Sunday, June 08, 2014
“The revolutionary people’s movement can only be strengthened with scientific temperament and spiritual experiences of Buddha and Ambedkar.” - Tilak Pariyar, Secretary, Central Advisory Committee, CPN-M
Mr Tilak Pariyar is a member of the Central Advisory Committee of the Communist Party of Nepal. He is a very senior political leader from a revolutionary party with massive social experience. Hailing from a Pariyar community, which is one of the largest untouchable communities in Nepal, Tilakji rose to the highest body of the party. He is very articulate and a thought-provoking political leader who experienced the caste discrimination in his life. He was attached to the revolutionary movement from his student life when he came to study in Delhi in 1960s. He was impressed with the Marxist ideology and started working for the masses. In a wide ranging discussion with activist-writer Vidya Bhushan Rawat on the issue of caste discrimination in Nepal and future of the revolutionary movement in the country, Tilak Pariyar spoke eloquently and in vivid details.
VB: Tilakji, you are the Central Committee member of your party CPN. It is a great achievement for any one as there are not many leaders from Dalit communities at the highest echelons of the left movements in India. Could you elaborate how and when you were included in the Central Committee?
TP: I have been in Central Advisory Committee of Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist since 2003, during the People's War and now I am acting as the Secretary of that Committee since 2013. There is dialectical relation between ideology and leadership. On the condition of the majority of the communists with the mixed culture of Marxism and Brahmanism in our society, based on the caste system, the development of the leadership for women and oppressed (Dalit) community is challenging. The leaders developed from the Dalit community should be prepared to work hard and satisfy others in the field of ideology and politics.
VB: Nepal has been a traditional society. Caste system and untouchability is being practiced. Did you face anything like that in your childhood? Have things changed ? If yes then how and who changed them?
TP: We initiated the Great People's War with the aim of resolving the contradictions of Nepalese society including political, economical and social ones. By the initiation, Nepalese rulers declared to destroy the movement and finish the Maoists, but failed. That was the result of the dedication of Maoist party struggling to adopt the pro-people policy, solubility with the people, defense of Nationalism and high morale to establish a democracy. During that operation, the Dalits were backward in all sectors of life including economic, political, and social due to upper caste insistence on a caste system with untouchability, which had been going on since thousands of years against the Dalit community. The Dalits were involved in the PW and fought against the enemy. During the practice of proportional inclusiveness and special rights in People's Government, People's Court and People's Liberation Army, the changes over caste system and untouchability culture were among the base. It is essential to run the campaign of economic, social, cultural transformation and to extend it continuously.
VB: Could you share with us the struggle that you had to do in your childhood? What kind of caste discrimination did you face in your childhood?
TP: In the social structure of caste system and untouchability culture, to take birth in the Dalit family means to face the discrimination within the mother's womb. I was born in a very poor family. My parents were ignorant and uneducated. They did have the courage to send me to the school, but the teachers used to discriminate against me even in the school. I couldn't drink the water fetched by the peon. I had to run to the water tap to drink water. We were addressed with offensive words and physical hurt. I have been struggling against it. My sharp understanding is that the Hindu religious rituals are the origin of the Dalit problem which actually resulted in the Hindu hegemonic oppression of Dalits. We boycotted temples and worshiping, burned the Manusmriti and the books abusing the Dalits. Teachers beat me for this but I kept on my dissent. My rebellious nature and progressive thinking inspired me to be Marxist-Leninist-Maoist.
VB: You studied at the Delhi University and then became part of revolutionary politics. How did you get engaged to the left political ideology?
TP: I was impressed by the instructions of Com. B.D.Randiwe, an Indian communist leader, when I was studying B.A. in Delhi University and was doing part time job in 1964/65. Then I came in contact with Com. Pusplal, the founder of Nepalese Communist Movement, through him and he introduced me to the party. I am proud of my birth in the Dalit community. I have observed that most of the leaders and cadres from non-dalit background have shown an opportunist character.
VB: In Nepal despite ideological differences people accept the role played by the Maoists in bringing the Dalit issues to the core particularly the land relations in the village. Unfortunately, the language and idioms that have been used by the movement still avoid targeting the brahmanical value system which subjugated the Dalits. Is it deliberate so that you do not lose the upper castes along with you? It is important to use the Marxist terminology of class but caste is a harsh reality too in our society. Have you ever given it a thought that without eliminating the caste system, we can not bring equality in society?
TP: You have asked an important question, it is found true that Economics counts not only the relations of goods but the relations of mankind too and especially between the classes. Caste system is also a product of class divided society. Thus, the fact is roved that the problem of caste system and untouchability is a form of class exploitation and oppression. It is notable that the whole and parts have dialectical relation; the whole gets completeness only after integrating several parts. To talk about pure class liberation or pure Dalit liberation in isolation means to serve the status-quo. Marxism has no relation with it. The dialectical materialist outlook which understands and transforms the Dalit problem and the spiritualist religious ideology which argues the development of the human society as the wish of a god can't be the same. We can't identify the problem until we are not clear on it. If we show recklessness to treat without the diagnosis, it has risk for side effect or there won't be any efficacy. The cause of the acceptance of Dalit agenda and the question of the land to the Maoists is based on a clear outlook and has a correct political line. Humans need food, dwelling and clothing before politics, cultural tradition, rituals, art, and entertainment. We can operate all types of activities of social cultural transformations on the foundation of them. Economic equality, assurances of political access and social combination are integral parts of each other. It is essential to understand it in totality.
VB: How important is Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar for you and your cadres? As you know Ambedkar now symbolises struggle for dignity and human rights. His acceptance in social movements have transcended beyond India and among huge number of people outside India. Nepal's Dalit movement is also claiming his legacy now. What are the meeting points and where do you differ in perceptions?
TP: Baba Saheb Ambedkar is a respectable and honorable Dalit leader for me. His important contributions to the Dalit movement are rememberable. He struggled for the right to vote. He took a stand for separate electorate system for the Dalits. But he felt obligated to leave it after Gandhi's fast. For the first time in history, a person from the Dalit community was established as the builder of a nation’s Constitution, the Indian Constitution. Despite these contributions, he was not clear on the outlook to identify the problem. As the result, he converted to Buddhism on the last moments of his life. I have a strong view that proselytism can't be the right guidance for the liberation of Dalits.
VB: But Dalit representation in CA is merely 8%. In fact, last CA was much better in terms of representation. Will it not be inadeqate that without fair representation of Dalits in CA, it would somewhere lose its legitimacy?
TP: The Article 21 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal accepts the principle of proportional inclusiveness on the question of social justice. The population of Dalits is 13.2% as the Governmental statistics and 20% as per the Non-Governmental one. The number of total members of the Constituent Assembly is 600. So, 78 Dalits as the Government or 120 Dalits as the NGOs have the instinctive right to represent in the CA. But the electoral system of First Past the Post and Mixed system of Proportional List is adopted. Multi-candidate direct election system has made women and Dalits to lose the election as per the system of competition among unequals. The same thing was adopted during the CA election of 2007. At that time, with the influence of 10 years People's War and 19 days People's Movement, 7 Dalits had been elected from the direct election. That was 8.2%. Only 6.8% Dalits are representatives to the so called CA recently. Parliamentarians are active not only in reducing the representation of Dalits but also in dismissing the representation by so called democratic process by vulgarizing the proportional electoral system. The two-third majority of the CA of 2007 was pro-people and now the so called CA has two-third majority who are anti-people. If they move to the process, the past pro-people achievements will be thrown away and the agenda of reconstruction of the state will surely be dismissed. That's why we believe the CA election, occurred on 19th November, 2013, is without legitimacy. If they are ready to make the Constitution to authorize the people and to protect the national independence, it is essential to make the national political consensus on the essence of the constitution by organizing All Political Conference.
VB: Where is Nepal's Dalit movement at the moment? We do not see much stronger struggle against land rights and untouchability. Your party raised the issue but never really challenged the brahmanical hegemony in Nepal. How can Nepal be a representative and egalitarian society?
TP: The problems of right to land and freedom from untouchability are complementary to each other. The New Democratic revolution is inevitable to solve this problem in Nepal which contains the situation of semi-feudalist and neo-colonial society. To defend the nation’s independence and enrich the people with rights is the basic minimum goal of the New Democratic revolution. In the past, we had entered into the process of building equalized society by establishing people's government, challenging the Bramhanical norms and hegemony. But the revolution suffered a setback due to the reactionary forces, both foreign and domestic, and the class and national capitulationist elements inside the party. It will take time to prepare for the revolution but it is essential to organize the revolutionaries, empower the internal side and balance the external powers. It is possible to build an equalized society by forwarding the process of unity-struggle-transformation.
VB: You have differed with your original party led by comrade Prachanda. What were the points of difference? He is trying to play an important role in democracy and bring change through democracy. It is difficult to go back to the pre-democratic positions after peace accord. If you do not participate in democratic exercise, wouldn’t it be easier for your opponents to blame you for not having people's support?
TP: Prachanda has abandoned the political line of "People's insurrection on the foundation of the People's War", which was passed by the plenum of 7000 cadres, and adopted the so-called socialist revolution saying that the New Democratic revolution is over. This is the result of his ideological deviation. How can one be the leader of the original party who had abandoned the official line of the party? We have nothing to say if it is orginal by the recognition of American and Indian ruling class.
VB: You claimed that you will go for Janvidroh? How can you reassure the Dalits and minorities that this Janvidroh has a place for them? How many of the Dalits are represented in the highest body of parties in Nepal? I have no issue people claiming to work for the Dalits but you can not sidetrack the issue of the leadership emerging from the community.
TP: The question of the construction of a revolutionary party cannot be answered by the method of proportional representation. Dalits and backward classes are basic classes for the revolution but all of them haven't developed a revolutionary leadership. Party should prioritize the development of leaders from the basic classes and communities. The leaders and cadres of the concerned communities should be clear ideologically and theoretically. There are 14 Dalits at the central level in our party. All of them are the comrades who had fought the 10 years People's War and had achieved an ideological and political clarity. But the leadership is not developing as expected. The People's War or an insurrection can't be done by subjective method. These can be initiated by the plan-of-action line and action-plan on the basis of concrete analysis of concrete circumstances and other objective situations.
VB: What is the socio-economic agenda that you want to set for Nepal? How do you propose to bring equality in the society? Untouchability and other traditions like Kumari and Baadi are still being practiced. There is manual scavenging (cleaning human excreta) from Mehtar community but so far these issues have not come up for discussions at the highest level. They have not become part of the public discourse and Dalit movement.
TP: First of all, these agenda can't be implemented for the interest of workers, peasants, Dalits, women and the oppressed people without the establishment of a New Democratic Republic. So, political revolution is the essential precondition. After this, the socio-economic agenda, which are related to solutions of the problems of nationality, democracy and people's concerns, will achieve the desired importance and effectiveness. Our party says that the interests and rights of workers, peasants, women, Dalits, indigenous nationalities, Madheshis, Muslims, backward mass and national capitalist class. It says the special rights to women; Dalits and Muslims community should be arranged with compensation until the relative development on social, economic and political equality is achieved. It also says the arrangement of right to preference and assurance of representation to all organs of state power on the basis of proportional inclusive theory should be managed. Our party wants to develop federalism with the identity of oppressed ethnicity, construction and development of independent national economy, termination of feudal land ownership and revolutionary land reform, independent foreign policy, democratic educational policy, democratic judicial system, resolution of basic problems of people's concern including education, health, employment, food sovereignty and residence as well as democratic and scientific culture.
On the question of solving the problem of Baadi, Mehtar and Kumari customs, as you have mentioned are one of the problems of the entire Dalit community. And it should be resolved by the process of ‘Unity, Struggle, Transformation.’ Our party will give these communities special priority within the provisions meant for Dalits.
VB: Do you support political reservation for the Dalits which ofcourse, is there in your Constitution but there is no reservation for the Dalits in the government services? Without giving them enough representation in the government services, you can not really do away with discrimination. What is your party's view on it?
TP: The genuine MLM communists don't believe in the policy of reservation because it diverts the issue of proportional participation of all sectors based on the population. This policy depends on the mercy of rulers instead of our own rights. The policy of proportional representation is correct in the form of rights. On the basis of theory of compensation for the historical oppression since thousands of years, additional rights (Special rights) should be given till the relative equality isn't established. These rights can be increased or decreased on the basis of Human Development Index. Because these rights are given to Dalits by deducting from the share of non-Dalits, termination of untouchability and environment of social combination would take place rapidly. The thematic committees of the now dissolved CA had recommended the special rights for the new Constitution.
VB: Number of people from different movements in India, are going to read your views. What is your message to them? Do you believe Buddha, Marx and Ambedkar converge at certain points and if we bring them together, a revolution will not be a dream but a reality?
TP: I would like to pass my message to all Indian oppressed and justice loving people that the liberation movement will obtain the necessary speed by moving ahead including the leadership of the MLM scientific ideology and spiritual experiences of Buddha and Ambedkar. Main focus should be given to the scientific ideology and rational outlook.