Sunday, September 12, 2010

Public verses Personal : issues of ethics in our political life

Ethics and morality in public life: need for cultural revolution in India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

My last article evoked sharp reactions as some felt that personal matters should remain personal and we should discuss the professional issues of an individual and should not indulge in peeping into the personal affairs of people. I would like to reiterate that by talking about double standards in our life, I am not poking my nose in the personal affairs of individuals. In fact, in a country where privacy is an issue we all love to hate and all of us want to peep into the bed rooms of people, the article written by me had in no way any connotation to that. My only meaning was that the principals which we talk in public must be the same at home. It does not mean that we can not educate our children and can not send them to better schools. It does not mean that if our children work contrary to our beliefs then our ‘upbringing’ to them was wrong. The choice of individuals and freedom to dissent is an important point of modern democratic value system and not historical traditional culture values which we romanticize. It means that those supporting primitive values of traditional hierarchies, parents are responsible for their children. For them, our karmas are responsible for our present being. Hence, if we believe in that principal of Karma, then it is difficult for us to rationalize our argument. Hence, there is no issue whether our children go to foreign universities or not. It only means that when we send our wards to private schools and English medium schools then in our public opinion we can also feel that every one wants to do that and that learning English is the desire of our students. It means that all of us want best educational institutions whether by government or foreigners. It means that any foreign link up is not that bad in practice. It only means that we all know what is good and bad for us and our society and that society also knows who is doing good or bad for them. So let the people decide. We can not be guide to everything. We can only put issues in front of them and seek their support.

A friend wrote to me, ‘What will happen if our children go US and UK for study? Should we stop criticizing them? Actually, that is the dilemma of many as problem is not with their children going to UK and US. Problem is when you feel that every foreign connection is bad. Problem is when we demean all those who raise the issue at international level or national level. Problem is when we speak on behalf of communities and tell them not to speak to some one since he or she had ‘foreign links’. I do not know what those links are and can any one do anything against communities. Why we do not tell people to judge the people on the basis of their work and not on the basis of their birth, their linkages, their being civil society or this ism or that ism. How will our children go there when their parents spit venom in the ground against ‘foreign power’? Enjoying Europe and America means, you enjoy their democracy. You enjoy their freedom and the diversity and independence they provide to you. I am not here to go and mop every individual Marxist or Maoist who claims the US, UK civilization as imperialist one and then send their children to these countries. Better they can send their children to former Soviet countries, to Venezuela or Bolivia and learn a few things about ‘communist’ democracy in these countries.

Also, why do we send our children to Europe and America? Certainly, we all go there for better education and greater future prospectus. That means, somewhere we want them to earn better than others. Then why we cry so much against their societies. Of course, we can always speak against human rights violation there and their government interfering in the internal affair of other countries. But to condemn everything there and then trying to be part of it is dishonesty. If earning good and trying to get a good life is better for your child, how can that be bad for a tribal or Dalits? When you can negotiate with your enemies what is wrong if the local tribal try to negotiate with powerful at local level to get his things done. Who are we to tell them that everything is bad? So, those followers of ‘revolutionaries’ must first understand that for a healthy society we need healthy dissent and accept diverse view point.

We are not discussing here the personal lives of people. We know every individual has a right to life and live. I took the debate to a different level where Ambedkar started with cultural change. I say, we need Cultural Revolution. When I speak of it, it does not mean, we are deciding about every individual. In fact, we support rights of every individual to decide about her self.

In his response, Vikas Mogha mentioned about Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s marriage to Mrs Savita Ambedkar. I again said that it was their personal decision and we must respect that. Both of them are not alive here to answer our questions but I have heard utterly negative comments about Dr Savita Ambedkar. These comments do not do justice to the personality of Dr Ambedkar. We must leave it to him whether it was good or bad, it was not our concern. Lots of things were written against her but at the end of the day being a woman she had to face double the calumny.

We must target all those, national or international corporate or individuals and their bid to control our resources and destroy our water, forest and environment. But in that case it is the issue of environment which is more important and if that is hurt even by a domestic company then too we must speak loudly and vociferously. Our criticism must be based on facts and not on rhetoric. Long back, I wrote we all need international cooperation and linkages with people, individuals. In this era, can we live in isolation? So, when we talk about imperialism, it has different meaning. But our leaders will speak differently. On everything they will start international conspiracy. I want to know what kind of ‘international conspiracy’ has kept Mushahars, Kols, Balmikis, Mehtars, and other dalits and tribal communities subjugated for centuries. They all are victim of our Hindu civilization. Most of the conspiracy theorists rarely speak against the internal colonization. Yes, when we speak so loudly against the international imperialism then we must speak at the same length against internal imperialism. That is what we call Hindu Imperialism in India. But right from Marxists, to Maoists to Gandhians, none talked about it. Except for the fact that Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar etc talked about it but they are not our mainstream leaders. They are termed as leaders of ‘subalterns’.

Ambedkar realized the change in the life style when he went to US. There he could meet any one and could shake hand with all which was not possible in India. He realized the meaning of democracy and equality there while Gandhi was finding greatness in our village and primitive cultural value system.

When 74 policemen were killed in Chhatishgarh many sympathizers rejoiced. When the four policemen were abducted in Bihar, the sympathizers wanted Bihar government to release the leaders. Some said the other day that politics is difficult thing today and hence we need friends like Maoists to fight against caste and communal forces. So, you club together caste forces with the Hindutva gangs and rejoice your own failures. Did any one of them ever launch anti caste movement. If yes, then what was the result? And why was it stopped?

Now, see the background of the policemen killed in killed in ambush in Chhatishgarh. Most of them belonged to Dalits, tribal and backward communities, basically sons of our farmers and workers. Who were the people abducted in Bihar. Again the same communities including Muslims were targeted. So, what is the benefit of killing them? No, they are state agents, say our sympathizers. They are fighting on being paid by government and they are paid handsomely when they die, remarks some of them shamelessly.

And who are the sympathizers? Well, they too get much bigger salaries than the poor policemen fighting with the age old 303 rifles. Most of them can be an ideologue inside the campus of JNU, Delhi University or other universities. Some might be living in the accommodation provided by the government in posh central or New Delhi regions, condemning the state yet being part of it. Nothing happen. If a policemen revolt in Chhatishgarh against the operation green hunt, he would lose his job but our respected elderly intellectuals have both the tags at their whims and fancies. They can be intellectuals, revolutionaries and can cry against any one at free of cost. After all, the universities do not even ask them as how many days they were absent or what is the courses they finished. Universities have become political battle ground and safer locations for the revolutionaries. In handsome salaries you are everything. You do not need to go out. You will be invited. You are tagged as intellectual and if you are a public person, then you are a ‘leader’ also. And most importantly you can shout loudly that you do not get any funds. You are not saleable. You can shout you are not NGO. You do not get funds for your revolution. Yes, you get much more than an ordinary NGO gets in all. Yes, you do not get for revolution but your salaries are for your students and your teachings. That is where we have double standards. We misuse our offices and become the champions. It is the politics of powerful of those who have money and resources to control our social movements in the guise of being independent.

This trend was started many years ago in Bengal where developing a civil society outside the CPM’s domain was difficult. To demonize the civil society you needed some ‘intellectuals’ who can cry ‘international’ ‘conspiracy’ as if NGOs are that powerful which can dislodge the CPM. After all, a government will be dislodged by the political parties only. Soon, this ‘progressive’ terminology started every where when the Dalits and other marginalized sections of society also started building up their organizations. ‘You get funds from abroad’, they would charge them. Yes, they do not get billions of dollars for building up a University or High way. One need to see their conditions in which a social activist survive life long yet when those living in glass houses throw stones at him it pains. This has become fashionable now. Rather than speaking to a person about his work, his perceptions and his actions, we are more interested in what he or she is earning and where from.

In India, you can speak against the state and be a star as nothing will happen as bigger than the state we have a brahmanical domination in each walk of our life from Gandhian brand to Maoism to socialism that speaking against state is easier. The extra powerful element of the state is Brahmanism and it is safe with the Swamis and Sanyasis of our time. None of them is ready to wage a war against the brahmanical system. Yes, all of them want to join hand to curtail the ‘caste’ forces. So, Naxal will help them curtail the rise of caste forces. Perhaps that is the reason why our ‘nationalists’ upper caste lead social movements have so much concern for their brothers in the forest. So what is common between RSS and Naxals. It is the caste assertion of the down trodden that hurt both of them and their supporters.

They say that Naxals are revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh who got nothing. How do you club them with Bhagat Singh whose vision for a casteless society has rarely got the attentions of these so-called revolutionaries? Do they know that Bhagat Singh never believed in such criminal violence which our friends are indulging? Even in the Lahore bomb case in which he got death sentence, Bhagat Singh and his friends could have killed an entire leadership but that was never their intention. I am sure; Bhagat Singh today would have fought a bigger battle against both the Indian imperialism as well as global imperialism. And most importantly, Bhagat Singh had the guts to challenge the religious practice at home. So he believed that to fight against orthodoxy and conservatism one has to be clean in his personal self and then fight. Legendary M.N.Roy analyzed in his book ‘Our Task in India’ about the inability of Indians to bring revolution. He said that since the proletariats in India are unable to liberate ourselves from reactionary social outlook and somewhere we are influenced by ‘religion, spiritualism and Gandhism’.

By calling for a cultural revolution, one is not seeking any religious morality to curtail individual freedom but strengthen that. In fact, we want India to change for better and that change is not possible with out a cultural change which can replace the tainted Brahmanical value system that never consider human being as equal and which believe in two many facets of life, thus destroying the lives of millions through cultural subjugation and deep rooted caste and gender prejudices.

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