Saheb embraced Buddhism before preaching to embrace it. But the double standards are many in today’s life as I have personally seen those preaching Marxism, Maoism to the poor tribal, enjoying the best corporate life. Those abuse the west; enjoy the Western drink and courtesy. How can we say that personal life is different than your ideological life?

The point I am referring is that the right wing extremism or left wing extremism have no love for differences of opinion. That is why, when they pretend to lead from the front, the best example should from their personal lives. If a multinational is bad for tribal then it should be bad for the family members also. That is why we see the contrast in the personal lives of those who leads these social movements. Their children enjoy the best of the west while their ‘client’ the poor of India are fed on hot argument of ‘nationalism’ and ‘culture’. When, I points out the corporate background, the religious back ground of some of the sympathizers, we are told that ‘they are greater than those who started with poverty and have become rich’ at the cost of the people. Some of them are simply targeting the Dalit leadership which has some how come up and can claim to be equally corrupt like others. My problem is not whether they have declassed themselves or not the fact is that most of them have only been in the movement to ‘lead’ and not to sit and guide.

The problem is not what one earns how much or not. Despite all differences with ‘spiritual Gandhi’, one can not ignore the integrity of Gandhi as he publicly disowned his son Hari Das Gandhi when he felt that he was violating basic principles of his life which he believed in. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was a man of complete dedication and probity in personal life and hence none could even blame him today that he had double standards in life. It is not that he preached something different to people and practiced differently.

Many Ambedkarite today speak loudly in public and start with thrashing the Gods and Goddesses that never existed. I just tell them please stop this and start at home. The best way to get rid of this menace of God is what Baba Saheb Ambedkar preached you. If you have got a new way of life then do not worry why others are in that dirty pool. Your duty is to inform people and the best practice to get rid of them is from our very personal life. That is why in his personal life too Baba Saheb Ambedkar was perhaps the cleanest person who could defend anything and any action that he did in his life. He had valid arguments for his actions and based on those principals of life he grew. He was not a politician who could justify things for his personal gains. There was rarely anything personal for him. The amount of money that he invested to educate people, the educational institutions that he started are visible in the form a wider movement among the masses in various parts of the country. The cultural changes are also visible in our life that he strived was lead by him in his personal life. He did not preach us what he did not practice.

That is why he succeeded. The silent revolution in India that we have seen in Maharastra and elsewhere in India is actually brought by those who believed in Ambedkar’s vision of life. And the result is that more than anything that the Maoists and Marxists could bring, the Ambedkarite vision was of changing yourself and adopting the new vision of life, which is more democratic, more egalitarian and more respectful towards dissent. Today, the neo Buddhists are in all walks of life. In private sector, in sports, in industries, in entrepreneurship, at the music concerts, as the cultural change is visible among them. Others have not come up because they are still fighting the very battle of dignity with in those paradigms where things will not change. A cultural renaissance is needed to Change our self rather than wasting our energy on something that is fictitious and job of a perverse mind. That is where I appealed to all the right thinking persons to take care of their own home first and then preach the others. But some of our friends took it in a different way. They say, ‘It is absolutely wrong to bring personal matter into public’. I said there is nothing personal here but if you call yourself an Ambedkarite or Marxist or even a Maoist or an atheist then God should always be fearful of you rather than you fearing of ‘him’. You can not celebrate your godly traits, dine with them and say it is the freedom of your wife. These are not the issues of freedom but issues of our cultural subjugation. You can not keep it under the wrap that I am an Ambedkarite but I defend my wife’s right to wear a Mangalsutra and sport a sindoor over her head. You can not be a Marxist or an atheist at the same time playing an obedient husband of your wife on a ‘Karwachowth day’ and celebrating all those festivals that actually deny women a right to equality.

We can respect divergent view points. As I said at home our children may be different but we take care of them. At least some of the basic ideas they take from us. We do not say that they should do everything what we tell them. But definitely they should know what we do and they should have their view. Can our children disown us if they disagree our view points? Can we disown our children if our views are quite contrary to them? For example some Ambedkarite fathers actually disliked their children’s marriage to the upper caste girls. But that is an individual choice and must be respected. But what happened if the girl or the boy does not agree to father’s choice and start propagating the ideology of hatred just opposed to what we have believed. What should be the response? Should it just be two differences of opinion or should it be openly discarded and disowned? Moral questions are basically on these lines. You can always have differences of opinions as long as that believe in basic human liberty and democratic values, does not spread racial hatred and filth.

Two years back, I was in Tirupathi for a seminar on Ambedkarism being organized by a University there. In the evening, I got two veteran Ambedkarites from Delhi. One came along with his wife and wanted to find whether I was interested to visit Tirupathi Devasthanam in the morning as his wife came because of it. I flatly refused saying that I would rather sleep in the morning than going to a place which is epicenter of discrimination based on caste, gender and pocket. These things happen in our life. Number of friends married outside their castes. Not just with in the Dalits but mostly among the Brahmins and upper castes yet they face dilemma of revealing the facts. Question is one is not asking whether they should reveal who they married or not. Question is if you believe that inter caste marriage could be good for you then why you say it is bad for others. I speak against those who say that it is not good for others.

Unlike their western counterparts, Indian society is still patriarchical and completely male dominated. Here parents influence on children is always visible. Well, writing this article does not mean every child should become a Xerox copy of his parents and should not have the freedom. It also does not mean, every parent should kill their child if they marry outside their clan and community. As a humanist, I believe in that freedom, what I am writing about those who do not want to give this freedom to people who they treat as ‘subject’, and give them different prescription. My belief is that as a human being what I promote in the public should hold true to my family and personal matters. Social movements will only grow positively and effectively otherwise they will remain instant protest for some needs being exploited by the powerful ‘nationalist’ elite claiming to ‘represent’ the marginalized and giving all those prescription to Dalits and tribals which had become redundant for their own personal lives. Once the leadership has a feel of the pulse of the people, they will not take their fight to endless struggle till the ‘whole’ world changes, while living in their comfortable air conditioned halls. It is time to wake up for every individual to think well and not to surrender their right to any one else. The biggest change in the world comes through changing oneself. Ambedkar did it. We need to follow his words of advice and complete the revolution.

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