Thursday, July 24, 2014
Life and death are part of our growing but some deaths leave you in a sense of deep loss where you do feel the loss of inheritance of a movement which we all contribute to build to see India a secular progressive nation where each human being live in dignity and honor. Prof D Prempati’s death is a deep loss for all of us who joined the social justice movement in the Mandal era. Prempati, a Marxist actually realized the real nature of his university teachers are who were not just joining the anti Mandal agitation but actively instigating the students to thwart every efforts to get it implemented. He felt it deeply that those who speak of Marxism as their idea suffer from caste based identities and in their heart remain highly anti Dalits and anti shudras.
Those were the days when we all witnessed a national hate campaign against the Dalits and OBCs and many mask fell on the ground revealing their true identity. The brahmanical secularism was getting exposed with the hardened reality of post Mandal India where each community was asking for its share in political structure.
Normally, university teachers suffers from various tantrums and one big is in terms of ‘space’, ‘honor’ and ‘talk time’ at any programme. However, there are many exceptions whose life became an open secret in social movements and my respect for them is tremendous who come in the movements leaving their tags of ‘Dr’, ‘Prof’ and many other things. Prempati, that way was extraordinarily humble and would never like to be called as ‘Prof’ or ‘Dr’ D Prempati. In fact, so simple was his style that many in the social movements never realized that he was a professor of English language who taught Shakespearean drama at the Delhi College of Art. It was his conviction that made him absolutely common with other people in the North particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He had deep faith in the Dalit backward Muslim communities of Uttar Pradesh and every time whenever elections would be announced, we had gone together to do our bit.
In December 1992, Babari Masjid was demolished and Prempati was deeply anguished. That was a time when so many of us came together and felt we must do something to defeat the communal fascist agenda unleashed by various offshoots of Sangh Parivar. He was clear that it is not the question of ‘secularism’ of brahmanical variety but participation of Dalits and backward communities in power structure too. He knew well that shudras need to be politicized and along with Dalits and Muslims they can change the power structure and defeat the brahmanical forces permanently. It was his firm view that only Mandal forces can demolish the artificial structure created by brahmanical superiority but there were deep disenchantment with the politics of both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati.
His two booklets on Mandal Commission Report and Hindutva politics in the aftermath of Babari demolition became very popular. The booklet ‘Hindutva Hai Kya’ published by Teesari Duniya Publication initiated by Mr Anand Swroop Verma sold like hot cake. It was the first such book in the Hindi heartland immediately after the demolition which actually broke the myth of Hindutva and its brahmanical politics. Normally, RSS and Sangh Parivar politics would always be discussed in the ‘secular’ ‘echelons’ in terms of Hindu Muslim relations but Prempati linked to RSS politics against the Dalits and shudras and Babari demolition with undoing of the Mandal revolution. I still remember the bold cover page of Samkaleen Teesari Duniya after Babari demolition was ‘sharm se kaho ham Hindu Hain’ was a rage in which Prempati too contributed. He strengthened it as an alternative media and wrote extensively in the magazine which was actually capable of challenging the so-called ‘mainstream’ magazines in the market in layout, contents and professionalism.
In the 1990s we started tabloid ‘Bahujan Bharat’, a fortnightly with great thought that something would emerge out of it. He knew that a journal for backward communities is going to suffer in the absence of finances and human resources. We put all our efforts in bringing it out but it did not succeed and finally we had to close it yet our efforts in uniting Dalit Bahujan Muslim communities continued with public meeting, pamphleteers and conventions whenever and wherever required. He campaigned tirelessly against the Hindutva and wrote extensively in Hindi as he believed that our message must reach the larger audiences in the villages. He had a mastery over language which never ever reflected his background from a non-Hindi speaking state. He felt that we must bring out more pamphlets, tabloids and small booklets to educate the Dalit backward communities about the dangers of Hindutva. Despite the failure of ‘Bahujan Bharat’, both of us came together again with ‘Buniyadi Times’ during election season and exposed communal agenda of Sangh Parivar. Of course, this time too, the magazine failed in the absence of a basic requirement of resources.
I still remember being with him at a village level meeting where we had gone together. We would sit hours and hours and discuss political issues. His capacity to learn and unlearn was great. He was never bored from these discussions and would be happier with the people in the ground. The one thing that I learnt from him was leaving those tags of knowing ‘English’ or an urban person who pretend not knowing Hindi. He was remarkable with language. Never ever in his public meetings, would he bring even a single word of English language which are often part of our discourse, as he understood many in the crowd may even not know those words. He warned me not to bring these heavy words in the popular discourse and speak the language of the people.
He enjoyed speaking to people and listening to them. He would help the youngsters who would come to work along. Once in Bundelkhand, a district level reporter came to know that he is with me, so he inquired about him. When his editor came to know about him, he asked the reporter to have an interview with Prempati on Nuclear explosion done by Vajpayee government but did not really know how to interview him. I laughed when Prempati asked him to come to our hotel next day for the same. This correspondent came but was just clueless about the interview that his editor wanted from Prempatiji so he said,’ Sir, aap he kuchh bataaiye’, please tell me yourself sir. Prempati after some time dictated him the entire interview in the question answer format. I was amused to see him painstakingly putting the question and then answering himself and the reporter dutifully writing the dictation.
We traveled a large part of India together and enjoyed the company of each other. Though at age, he was a father figure but he always mentioned me as a colleague, a friend. It was a privilege with loads of anecdotes which he would share with us and would joke too. While people like me used to get depressed many time with prevailing situation in the country, Prempati was an optimist and firm believer in political battle. So much so that he was always eager for a political front where left political forces along with Dalits, Backward Communities, Aadivasis and Muslims form a block and fight for their right. ‘Bahujan Vam Shakti’ was one such initiative but could not move much due to various other issues involved in it including resources.
As I said, he was always eager to contribute his time and energy, ready to live in all the circumstances. Traveled in sleeper class on many occasions just to fulfill his commitment even when age of catching up. He would come to coffee house to meet and after the meeting whenever I would go and put him in the particular bus for his home. Such breed is rare today. He was unfit in today’s politics which is actually ‘management’. For people like him it was conviction which mattered more and that is why all his initiative failed to move because of absence of ‘management’ which became an ugly reality of the current world. He would discuss issues, politics, planning and actions and yet at the end of the day at the absence of resources, it became difficult but despite that he continued to live in optimism and encouraged people to form political formation that could take on the brahmanical capitalist forces of Hindutva. He knew that the shudras are being influenced by the Hindutva forces and hence working hard through his writings and direct relations with the people to wean them away to secular social justice platform. I was amazed to see his eagerness to start any political formulations, organisations and parties. He was never tired off them and believed that we have to do. He never bothered about failures and always believed that we must be in political action.
In the past few years, his mobility was influenced due to age and eye sight yet he would ensure that he is present in major programme that were organized for the rights of the people. For his friends, he was always available. He would never ever bother to go back home if we was in the company of political activists. Age was never a deterrent for him. While in his writings he promoted Hindi to reach to the larger masses and spoke eloquently in English as well whenever an opportunity came to him though he despised seminar culture meant for ‘academic brown Sahibs’. At all his forums, he spoke extempore and with great courage of conviction and did not really appreciate those who ‘read’ texts in these seminars. A fierce critique of Narsimha Rao’s politics which he termed as anti-Dalit and anti shudra-minorities, Prempati was the voice of those who are not even represented in these marginalized sections. He felt that Rao’s politics was meant to undo what VP Singh had brought in public life through his Mandal agenda. Prempati was a strong votary of Mandal forces and felt it is they only who can defeat the Santh Parivar and the liberal Brahmins of Congress left parties. He was among very few such as Bhagwan Das who was never ever impressed with Bahujan politics and was a fierce critique of both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati who he claimed to have known much through friends and relatives. He was upset that these two politicians who could have changed the political history of India were hobnobbing with brahmanical forces of Congress and BJP. That time, when Prempati was writing against them, all condemn him but today he has proved correct as political forces have been exposed and have connived with their brahmanical masters. He felt that only a Ambedkar-Marx-Phule-Periyar’s combine thought could demolish the brahmanical hegemony in India and place a truly republican democratic government at the helm of affairs of the country.
Prempati was a public intellectual though I wish he had written more and extensively. During our conversations, I expressed this desire to him to start writing his memoirs as well as critique the entire movement so that people can learn from their failures. I feel he did not do justice to his intellectual level as most of the time he was preoccupied with political groups which could rarely make their presence felt in the current environment.
The passing away of D Prempati is a great blow to the movement for social justice as he was a friend, philosopher and guide who was always ready to help and go to any extent to support the cause of Dalit OBC and minorities. Most of the time, people would come to him to write a ‘parcha’ or theme for their programme, philosophy of their ‘political party’ or social movements and he obliged them without any ifs and buts. At the time, when the brahmanical forces are on the rise, the demise of Prempati is a great blow to the forces of social justice. Yet, he has left a large number of friends who are contributing in public life and hope with their combine strength our battle against brahmanical capitalist hegemony will continue. The best tribute to Prempati would be to keep our egos aside and join hand for a greater cause of secular India where each citizen of the country can live in peace and with his head high. The country is passing through a crisis and hence his presence will be severely missed.
Monday, July 07, 2014
In October 1956 Baba Saheb Ambedkar made a historic visit to Kathmandu to participate in the World Buddhist Congress, as he was deeply interested in the growth of Buddhism in the entire subcontinent. Dr Ambedkar had by that time embraced Buddhism in Nagpur along with half a million of his followers on October 14th, 1956. Dr Ambedkar had finished his magnum opus ‘Buddha and His Dhamma’ and it reflected his thoughts and vision for society. It is important that we revisit the important point raised by Dr Ambedkar in the greater interest of freedom of choice and human rights.
It is a greater pleasure for me to speak on the historic day of April 14th here in Kathmandu. Truly historical because Ambedkar belong to the world and he deserve a place among the high echelons of world philosophers, thinkers and social revolutionaries. Yes, for millions of Dalits in India, he is their ‘father’ and ‘guide’ and definitely they would not like him to be used by any one else. There are two roles of Baba Saheb Ambedkar unambiguously. One, as an emancipator of Dalits in India and other as a political philosopher who was a humanist and thorough democrat all his life and believed in core values of humanism which are quintessential for survival of the world today that Buddha espoused over 2550 years ago.
Ambedkar is an international icon of human rights of the depressed and isolated yet his vision remains inclusive of all as he never ever believed in politics of retribution. Scholars have written a lot about whether he was against Marx or communism but Ambedkar was unambiguous about his faith in Buddha. It is important to understand what exactly Ambedkar wanted and why his perception and philosophy could become the ideology of human rights of 21st century.
Let me be clear here that Ambedkar never supported the idea of ‘controlling’ political ideologies and freedom of expression. He stood for the rights of absolute freedom of expression to the extent of even challenging the ‘Shastras’. Those who have seen his argument over ‘caste system’ with Gandhi will vouch how he demolished Gandhi with his argumentative skills and evidence based support.
Ambedkar never accepted the supremacy of the authority of Shastras while Gandhi said Shastras are written and dictated by God and those who do not believe in them are not Sanatan Dharmis. In his Harijan, Gandhi defend the Varnashram dharma and unsuccessfully try to differentiate between Caste and Varna. Quoted eloquently by Dr Ambedkar, Gandhi writes :
Caste has nothing to do with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do not know and do not need to know for the satisfaction of my spiritual hunger. But I do know that it is harmful both to spiritualand national growth. Varna and Ashrama are institutions which have nothing to do with castes .The law of Varna teaches us that we have each one of us to earn our bread by following the ancestral calling. it defines not our rights but our duties. It necessarily has reference to callings that are conducive to the welfare of humanity and to no other. It also follows that there is no calling too low and none too high. Ail are good, lawful and absolutely equal in status. The callings of a Brahmin— spiritual teacher—-and a scavenger are equal, and their due performance carries equalmerit before God and at one time seems to have carried identical reward before man. Both were entitled to their livelihood and no more. Indeed one traces even now in the villages the faint lines of this healthy operation of the law. Living in Segaon with its population of 600, I do not find a great disparity between the earnings of different tradesmen including Brahmins. I find too that real Brahmins are to be found even in these degenerate days who are living on alms freely given to them and are giving freely of what they have of spiritual treasures. It would be wrong and improper to judge the law of Varna by its caricature in the lives of men who profess to belong to a Varna, whilst they openly commit a breach of its only operative rule. Arrogation of a superior status by and of the Varna over another is a denial of the law. And there is nothing in the law of Varna to warrant a belief in untouchability. (The essence of Hinduism is contained in its enunciation of one and only God as Truth and its bold acceptance of Ahimsa as the law of the human family.):
(Text from Annihilation of Castes : Ambedkar Gandhi debate)
Ambedkar had mentioned that there are definitely good things in Shastras but if there are things which are against human rights and common goods of the people and which violate the principle of equality then we must abrogate them, delete them. Gandhi retorted to this with his typical style that Shastras are written by Gods and human beings have no right to amend it. In the modern day, such diktats are heard in the Islamic world who use every Quranic injunction whenever they want to dominate the minorities and women’s right. Caste are powerful bodies, autonomous and Hinduism is nothing but a ‘collection’ of castes, said Dr Ambedkar.
‘Whether the Hindu religion was or was not a missionary religion has been a controversial issue. Some hold the view that it was never a missionary religion. Others hold that it was. That the Hindu religion was once a missionary religion must be admitted. It could not have spread over the face of India, if it was not a missionary religion. That today it is not a missionary religion is also a fact which must be accepted. The question therefore is not whether or not the Hindu religion was a missionary religion. The real question is why did the Hindu religion cease to be a missionary religion ? My answer is this. Hindu religion ceased to be a missionary religion when the Caste System grew up among the Hindus. Caste is inconsistent with conversion. Inculcation of beliefs and dogmas is not the only problem that is involved in conversion. To find a place for the convert in the social life of the community is another and a much more important problem that arises in connection with conversion. That problem is where to place the convert, in what caste ? It is a problem which must baffle every Hindu wishing to make aliens converts to his religion. Unlike the club the membership of a caste is not open to all and sundry. The law of caste confines its membership to person born in the caste. Castes are autonomous and there is no authority anywhere to compel a caste to admit a new-comer to its social life. Hindu Society being a collection of castes and each caste being a close corporation there is no place for a convert. Thus it is the caste which has prevented the Hindus from expanding and from absorbing other religious communities. So long as caste remain, Hindu religion cannot be made a missionary religion and Shudhi will be both a folly and a futility.’
In India there have been lots of discussion about who can speak about Ambedkar and who owns him. Dr Ambedkar in his life time did not give these kind of ‘communitarian rights’ as he believed in individuals rights and in his interview to BBC, he said that India is still not a society as none care about others. We are not bothered about our neighbors. We are bothered about his caste first and hence how can we become a society when there is no man to man relationship, where we can not shake hands with an individual despite knowing him just because he happen to belong to another caste. He was bitter but he never lost reasoning and sanity. He was deeply influenced from that thoughts of Buddha and that is why believed that we can only be a great society if people follow human values democratically and a changing the heart happens after positive realization.
Many votaries of Marxism feel Ambedkar was the product of ‘liberalism’ where individual matters the most and his faith was in strengthening democracy and not through the path of ‘revolution’ while the votaries of the ‘Right’ like Arun Shourie felt that he opposed Gandhi and hence was a British ‘plant’ to subvert our ‘freedom movement’. I am using the terminology of Shourie which he used in his infamous book ‘Worshipping the false God’. I have time and again written that Shourie and his family are the biggest fraud of Indian middle class, a fraud which need to be unearthed by those who believe idealism is important. Shourie’s hatred towards minorities, Dalits and aadivasis is well known to be depicted here but why that is need detailed elaboration of a different article which I will deal at certain point of time. Ambedkar stood for human rights of all and never believed in ‘tit for tat’ theory. He was a ‘communist’ in his action but never believed in ‘communist’ form of ‘government’, which he felt would only perpetuate violence and injustice. His focus was social justice and not in retributive justice. It means he believed in an equalitarian society where human being believed in concept of equality not because of fear of law but because of principle of their faith in equality. This is an important part where Ambedkar differ with Communism and its whole theory of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat” as Ambedkar felt democracy is the only way out where untouchables would be able to get justice and politically united.
Ambedkar believed that State must owned all the land and nationalize it. It is here he had been influenced by the Soviet Module or the Chinese one where he felt that state must distribute the land according to needs of the farmers and those who do not till the land have no right to control it. Ambedkar had appreciated the communist thinking on land. He also promoted idea of cooperative farming for the better results of it in India particularly in the drought prone regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharastra.
If we just keen aside the differences, Dr Ambedkar’s main thought was the emancipation of Dalits and ensuring that they get justice in the new framework. So, he has definitely playing a double role for the community. One a community leader who is negotiating with the government for their rights and the other role is of a guide of the community telling them what should they do. The role of the guide of the community is very important as it is where Baba Saheb Ambedkar focused a lot the cultural changes in the community as he felt that without them there would not be a change. Hence he thought of ‘Prabuddha Bharat’ i.e. an enlightened India or enlightened world where people share common concerns of humanity and stand for the most oppressed together.
After realizing that the Varnashram dharma is full of hypocrisies, dogmas and rituals, Baba Saheb was unambiguous that Dalits do not need a religion for the sake of it. We must be clear that religion is for human being and not the viceversa.
In Buddha and Marx he mention clearly.
‘ Religion is important fact of life and must relate to it and not to speculation about God, soul and heaven etc.
It is wrong to make God centre of religion or universe.
The purpose of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to explain the ‘origin’ of it.
If we analyse the above statements carefully then it is clear that Ambedkar is a humanist as he has not accepted the ‘supremacy’ of written texts and that he emphasizes on that the centre of ‘religion’ should be ‘human being’. It clearly reflect his mind how he envisaged religion. He did not want to engage with those who wanted to speak of ‘atma’ , ‘paratma’, ‘punarjanm’, ‘avatar’ etc as he felt these are brahmanical construct to keep their monopoly over religion and continue to misguide poor. Hinduism for him was minus any ‘Karuna’ or humanity as it divide people on the basis of their birth.
It is essential to understand how Baba Saheb look at Buddha and his teachings.
Let us talk of the Eight Fold Path ( Ashtang Marg)
1. Right view (freedom from superstition)
2. Right Aims (high and worthy)
3. Right speech (Kind, open and truthful)
4. Right Conduct ( Peaceful, honest and pure)
5. Right livelihood ( causing hurt or inury to no living human being)
6. Right Mindfulness ( with a watchful and active mind)
7. Right perseverance in all the above
8. Right contemplation ( earnest thought)
According to him all the above are meant for the creation of Kingdom of righteousness.
The most important thing is how ‘means’ too are important for Buddha. He will not ‘achieve’ things by ‘any means. It means that you have to have right ‘mean’ to achieve your path. So, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat will neither lead to democracy and will not be without violence. The end of the dictatorship is to make revolution permanent but then you have only duties in communism and no right to criticize if you disagree. It is the biggest point of disagreement of Ambedkar of communism.
He says,’ Buddha was against violence but in favor of justice’ who promoted democracy at every level in his Shakya world. There were 13 monarchies and 4 Republics among the Shakyans.
Buddha’s commune concept was nothing but communism where none of the Bhikkhus had personal possession. According to Dr Ambedkar, Buddha established communism with out being violent and dictatorial. So the changes, that Buddha wanted to bring was through mind and attitude. Whatever you do, do it voluntarily. According to Ambedkar, ‘We need religion, as we are human being, emotional and work to satisfy our spiritual need too’ but then his meaning of religion was based on concept of humanism and felt that it was needed to protect human values and should have focus on wellbeing of human being rather than an illusory ‘God’.
The Russians are proud of their Communism. But they forget that the wonder of all wonders is that the Buddha established Communism so far as the Sangh was concerned without dictatorship. It may be that it was a communism on a very small scale but it was communism I without dictatorship a miracle which Lenin failed to do.
The Buddha's method was different. His method was to change the mind of man: to alter his disposition: so that whatever man does, he does it voluntarily without the use of force or compulsion. His main means to alter the disposition of men was his Dhamma and the constant preaching of his Dhamma. The Buddhas way was not to force people to do what they did not like to do although it was good for them. His way was to alter the disposition of men so that they would do voluntarily what they would not otherwise to do.
It has been claimed that the Communist Dictatorship in Russia has wonderful achievements to its credit. There can be no denial of it. That is why I say that a Russian Dictatorship would be good for all backward countries. But this is no argument for permanent Dictatorship. Humanity does not only want economic values, it also wants spiritual values to be retained. Permanent Dictatorship has paid no attention to spiritual values and does not seem to intend to. Carlyle called Political Economy a Pig Philosophy. Carlyle was of course wrong. For man needs material comforts" But the Communist Philosophy seems to be equally wrong for the aim of their philosophy seems to be fatten pigs as though men are no better than pigs. Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation was summarised by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality. We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha. Communism can give one but not all.
(Buddha and his Dhamma)
Dr Ambedkar was highly impressed with French Revolution and its ideals of Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. He loved and respected Voltaire and wishes if we had person like him India would have gained immensely in terms of knowledge and democratic spirit.
He explain his respect for Russian Revolution too as it brought equality but he was not ready for the dictatorship of proletariat and felt that equality without fraternity is not acceptable to him. Society should be equal but not at the cost of sacrificing fraternity and equality, he emphasized. Any changes that the law enforces will be cosmetic and compulsory aversion and India is witnessing that humbug politically and administratively when the love for ‘Dalits’ is not in the heart but because of the constitutional promulgations, which result in falsifications and violation of their rights. Ambedkar was absolutely clear that we need to change the heart of the people and that is why he embraced the guiding principles of Buddha. You cannot change people through laws but through their mindset and change of heart. We need to understand that Ambedkar was hurt but never bitter at the end as he found right path in the preaching’s of Buddha.
So in the context of today, we need to see what he should have been doing.
He was an iconoclast who demolished any myth woven around an individual. He challenged Gandhi when for every one the later had become a ‘saint’. He felt that Shastras must be amended if there are things written in them which violate basic principles of civility and modernity. Gandhi for obvious reasons could not tolerate this and questioned of their being ‘Hinduness’ if someone challenges the supremacy and authenticity of Shastras. Obviously, his differences with Gandhi were sharp and ideological and he did not hide in sophistry of words to protect him.
Today, Ambedkar remain an icon beyond boundaries. He is finding his place in the history books among the historians and politicians as well as political philosophers who were the most influential in 21st century. He will be scrutinized and further critiqued. There will be people who have vilified him because he stood up against authoritarian Gandhi and for whom the ‘freedom’ of Dalits from the ‘servitude’ of caste Hindus was more important than the ‘transfer of power’ in India, as he felt British were far more justice loving people than the caste Hindus.
There were questions raised as who can write on Ambedkar ? For me, we cannot decide about these things as who should write and who should not as such things cannot be and should not be decided by diktat of a few. As I mentioned earlier, none can seize the place of Baba Saheb Ambedkar from the heart of millions of Dalits in India. They love him, respect him and consider him their emancipator so in that way Dr Ambedkar place remain undisputed and unchallenged among the Dalit masses. Second thing is for the scholars and there are hundreds of non Dalits who have contributed immensely in the growth of Ambedkar literature and movement such as Gail Omvedt, Dr. Eleanor Zelliot, Bhadant Anand Kautyalyayan, Lokmitra to name a few. None can dispute their work and dedication to the cause of spreading Ambedkar’s work and ideals world over.
Now eyebrows are raised when Arundhati Roy wrote a book on Ambedkar or may be, I should say, wrote an introduction to ‘Annihilation of Castes’. I have been asked to clear my stand on this issue which I clearly indicated that those who oppose it are not alone the representatives’ o Dalits nor Arundhati Roy an Ambedkarite material for reference on Ambedkar but then her right to write on Ambedkar cannot be questioned. It is on the publisher as who he deemed fit to write an introduction on the famous work of Dr Ambedkar, which is called ‘Annihilation of castes’. For me, life has moved much beyond ‘annihilation of castes’ as Dr Ambedkar gave us a clear vision for our life and not merely ‘fighting with Hindus to ‘change’ their heart’. Fact is, if the Brahmin change their heart then annihilation of castes mean complete annihilation of Brahmin dharma. Will they do anything to demolish it?
Here, I want to caution every one. People have right to question particularly when someone decides to reproduce the book on Ambedkar and there are number of experts already available. Hence, my advised to everyone is to do you work and not spoil energy on why someone wrote. It is a pure business and publisher knew it well that he need a ‘famous’ name to sale the book. The protests by a few actually helped the publisher only.
Now, Annihilation of caste made a few things clear and we must understand that. That was Ambedkar in 1930, fighting with Gandhi, trying to improve Hinduism but he was disappointed with Gandhi’s approach and learnt his lesson. He moved away and decided that people need an alternative vision, a better one to guide their destiny. There is no time for ‘improvement’ but the best way is to walk out of the system and develop your own system. That is where he revitalized Buddhism in India, it is Navayana, a new way of life, much different than that of Dalai Lama and his superstitious ways of life. Let us see what does Ambedkar learnt from his entire altercation with Gandhi which has been produced in ‘Annihilations of Castes’.
1. That Dr Ambedkar was not ready to accept the Supremacy of ‘God’s words’ and for that he was not just ready to take on to the high and mighty like Gandhi but also to Pope John Paul. We cannot ignore an important publication of Times when Ambedkar was invited for hearing in Rome by Pope. After initial introduction and the concern of Dr Ambedkar towards the untouchables, the Pope viewed that it will take a few centuries before the caste system is completely ‘eradicated’. Upon hearing this, Ambedkar just walked out of the meeting saying that he did not have time to wait for this much of centuries to liberate his people.
2. Annihilation of caste was an attempt by Ambedkar to radicalize the Hindu system. He felt that if the caste Hindus change, it would be great. Till that period Ambdkar contended with claiming to be a ‘protestant Hindu’.
3. The whole debate on the issue of ‘caste system’ with Gandhi made one thing unambiguously clear that the Hindus were not ready to change their attitude towards Dalit a bit. Caste system, as a Ambedkar said was a ‘graded inequality’ and divide oppressed too on the basis of ‘hierarchies’. It has made a false sense of pride among people. Hence the entire edifice of Hinduism is nothing but caste system and if caste system is demolished the entire system of varna will collapse like a castle of cards. No Hindu believing in the Varna system, would like to demolish his faith. Gandhi knew it well and hence created myth around everything so that uncomfortable questions are not raised and if they are then the answer should be wrapped in mysticism.
4. Dr Ambedkar realized that Hindus are not ready to change. It is no point discussing with them to change when they are not ready to accept the fundamental of the problem. Caste system and discrimination are inherent part of Varnashram dharma and cannot be resolved by propagandist’s statement and patronizing attitude of Gandhi, suggesting that ‘untouchables’ are ‘Harijans’, son of God. Ambedkar considered it a virtual abuse as Harijan was a term used for the children of ‘Devdasis’ who were sexually exploited by the temple priests. Despite objections by Ambedkarites this term continued to be used in India portraying Gandhi as a ‘great’ emancipator of Dalits. It was only after 1991 when BSP’s fire brand politics threatened to agitate and the government finally ordered to remove the word from the government files.
5. For Dr Ambedkar, saving Hinduism is nothing but saving Brahmanism and as all efforts to change it were countered by Gandhi under the pretext of Shastras, he decided that ‘ though I was a born Hindu, I would not die as a Hindu’.
Gandhi was always claiming that untouchability was not part of Hinduism and a blot to it. Ambedkar on the other hand felt that discrimination and caste segregation are inherent part of brahmanical values defined by Manu. Hence, just speaking of untouchability yet protecting caste system reveal the greatest double speak. How can a person ‘condemn’ untouchability and decide to work for its removal but at the same point of time openly advocate work based on caste. Gandhi unambiguously said that caste are based on ‘divinity’ of Shastras and cannot be changed. Those who challenge the supremacy of the religious be text have to leave the ‘religion’ and can’t be called Hindus, said Gandhi. Actually, Gandhi was a deeply religious person who was ‘defining’ things according to his own concepts without challenging the authority of religion to dictate our lives. Ambedkar on the other hand was not ready to accept the ‘authority’ of Shastras if they violate the dignity and human rights of the people. Ambedkar was of the belief that every religion has good things too and bad things too but most important part of them should be to delete those which are wrong and change according to the time and need of human being.
Prior to this, Ambedkar had led the temple entry movement in famous Kalaram temple of Nasik and was heavily objected by caste Hindus.
8. On December 25th, 1927, along with his supporters, Dr Ambedkar burnt Manusmriti and drank water from Chavdar pond of Mahad, in Maharastra. It need to be reminded to people that Dalits were denied right to drink water from the village ponds and wells. Ambedkar challenged this and led the movement against such discriminatory practice.
Dr Ambedkar realized that Caste is a big ‘political’ power for the Brahmins and bring many privileges hence all their talk of working against it would be just humbug as at the end of the day we all would not like to do away with our ‘powers’ and privileges.
So for the humanists of the world, Dr Ambedkar is perfect example who challenged the religious supremacy and never accepted the finality of religious texts. He suggested that they should be amended as per needs of the time. However, many friends raised objection to his ‘embracing’ Buddhism in a traditional way ignoring the vital factor of 22 vows that he asked his followers to obey before joining Buddhism and in my opinion these are nothing but humanism. One must have a look at them as most of them guide people against superstition perpetrated by the Brahmins in the name of traditions.
Dr Ambedkar’s belief in Buddha was ultimate as he knew it is because of this vision that India and rest of the world would be an enlightened society. He was not taking his people to the path of darkness but to a place where exist the reasoning (tark) with humanity ( Manavta) and it is Humanism of modern day definition where human being is the centre of universe of philosophy.
Through his anti-caste movement, Baba Saheb Ambedkar wanted to change the Hindu society but he realized that it was not possible. As long as you believe in those dogmas and beliefs, you won’t be able to do justice to other people. Baba Saheb knew the futility of a casteless society through ‘reforming’ Hinduism or brahman dharma and that is why he gave a clarion call to embrace the path of Buddha. Therefore, annihilation of caste is not possible without making our way to new path. A debate on annihilation of caste must understand that by annihilating castes we, will be demolishing Varnashram dharma or what we call Brahman dharma. Are we ready for that? Baba Saheb knew it well that Hindus may say that they are against untouhability but as long as they believe in basic foundation of the same, they cannot really fight against it. That is why he called to his followers to leave the varnashram dharma and embrace a new way of life where your universe will be the philosophy of life and where you are treated equally. The Hindus must continue to fight against caste system but those who really follow Dr Ambedkar have really moved far ahead on the path shown by him which is the way of Buddha’s enlightened world of humanism. There is no other way. India and rest of the world cannot progress by fighting against an ideology but the only possible way is to give people a better alternative. Budddha gave to the world a big humanist way of life without engaging himself in ‘critiquing’ the follies of ‘others’. He learnt the lessons and ensures that all the evils of brahmanical value system do not come in his way and that is why Buddha’s way is the way of life for millions of people world over, it is the path of happiness and equality for all. It is a positive idea and Ambedkar knew well that negativity takes a toll and does not take us anywhere except many of us actually start following it. Therefore, it was important to give people a way of life, which was actually Buddha’s path of salvation, where they become decision makers of their ‘destiny’ rather than believing in some ‘Mahatma’ to guide them to ‘liberation’.
· This lecture was delivered at the inauguration of World Conference against Untouchability, organized by International Humanist and Ethical Union London, on Ambedkar jayanti day, April14th, 2014, in Kathamandu, Nepal.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
A priest was found to have ‘sacrificed’ his wife to please the God in Indore, a story revisited the gory tandoori murder of Naina Sahni by her politician husband Sushil Sharma, who is serving life imprisonment in the jail and wanted to spend time with his mother to perform his ‘sonly’ duties. Girls are being hanged to deaths after being gang raped and political class as a whole speak of controlling time and choices. It is not that we suggest here that all the ills of the country began with the current government but there are certain trends. Many of the moralists who have been raising stories and questioning for smallest things are quiet now. The story did not prick our nation as the ‘nation’ did not ‘want to know’ the horrors of it as they did on the two girls hanging from the branches of the tree through ropes. Yes, Uttar Pradesh is the ‘worst’ because a certain person is the chief minister of the state and once you have the CMs according to your fancy it will become the ‘best’. The crime against Dalits and marginalized is highest in states like Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Gujarat but interestingly they never get reported and if they are found too, media completely ignores them. Why are these not horror stories of our time. If a priest burnt his wife live, shouldn’t our media question the very concept of the ‘puja’ to offer to the God. None ask if he loves God so much why is he offering his wife to him and why not his own self. Problem is, we are a society, a sick one, which does not raise a question and continue to work on age-old traditions in they were clear, the people would always offer their ‘dear’ things in ‘gift’, when they are too happy with God or when they want to please the ‘God’ and remember the ‘dearest’ ‘thing’ in this regard was always a daughter or a wife.
Pramod Muttalick, the self proclaimed moral guardian of Indians in Mangalore wanted that women should be guided and controlled to ‘protect’ Indian culture and a Goa Minister is unambiguously supporting him. In Bengal, Tapan Das, a former film star of Bengali cinema exhorts his supporters to kill the CPM workers and then rape their women at home. In UP, Mulayam Singh Yadav says that boys do ‘commit’ mistakes and hence should be forgiven while Shiv Sena in Maharastra and ABVP groups in Madhya Pradesh are already acting as moral guardians of young generations whenever the ‘opportunity’ comes. Subrahmanyam Swamy says that Valentine day is a foreign festival and Hindus must do everything to protect its religion.
Swamy and others will continue as they throw one questions which are repeated hundreds of time on tweeter and then on radio and TV to convert it into a truth. They know well that India does not run on reasoning and questioning but on ‘perception’ and it could only be built through using ‘corporate’ media and other tools that are available to us in the form of ‘social media’. So, we do not question the wrong but find first the name of the person and his identity, which becomes the decisive factor of right and wrong of any thing. Hence a rape in Mujaffarnagar or in Gujarat during the riots of the Muslim women is not a national outcry of shame and disgust as that in Uttar Pradesh now. The saffron party has not bothered to visit the Dalits of Bhagana in Haryana who are sitting for the past four months in Delhi against the assault on their daughters by the Jat perpetrators of Haryana. Why cant the party take it an issue and condemn it when it is using media and other things to shame Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP? Is it because the perpetrators of the alleged crimes are Jats and none want to antagonize them in the grand ‘democracy’ of the dominant? So, India speaks political correct language. It makes big laws to change under ‘pressure’ from ‘people’ when the Delhi’s India gate is stormed by the middle class youths .
Western Uttar Pradesh is facing unease at the moment. Some ‘responsible’ people wanted a caste panchayat and blamed that it has not been allowed to happen under ‘pressure’ from the others. Poor District Magistrate had to bear the brunt of violence. Now, one needs to understand, as how will there be peace when the ‘result’ of ‘riots’ is ‘Minister’. It would be difficult to control them in the coming days as every body who join politics nurture an ambition of becoming Minister. Can we say such an ‘ambition’ is wrong ?
In Delhi, Deenanath Batra is busy establishing his contact with the saffron government asking the HRD Ministry to withdraw the books from syllabus of NCERT, which ‘denigrate’ Hindus and exonerate the Islamic rulers for their misdeeds in India. Deenanath Batra’s ‘colleague’ Arun Shourie is back in action. After failing to get a birth in the cabinet, he has again started doing things in which he is ‘expert’ in which is abusing the academics terming them as leftists and targeting the Islam. I was wondering why Arun Shourie so laboriously works on everything that is considered to be anti people. He should have been a lawyer and not a writer because his pieces are of no academic value but a lawyers ‘petition’ which is meant to ‘protect’ his client through ‘offensive’ ‘research’ on the ‘opponents’.
The intelligence Bureau has already ‘informed’ the government that Green Peace is a threat to peace in India and that a huge number of NGOs are engaged in anti Indian activities. The report may look ‘new’ to many but I can bet Subrahmanyam Swamy can produce a much juicy report than IB. In fact, government must dismantle IB and give the entire ministry to Swamy as his only work remains targeting the individuals and giving certificate to every one as who is national and who is not. The Tamil Brahmin is still sulking for his inability to find a place in the Union Cabinet.
In Telangana we have seen parties have already started glorifying PV Narsimharao, as one of the greatest sons of the soil, a ‘poor’ man who did not have the money to keep his family going though he had enough to purchase MPs to save his government and run it shamelessly. The man who presided over a regime that saw demolition of Babari Masjid and riots subsequently is acknowledged as a ‘statesman’. He did not have the courage to ‘resign’ on this darkest chapter of India’s democratic history. But the identity of Rao suite the people who are promoting him today as a ‘great leader’ and ‘visionary’ is of ‘economic reform’ that he unleashed through his finance minister Dr Man Mohan Singh. Yes, we had a prime minister, who undid everything that the VP Singh government in 1990 did for the Dalits and OBCs through reservation. Narsimharao actually became the biggest hero of middle classes as his policies directly killed the livelihood of millions of Dalits and Aadivasis. We saw glorification of man who stood before the nation on the evening of December 6th 1992 promising that the Masjid would be rebuilt but never ever tried to fulfill that promise.
The appointment of the judges in the Supreme Court also saw the same kind of responses and we have people of a ‘particular’ ideology being promoted to the highest court while some one who is considered to be ‘anti’ was shunted out despite the recommendations by the Chief Justice of India. The cases against Amit Shah and others have been withdrawn and an Ahmedabad court has also rejected any charges against prime minister despite finding him guilty prime facie in hiding his marital status. The infamous snooping case is now being buried by Home Ministry as it feels that the case is not of ‘national’ importance. Governors are now being asked to resign as the new regime has taken over. It looks that other autonomous bodies will also face the same.
Shankaracharya has already started that Sai Baba was a Muslim by birth and hence worshipping in the temple is against Hindu Dharma and must be opposed. It is a conspiracy against Hindus he says and claimed that Akhadas of Ayodhya will fight battle against such an onslaught on Hinduism. The Ram Temple lobby is now happy and wants ‘constitutional’ mechanism to build a ‘grand’ Mandir at Ayodhya. Prime Minister already said that we must get rid of the mindset developed during the 1200 years old slavery. We normally speak slavery in terms of the British regime but the Sangh Parivar talks of Mughal rule too as part of slavery. Ofcourse, the Brahmins will never ever agree that they also created slaves and justified everything in the name of divinity and religion.
The height of Narmada has increased yet no word about those who will be submerged in its grandeur. People are agitating in the Madhya Pradesh about the same yet the victory in Gujarat is big and that shows the power of politics. Those who enjoy the fruits of ‘development’ are different than those whose lives are ‘sacrificed’ and it reflect too why people are so insensitive towards them. India as a Republic has actually becoming a republic of self seekers.
A Muslim techie was killed in Pune and many young boys were arrested for posting ‘offensive’ material on Facebook. In the past 10 years, none has published the more offensive and abusive material than those who want to guide our destiny or teach us ‘discipline’. Ofcourse, I support wholeheartedly any effort to civilize the debate among people and throwing accusations and abuses must stop. Criticism must be welcomed but we have to be careful that people will always question as what is the ‘limit’ to it. Even when it is a very delicate issue between our freedom of expression and a control over it, there is nothing wrong in being gracious even in criticism and with enough proof.
The daily tweeting prime minister had no time to condemn any incident of violence against women as well as the ghastly murder of the Muslim techie by a self proclaimed ‘protector’ of Hindu asmita in Pune. While all this was not enough when the news came that prime minister wanted that all the tweets in the social media on behalf of different department must be provided in Hindi. It was an indirect call to you Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan slogan which proved quite costly, as Tamilnadu was the first state to officially oppose this move. There was discomfort in the other southern states.
The government has completed a month and it has been very productive for them as well as for the gossipers. The media which was looking very ‘vibrant’ by poking fun at Man Mohan Singh every moment seems to have been just following what the prime minister is tweeting. It has nothing to respond except how ‘great’ he is and what the ‘Americans’ want. During the Bhutan trip, prime minister did not take a big media crew along with him yet media reported that prime minister took a small flight to Paro ignoring the fact that the airport itself is too small.
The way four years courses at Delhi University scrapped by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, asking the Vice Chancellor who remained confident till end by trying to appease the Sangh Parivar through his advise to put ‘Vaidik Mathematics’ as one subject in the curriculum. The government initially was openly threatening while after the criticism it put itself into the back and placed the UGC in the forefront whose chief Ved Prakash, was an avid ‘admirer’ of the vice chancellor till a few months back.
This government’s minister’s spoke on every issue, which they have been ‘grown up’ under their training in the Shakhas of RSS. They must but they spoke not the language of the government of India but of the Sangh Parivar, where they hail from. Whether it was the first statement emerged from the Minister of State in the PMO Mr Jitender Singh regarding abrogation of article 370 which provide special status to J & K.
World over organisations fighting for HIV-AID suggest to people in having ‘protected sex’ but our Health Minister actually has virtually demolished the entire ‘safe sex’ theory as he want ‘committed’ relationship. So, through health too we can bring the religious agenda and I can assure the Health Minister, who is an honorable doctor that the Mullahs and the priests in the Churches will be equally happy in this ‘secular’ war against science and reasoning by you. Sangh Parivar can bring all the ‘religious gangs’ together who consider sex as an instrument to produce children and not an act of enjoyment. So ‘Bachhe to bhagwan kee den hote hain’, the children are God’ gift and they make ‘mistake’ as another ‘great’ leader says so the government will have support from all the champions of ‘morality’ in the country. Obviously, India will definitely surpassing China in population if the government continue to advise ‘moral values’ of ‘abstinence’ like Gandhi did which will only end up in high growth rate in population in the coming years. For religious people, it is the best opportunity to extend their greater ‘vision’ of keeping people further subjugated and their vision truncated.
The retribution is so high that the government and its leader want to undo everything that has happened in past so many years. Interestingly, the poor has voted to the government and what we are hearing today is attempt to scrap many anti poor programs such as Food Security Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which the government feel has not done anything but actually created labor crisis in agrarian sector as the agricultural labors have now increased their wages. So, the government want that agricultural labors be paid as per the mercy of the ‘farmers’. Is this the way to ‘save’ farm sector or are they killing it further? How obscene it looks when we are informed of huge pay packages of the individuals proudly on our television screens but at the same point of time people struggling to get even Rs 120/- a day. Is not it a shame that a government which come on huge promise that India will shine for all, is disturbed with even Rs 120/- per day for 8 hours of work for the agricultural worker? And who are these agricultural workers ? Yes, it is they who are the lowest of the low, the untouchables, who did not get land as promised by the Indian state and who continue to be victim of our apathy and hatred.
The modern socio economic order is not interested in addressing the basic issues of the people. It creates a few individuals from the denied identities to project them as ‘role model’. They are fetched well in the new set up but vast masses will continue to perish and remain out of bound for the government schemes. The inflation is already difficult to contain as we have created a system, which is profitable to the powerful, few even at the cost of majority poor and hence just change of the government will not work.
This is a republic of revenge at the moment. ‘Revenge’ from its own people just because we differ in ideologies, perceptions and faith. The idea of the past was not the greatest and hence the poor of different castes and faiths formed the new government under mountains of hopes so that their expectations are fulfilled. The government must respect diversity of our thoughts, action and political beliefs. Every one who does not agree to a particular thought does not become an enemy of the nation. The attempt to ‘unify’ will boomerang on it and people will resist it. It is time the government does not bring a particular thought in everything that some of its leaders might have been trained during their younger days. India has changed now. It is a young aspiring India of different faiths and no faiths too and that apart, it is an India where millions of Dalits, Aadivasis, OBCs, Muslims too are aspiring high hence to deny them their right under any pretext will be opposed. India must shine for all as it belong to all and the government must be seen belonging to all sections of society. Revenge and retribution will only divide India further and create anarchy in the country. A government must not depend too much on its officials but to the political leadership which include opposition voices too, who are much grounded and will always warn it from doing wrong. The government too much depends on bureaucracy fast become highly unpopular and the example was the last government which every one wanted to get rid off at the end, a government which lost the legitimacy to even command. The government must not allow the ruffians in the name of morality and culture to disturb our right to live our life in dignity according to our choices. As a citizen of India, I have this biggest right guaranteed in our constitution and government is duty bound to protect us that way. There are others voices too who are raising their heads as they know their friends are in the government but that is where it need to act harder on them. Do not allow the atmosphere of the country vitiated by such calls against some one. Every citizen of this country need protection and encouragement by the government and if some of the government projects are intended to bring ‘growth’ to the country they too need approval of the local people as government has no right to destroy the livelihood and life of people just to ‘accelerate’ its growth. Therefore dissenters of the current economic models are not enemies of the nation but protector of its wealth and environment which we all will realize after some years when we will have no place to even breathe. Our democracy must grow and must grow in treating criticism as acceptable norm of it, part of it to improve the life of the people and not consider those who disagree as enemies of the nation and a threat. It is shameful way of thinking. The counter the activists if they are propagandists, the government must provide more democracy, more support to organisations and not act through intimidating tactics of police and intelligence. Indira Gandhi believed too much in her ‘intelligence’ and the result was complete rout of her party in 1975. Let us not make every one as a threat but learn to deal the issues politically and if people violate law of the land there are so many laws to catch them. Those who do not follow law will not come to the government and fight the battle themselves. Those who believe in constitution of India and all the international treaties will always follow. It is time for each one of us to grow and not give certificate of who is doing ‘great’ work and who is the most ‘genuine’. This whole problem start when we all claim to speak for so many ‘people’. Now these claims and counter claims actually kills everything. If there is violation of rights, we have a right to speak and government must counter it with producing evidences of what it has done. If it violate its own laws, its own traditions then just by intimidating individuals will not act. Government would have countered activists fighting against big project by producing its rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people. What it did and how many people it got rehabilitated but as we know a majority of developmental projects in India failed to rehabilitate honorably the victims which constitute over 10 millions Aadivasis in the past fifty years. Will the government answer why it failed? Do those who are affected have no right to live with dignity and if they do not get their right than what are they expected to do?
The problem with the authorities is that they try to counter you through legal procedures, which were developed by British in such a way that anybody could be trapped into it. So people have become strangers in their own land, violators of their rights in their own place while big companies are there to grab the opportunity and helplessness of the people. Will the government assure people that they will not be displaced through these mega deals of projects? Will the prime minister tell the people that whatever happens, all the projects will first have to give in writing and insurance of honorable rehabilitation of people. So those who challenge the entire process do not become anti national because you have not followed the process. So, to hide the weaknesses of the government authorities these intimidation are started and we must not succumb to that. A government must not carry forward the agenda unleashed by Manmohan Chidambaram-Montek team of corporate agents. We hope that the prime minister came on heavy people’s mandate and he definitely owe it to the people that he will not let them down in their expectations and promises.