Saturday, December 24, 2016
BSP is the only alternative at the moment to defeat the forces of Hindutva in Uttar Pradesh : Bhanwar Meghwanshi.
In Conversation with Bhanwar Meghwanshi
Bhanwar Meghwanshi is an incisive and forthright contemporary voice of the progressive Dalit movement in Rajasthan. He has untiringly participated in campaigns and movements across the country, creating awareness on communalism, casteism, gender violence, globalisation, displacement and so on. Born on February 25, 1975 in village Siridiyas in Bhilwara district into a Dalit weaver family, Meghwanshi was indoctrinated at the fragile age of 13, by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), with whom he spent five active years. He was made the head teacher (mukhya shikshak) of his village’s ‘shakha’ (camp) of the Sangh, and later on, its district office head. He was part of the first ‘kar seva’ that set out to demolish the Babri Masjid, but was arrested before reaching Ayodhya and spent 10 days in the Agra jail. Thereafter, a certain incident completely shattered his faith in the RSS, making him realise their extreme, anti-Dalit stance. He severed ties with them, openly taking a stance against them.
After leaving the RSS, Meghwanshi worked full-time on communal harmony, brotherhood and peace, which he continues to, till date. He was vociferous in his writings against the Gujarat carnage of 2002, and took part in the documentation and report writing with members of the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal formed for the Gujarat victims. He also published the magazine Diamond India between 2002 and 2012, which lent voice to struggles against communalism and casteism. He broke many stereotypes and myths regarding minority communities, uncovering truths.
Bhanwar Meghawanshi speaks out his heart in this candid conversation with Vidya Bhushan Rawat.
VB: What is the biggest challenge before the Dalit movement at the moment?
BM: There are many; both external and within. It is really worrisome the way communal forces have coopted the movement. Today, a large section of Dalit leadership is getting trapped by Sangh Parivar with their lips sealed due to lure of power. Dalit representatives no longer speak about Dalits. Bureaucracy and those occupying seats of power are busy repressing Dalit voices. And the Sangh agenda is that to either take them together but if they don’t join hand then trap them false cases.
Hence we are witnessing the repression of Dalits more vigorously. The Dalit movement is also losing some of its innate fervor. It appears befuddled, and many a time, seems to lack clarity about whom it is standing with. It is unable to discern between friends and foes. Dalals who have sprung within the community have distorted the fundamental spirit of the movement. Most of the Dalit leaders are in the twilight of their careers. The challenges are new but their methods are old. The new generation Dalits want something different, but a direction seems to elude them.
And then, there are internal conflicts. The caste ‘layers’ amongst Dalits themselves threaten to be tainted with the same brush of casteism. Many Dalit castes are so busy buttressing their own identities; they have completely turned away from the work of annihilating caste. The firming up of caste identities within Dalits is the biggest hurdle in the fight against casteism, and our weakest point. Such a situation is ripe ground for the Sangh, to further its disruptive work, even as they constantly attempt to turn small differences between Dalits into permanent enmities.
VB: What would you speak on the close ranking of Ambedkar and Left forces post-Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder was short-lived, and the distance, in fact, widened in the recent JNU elections.
BM: Yes, the two forces did converge and there was hope that the ‘Jai Bhim’-‘Laal Salam’ jugalbandhi would resonate further, stronger. That was the need for the hour. It was heartening that the country’s Left had started accepting questions of caste, and appeared standing by the Ambedkarite movement. But the confrontation between the Left Unity and Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) in the recent JNU elections appears to signal the end of the unity seen in the aftermath of Rohith Vemula. This was also cited as a cause for concern by many, but I would like to see this whole sequence a bit differently.
We need to understand that India’s Left and Ambedkar groups were never natural allies, they’ve always remained two distinctive streams. Yes, they did converge on the streets over Rohith, but that does not mean a convergence of ideologies. In my opinion, it was a spontaneous solidarity, over a particular issue, which had to end sooner or later. If another issue comes along, they will meet yet again, part yet again.
But to conclude, on the other hand, that the JNU elections represent an ideological tussle may also be hasty. The Left has a chance to self-reflect. BAPSA and Left Unity have to arrive at a consensus. Merely election based rivalry cannot become the dividing line between friendship and enmity.
VB: The Left has committed many mistakes. Not only in non-acceptance of caste, but also in their class character. Their leadership has never really been in the hands of the poor. When we forge a political movement, every campaign, including that of Ambedkarites and Dalits, needs to be healthily analysed, because if none of us had faults, brahmanism could never be so strong?
BM: I agree that this is not the time only to criticise the Left. But who will provide an answer to the fact that the Left, till date, has swept questions of caste under the carpet? Why are there no Dalits or Adivasis who have been able to come forward in their leadership? You (the Left) will talk of class, but not caste; this cannot be. You will cry hoarse about poverty but not look at caste in the face, this cannot be. The Left in India needs to fight brahmanism as honestly and responsibly as they talk against capitalism and imperialism.
At the same time, the Dalit-Bahujan movement needs to take a peek into itself; a healthy introspection, that is best for its rights. The Ambedkarite movement has to free itself from its casteist character, and at the same time, save itself from brahmanism.
VB: There is much talk of the Dalit-Bahujan unity but the only common point of the alliance amongst its constituents is anti-brahminism. Don’t you think a need for some positive programme to bring the Dalits and Bahujan together? As Babasaheb said, graded inequalities exist, and it would also be a mistake to think that within the Bahujan polarisation, all forces are equal? How can there be any unity unless there is a talk of equality?
BM: The forces within the Dalit Bahujan are certainly not uniform. The ‘unity’ we see is a show on stage. The forces appear to come together in public only to condemn brahminism. But in reality, what expectation can we have of this alliance, when the ‘backward’ sections amongst the Bahujan stream of thought are the biggest practitioners of casteism today? They are steeped in hypocrisy, rituals and religious humbug. It would be naïve to expect those very sections who are vanguards of brahminism today, to fight against it. Take a look at the cases of Dalit atrocities. In many places, the main accused in 90% of cases is from OBCs. How do we align with those who are perpetrating violence on us every day? This is a grave situation, and our deluded leaders are far removed from both scientific and ground realities, when they insist on singing the tune of ‘Dalit-backward’ unity, and of ‘indigenous communities’ (moolniwasi) unity.
Dalit-Bahujan unity is a mere figment of our imagination. Today, some of the so-called Bahujan organisations are often led by brahman leaders. As long as the backwards stand at the forefront of casteism and continue perpetrating atrocities on Dalits, they will remain as much our opponents, just as the so-called upper castes.
VB: The media highlighted Rohith Vemula’s murder quite a bit. Many felt perhaps, it has now become more sensitive to Dalit questions. But it almost completely bypassed Delta Meghwal’s case. So many cruel incidents take place in villages, and the media just forgets. Neither Dalit nor communist organsation now approach the people of Bhagana, who are still fighting for the last four years. The media’s nowhere to be seen. Why is this so?
BM: I don’t agree the mainstream media gave any special attention to Rohith Vemula’s death. It is only when social media started making it a big issue that the print and electronic media, true to its casteist character, started negative reporting. They created myths around Rohith’s caste, made him out to be a beef-eating seditious. Every effort was made to cast a slur on him. In Delta Meghwal’s case too, the media’s response was negative. First, they tried character assassination, and then the whole issue was simply buried quietly. In Rohith’s case, the accused were the government representatives, but in Delta’s they were of the business class; those who actually run the show of media houses and TV channels. When people from their own clan turned out to be the accused, the media naturally started wagging its tail. Dalit atrocities are not sexy stories. The rape of Dalit women do not awaken the sensitivity of the casteist media. Whether Bhagana or Dangawaas, Delta or Una, only the social media is taking it forward. The fact is that media is more worried about its advertisers than giving news about our memorandums.
VB: You have been associated with many movements like the MKSS, Right to Food, PUCL etc. Do Dalits have any place in these movements?
BM: There has never been space for Dalits in anything that’s ‘mainstream’, nor is it there at present. Everywhere, Dalits are simply showpieces. There is no difference in the character of social movements. Nowhere is independent Dalit leadership accepted. Everyone loves the backward Dalit, but no one likes the outspoken, assertive Dalit. Civil society should also become democratic, inclusive, and stop using Dalits as labels.
VB: What is the state of Ambedkarite/Dalit movements in Rajasthan?
BM: Rajasthan has traditionally been a feudal state. We have never had a social/political/cultural stream of protest. So much so that even during the bhakti movement, no one like Kabir or Raidas was born here. A shroud of subservience has always dominated. Mental subservience has been rampant for ages. During the Dalit liberation struggles too, Rajasthan’s participation has been negligible. During the Poona pact, the so-called leaders of Dalits of the state were distributing pamphlets against Babasaheb. Here, rather than Kabir-Phule-Ambedkar followers, Gandhi’s ‘harijans’ and weak Dalit leaders subservient to parties have been prevalent. After independence, the reins of the Dalit movement went into the hands of the Dalit followers of Hedgewar-Golwalkar, and fans of Gandhi-Nehru. Then, the socialist type political Dalit movement was born, which raised slogans of social justice, but whose leaders were from the same exploiting castes.
Consequent to the 1992 Kumher, Bharatpur Dalit massacre, a Dalit movement outside of politics started to emerge, which later became the victim of NGOisation. Project-based Dalit movements have also worsened the situation. Today, the Dalit movement in Rajasthan is under the threat of fragmentation. From individual based, routine struggles, sprung small groups. Some have opened their own family/caste based ‘shops’ in the name of Dalits, while as we talk, Rajasthan ranks the highest in Dalit atrocities, untouchability and discrimination. But it is heartening to note, after the Dangawaas episode, the Dalit youth have spontaneously come together in protest, and met with some success too. The dalit youth movement have the declared our silent dalit leadership as ‘the weeds of the Poona pact’ and also sidelined caste-based groups.
Those social organisations who have been running shops for years have also had to face many uncomfortable questions. From Dangaawas to Delta, the emergence of an independent, self-reliant Ambedkarite movement can be considered as a happy sign.
VB: Do you think Dalit groups should work separately? What is the alternative when the Left doesn’t support? Shouldn’t the Dalit- Bahujan-Minorities take new initiatives to fundamentally strengthen ourselves?
BM: There is no need for Dalits to work in complete isolation. The need is to work with independence and self-confidence. The need is to take one’s own decisions. No matter whether there is support from the Left or other progressive streams or not, Dalit groups should be able to stand on their own. Dalit, Adivasis, Nomadic and Minority communities need to close rank, and we have to forget about taking along the BCs for now. If we can do this, we can indeed emerge as a strong political force.
VB: Do we need politics of identity or of ideology? Although it could also be said that identity contains ideology; this is contentious…the Sangh has been cleverest in using identity. How do people understand the person in front is ‘mine’? Or that he could be from the same caste, but also a dalal of the community selling its interest to the exploiters.
BM: I feel the days of identity in Dalit struggle are over. The Sangh’s people have played the politics of identity to the hilt, and benefitted most from it. They know how to play the identity card better than us. We need to focus on ideology. If we are talking of bringing long term change, then it is important we establish the ideology of humanity and equality that Buddha, Phule, Shahu, Kabir, Raidas and Ambedkar have left us with.
VB: Your autobiography is a fine document which urges us to understand the construct of ‘our own’. I feel every ideology has its own interpretation of nationalism, which is finally used only by the dominant people within each group through which we want to control our own communities, for which we create certain principles, and where the villain is always ‘the other’ – the other caste, community or country. The villain keeps changing according to the need, but most of the times, we are the villain ourselves?
BM: Its too early and prematurely written, as so much yet remains to be done. But these stories also need to be told. No publisher was willing to publish it. It is the new media which has reached it to the people. I have raised questions about ‘us’, or ‘our people’ and about myself too, in the Hindu Taliban. You’re right in saying we change our villains according to the need of the moment. The politics of control or domination converts into doctrines even the wrong decisions taken by us, to cover up our own weaknesses and ambitions. Dalit leadership and organisations need to respect our critiques as there should be someone who can question the villain within. Since the very idea of nation is linked to the misuse of power and authority, every group in every era will have a different delineation of nationalism, which will be used as per each one’s convenience.
At the end, the entire debate on nation, nationality and nationalism is bogus.
VB: How do you view the new wave of Dalit writings?
BM: It is heartening that so many Dalit writings are coming up. They are still laden with the feeling of victimhood and anguish. But the literature of resistance is flourishing too. It is coming out in different languages. Yet, they are not able to make a mark on the so-called mainstream literature. We need to make Dalit literature the literature of humanity. It should not be made out to be literature of, for and by Dalits. Everyone should feel the urge to read it, and to read it with fervour. We need to make our literature of resistance more popular, cast its net wider. The Dalit writers of the Hindi belt need to improvise. Read Anand Nilakantan’s Puranic based fiction Asura and Ajaya, and you will feel like you’re sitting inside a bahujan organisation’s cadre camp and listening. Nilakantan has planted a slap on brahminism through characters such as Raavana, Duryodhana and Karna. This is just an example. Dalit literature is, in fact, literature of equality. Its voice need to be transformed into mainstream.
VB: Have we not become too ‘intellectual’ because landlessness, labour problems, manual scavenging, child labour, privatisation etc. are slowly disappearing from our list of issues? Shouldn’t all this be on the agenda of Ambedkarites?
BM: We can be thinkers if we are of use to society. Instead of thinkers, we’ve become neurotic. We’re perpetually worried always crying. On the other hand, our intellectuals have become so vain, they live in their own world. If we cannot keep the interests of what is happening in reality today in focus, what sort of intellectuals are we? Even today, thousands of our co-brothers and sisters are forced into begging, lakhs are cleaning shit. So many children are still sifting through garbage, so many spend their lives living on the streets. We have to think - what has all this privatisation and globalisation given us? If these people’s agendas have disappeared from our thinking and campaigns, then we are indeed living in some other world. We have to bring them into the Ambedkarite struggle, only then we can call ourselves a people’s movement.
VB: For those who regard Babasaheb rightly, casteism and capitalism are both the biggest enemies. Today, Dalit youth are standing up. But a movement is also a reaction. Gujarat, Hyderabad, etc. have proved that Dalits wont keep quiet now. But the current of Ambedkarism has to keep flowing continually to build an enlightened India as envisaged by Baba Saheb. What do you feel is important for this?
BM: Reaction is important, just as speaking out instantaneously is. I wholeheartedly support the reactions that rose in Una and Hyderabad. It is a sign that Dalit youth have zero tolerance. But we also need to understand the conspiracy behind this. Are they trying to get us lost into a maze of atrocities, trapping us so we spend all our energy in fighting these incidents, and they live on happily?
Both Casteism and capitalism are our enemies. If we fight against one and support the other; our struggle becomes feeble. The bazaar and brahminism are closely linked, to support one is to lend breath to the other. We don’t need just economic growth. We have to build an enlightened and strong India which is not merely possible with economic empowerment. We need an independent, progressive and scientific awakening which will free India of slaves of Manu and capital. For this, we have to focus on participating in cultural and economic fora. For now, all our efforts are focused on political and social equality but we seem to be unsuccessful in the direction of fighting the Vedic sanctioned slavery and economic inequality. We need to put our focus on these two issues importantly.
VB: How did you join the RSS? Did they search you out or you went voluntarily?
BM: When I was in the 7th standard, my geography teacher rounded us up and started teaching us some games, and then some songs. Then followed some conversation. Then they gave us khakhi shorts and black caps. One day, we were told that we had been chosen by God’s will for the Sangh’s shakha, and that we were lucky to be chosen. Sure, I went on my own out of enticement of play and games. But later, recognising my capabilities, they made me the head teacher, and later, the district office head.
It is only in retrospect I realised that their talk of patriotism, ‘dharmo rakshati rakshataha’, etc., is a foil. In reality, they create fear by pointing towards Muslims, and hatred towards Christians. That is how they mobilise.
VB: I still remember two days before the Babri Masjid demolition, I was with someone in Haryana, and the words he said to me were – “this time, the kar seva will go well.” Did you know then that the Masjid would fall?
BM: Of course I knew. It was pre-planned. Bringing down the Masjid - that was the real objective of the kar seva.
VB: Even today, the Sangh is going towards Dalit and Adivasi villages, in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. What attracts people to their programmes? Do Ambedkarism, Bahujan, Socialism, Left, or any other stream not have any programme to do with cultural aspirations, or have we stopped going to the people? It is true that the Sangh doesn’t lack resources, but they also have diligent, faithful workers who come from distant places work and with strong ideological commitment….
BM: The Sangh today works on the model of missionaries, in far-flung places. They are found amongst the Valmiki families in cities, and they are found in distant jungles among Adivasis. They establish their ideology through social work. They are visible with the people in good times and bad. They understand people’s wants, and fulfill them, while we just talk, philosophically.
We are just not there (for people) at times of need, while the Sangh’s pracharaks are ever-present.
The Left, Ambedkarites, socialites, bahujanites, and other non-Sangh forces, have truly stopped going amidst people. They’re visible only in political debates or hollow intellectual discussions.
It is not only a matter of money, but commitment. RSS has the resources, it is true, but they also have dedicated cadres. They are willing to go anywhere.
VB: How strong is the current of cultural change in Ambedkarism in MP, Gujarat and Rajasthan?
BM: Gujarat has become a hotbed of change. In Rajasthan and MP, it is simmering within. We need responsible leadership with the right initiative to turn it into a wave.
VB: How does one face the Sangh’s propaganda? Sometimes cow, sometimes beef, Bharat Mata, Ganga, Pakistan and Muslim preoccupy them 24 hours. They are mostly questions on which people easily get manipulated, because they think it is a matter of nation and culture. How do Dalits, Adivasis, and backward castes respond to this?
BM: We can counter propaganda only with facts and truth. The Sangh is the world’s largest factory for packaging lies in the form of truth. Gaay (cow), Ganga, Gayatri, Gomaata, Bharat Maata, Beef, Nationalism,Patriotism, Vande Mataram are merely their tools. The underlying aim is to oppress the country’s toiling masses. They have made the Sangh and the State complementary to each other. Voting for the BJP has become synonymous with patriotism. Protection of an animal such as cow has become a symbol of culture. We have to reach the truth to people. We have to give a non-communal interpretation to the constructs of ‘country’, ‘society’ and ‘culture’. We need to talk directly with people. I am convinced only Dalits can check this harmful political virus of Hindutva.
VB: You said that the Left never understood casteism and hence, the gap between them and the Dalits will always remain. One has to form an understanding to defeat brahmanism and fascism. In many places Dalits and Muslims have substantial presence in terms of numbers, but in many, there aren’t. We have to make alliances on common ideology. What kind of people would you like to take along in the struggle of Dalits and Adivasis?
BM: There is a need to make many kinds of alliances to counter brahmanism and fascism. Where we can work with the Left, we should associate with them, unhesitatingly on certain Common Minimum Programmes. Where we have the Bahujan alternative, no harm in going with them too and If we feel comfortable going with any religious minority, we could think of that too. The enemy is widespread, and huge. They need to be fought at different forums and with many groups.
VB: You have said the OBCs are leading in atrocities against Dalits. Isn’t that a simple statement, because if one looks at categories amongst them, the landless (among OBCs) are natural allies of the Dalits.
BM: No, it is not a naïve statement. It is the grassroot truth. Analyse the cases lodged under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, and you’ll find my position correct. Even if the landless among the OBCs are close to Dalits in an economic sense, they are afflicted with the same ‘upper-lower’ mentality as brahmanism. The day OBCs will accept Dalit leadership, stop injustice and atrocities on Dalits, only then we can hope for change.
VB: Political struggles can never be fought with negative agenda. Buddha showed his way to change and the ‘dhamma’ spread across the globe. He didn’t take the name of the enemy even once. Babsaheb fought on political ground, he gave us rights, and he too understood at the end that we cannot have political struggle without cultural transformation. Do you feel our fight is incomplete without going towards the Buddha’s path, and only political change is insufficient for an enlightened India?
BM: Like every religion, there appears to be a gap between thought and practice in Buddhism too. Some are brahmanising the religion. Communal elements have tried to project Buddha as Vishnu’s tenth avataar. Buddha’s statues are worshipped nearly the same way gods and goddesses are, according to the Vedic tradition. Some neo-Buddhists have brought their caste along into the religion, building ghettos into it. Even marriages are sometimes conceived of between the ‘same caste’ among the Buddhists. We need to avoid this. Another matter of concern is, those sincere workers who would fight for change in society are now neglecting taking on such struggles and have immersed themselves in meditation. Their natural militancy and dreams of social change have been stripped.
We need to understand that merely and technically converting to a religious Buddhist is not going to solve all our problems. Anyway, no religion can free Dalits, because religion itself is bondage. How can bondage give freedom? Dalits need to seek not freedom in religion but freedom from all religion. For now, Buddhism is being seen as a way out of Brahmanism – which is okay as long as it truly accepts Buddha’s scientific consciousness and rationality. It is better for the Dalits to embrace the path of Buddha.
VB : What would you say on the issue of very important elections of Uttar Pradesh.
BM : UP elections can bring a new light in these times of darkness if Manuwadi as well as market forces are defeated. It could be termed as a referendum against the loudmouth prime minister who has completed more than half of his tenure. All the political parties are fighting this with all their might and they must make it a direct fight between ideologies. I feel that politics of hatred must get defeated.
VB: You are taking UP elections as a referendum on Narendra Modi government. Both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are contesting against each other. How would you call people to vote as people like me feel that saying, ‘People must vote to a party able to defeat BJP’ mean confusing them further? How could people decide who is in a winning position hence it is important to make an ambiguous appeal to them who to vote in the greater interest of the country.
BM: There is no difficulty in this. First aim should be to defeat BJP, second should be to vote the party in a position to defeat BJP. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are the main rivals though the media is trying to underplay BSP as for them it seems that SP, BJP and Congress are the main force in Uttar Pradesh. Is it a correct understanding of the situation there? In my opinion, despite numerous contradictions and disagreement, I would like to appeal to the people of Uttar Pradesh to vote for Bahin Mayawati to bring the government of Bahujan Samaj Party. I am saying this because I feel SP is losing because of its own issues while Congress may not gain much despite Rahul Gandhi’s hard work. We must not allow BJP to win hence BSP is the only alternative at the moment.
· * The original conversation was in Hindi. English translation done by Ms Sowmya Sivakumar.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Adijan history and culture are filled with inclusion, resilience, primacy of women and nonviolence : M C Raj
In Conversation with M C Raj
M C Raj is acclaimed social reformer in Karnataka. With many national initiatives to his credit he has been spearheading impactful work for the development of Dalits whom he calls Adijans through the Adijan Panchayat Movement, for global warming mitigation through a CDM Gold Standard project, and a major national campaign for Proportional Representation system in India. M C Raj is an intellectual who has been inspiring many people not only with his new social vision but also with his innovative approaches of social engagement. A prolific writer, Raj has written many books, fictions, theoretical and ideological positioning of the aadijans. In this conversation, he explains his views on Dalit cultural identity issues and the future of the Aadjians. Raj is well read and has his own perceptions about many things and in this candid conversation he has spoken without keeping them in his heart. Hope this conversation will raise the debate on caste identities and culture in a positive way. Vidya Bhushan Rawat in conversation with M C Raj.
VB: Raj, when are we expecting your next novel? What is it all about ? Despite all your busy schedule, you have been consistently writing. What is the source of your energy?
MC: There are two novels out for publication. One is Lapsang Cha and the other is The Daughters of Janasthan. The former is with a Hollywood producer and publisher and the latter is with my Literary Agent.
It’s a science fiction based on a development from 2005. It’s based on the science of Optogenetics. Not many would have heard of it as it’s a recent scientific development. Optogenetics aims at intruding into the nerves, genes and brain cells of animals through optical waves and control the behavior of animals. I have stretched my imagination to the human realm. What will happen to the world if scientists succeed and if the same is transferred to human beings? To make it a real fiction, I have created a plot of a conflict among the American and the Chinese scientists and CIA.
The Daughters of Janasthan
This is a story of Sita, Soorpanaka, and Mandodri. On the sidelines are Ravan and Ram. This novel takes a radically critical look at the epic of Ramayan.
I enjoy thinking and writing. My body is replenished with fresh energy when I write. Moreover, the success rate of our work among the poor and the Adijans keep our energy level going. The central source of our energy is our visits to the villages. In village after village the women make Jyothi and me sit and all the women sing songs and bless us. Each one showers flowers and rice on us and touch us from head to feet as a blessing. I feel physical energy passing through all the cells in my body. When I come back I brim with more life and energy. My day is generally for the people and visitors and my night is for writing and reading.
VB: What do you consider yourself: an ideologue, an activist or a fiction writer?
MC: I consider myself as a healthy combination of all the three and many more. I try not to compartmentalize my being into different sections. I try to harmonize my existence with the rhythm of the cosmos in as much as it’s possible for a human being. I am basically a philosopher. It runs through my action and fiction.
VB: You build up a big Dalit Panchayat movement in Tumkur ? What was the idea? Were these Dalit Panchayats duly elected or were they parallel to elected Panchayats?
MC: The terrible oppression and violence that the Adijans face from the dominant caste people led us to a serious and collective analysis of why it was happening unabated. We saw clearly that the epicenter of power was concentrated on the traditional caste Panchayats. Internal conflict resolution, political participation, economic development, and social life of the Adijans (Dalits) were controlled by the caste Panchayats. It happens even today. The constitution of India is a virtual paper tiger. What bares its teeth on the daily lives of the Adijans is the caste Panchayat. It virtually subverts the constitution. Fighting for the benefits of reservation becomes meaningless though it still remains a significant need in India.
We decided to initiate the Adijan Panchayat Movement as an alternative to the oppressive caste Panchayats. All Adijan families in every village would form the Adijan Panchayat, resolve their internal problems without taking them to the caste Panchayat, would select their candidates for local body elections and would select the beneficiaries of government development programmes. Our organization would support them with capacitation and external lobbying. The backbone of this movement would be the Adijan culture and history.
Adijan Panchayat is not a parallel to the elected panchayats but has effectively enhanced more meaningful participation of Adijans in elections, especially in Gram Panchayat elections.
VB: You do not belong to Karnataka and yet the people of Tumkur have given you their love and support. When and how did you develop this strong relationship with the community here?
MC: I did my studies in Bangalore. We came to Tumkur in 1984. All that we knew was to love the poor. Jyothi got involved in social issues as a high school student. I hailed from the premises of a leprosy hospital in Tuticorin, where my father worked as a daily wage earner. My role models were the European and Indian sisters who dedicated their lives to the lepers. Later I combined my love for the poor with a strong addiction to Marxian ideology. People tested us of our commitment to them. They made sure that our actions were congruent with our words. Once they made sure of our truthfulness they were ready to give their life for us. With every successful struggle their confidence in us soared high.
It’s not simply love that’s in question. The oppressed psyche is constantly on the look out for a symbol of their liberation. It does not accept anyone who claims to be such a symbol. It knows innately and intuitively who can effectively represent their aspirations and negotiate with the oppressors on their behalf. We are happy that we fit the bill of the people on this score. We are happy that we were able to combine it with a bit of charisma that is an essential ingredient of the liberation symbol. Our engagement with the society on behalf of the poor was not born out of an academically designed strategy. We developed our strategies of development organically as we learned at the feet of our people. This helped the people to own their development efforts.
VB: You along with Jyoti have been engaged in the land rights movement of Dalits in Tumkur. Could you please throw some light on it. I mean, how do you promote land rights of the Dalits and where does woman stand in the entire legal and ideological frame work ? As a community person do you support the idea of community ownership over the individual titles which many in the indigenous people's movement have been speaking for years.
MC: Initially we got involved in regaining the lost land of individual members of the Adijan Panchayats. Such success led to entire villages taking up huge land struggles. But the government would approve land only for individuals. We employed street fights, lobbying with the bureaucracy, direct negotiations with the landlords and court cases. We have till now recovered 11,902.20 acres of land.
Simultaneously, we demanded policy decisions from the government to distribute 5 acres of land to all Adijan families. Later we broadened it to all landless families in India. When it came to lobbying and Advocacy we joined hands with other major networks like the Ekta Parishad.
We are happy that we were able to bring about quite a few policy decisions in Karnataka. Strong support from the bureaucracy of Karnataka helped us too on the road to success.
There was a time when we initiated the idea of community ownership. But it remained only an idea as most people were either landless or had lost their land. Our priority was to retain the recovered land in the hands of the Adijans and other poor. We have a long way to go to even take the first step toward community ownership of land.
VB: Apart from working with the people, you have been defining ideological positions of what you describe Aadijan people. Are the Aadijans same as Dalits ? If not then what is the difference in addressing them as Dalits or aadijans ?
MC: We arrived at the Adijan identify after extensive reflections and discussions for many years. This was a consequence of building a resurgent culture of assertion and celebration. Very positively and creatively we unearthed the latent strength of the Adijan poor and built the Movement on their strength. We dismissed the Freudian path of focusing on the removal of weaknesses. Instead we took recourse to the Jungian approach of scientifically identifying the strengths of the Adijans one by one. It led to greater and bigger success of the Adijan struggles for entitlements and land rights. An inevitable sidekick was the permeation of a greater sense of dignity. A receiving people gradually became a giving people contributing generously to their development out of the meager resources they had. A new self-image of a celebrating people emerged.
Such resurgence made the identity of a broken people (Dalit) redundant. Coupled with this was the cry from a few communities in India to give up the Dalit identity. Being oppressed is historical. But, to say that we are a broken people amounts to giving an undue credit to the forces of caste hegemony. Dalit represents what has happened to us from others. Adijan represents what we are from the beginning. It is internal. We delayed announcing it for many years not to create any confusion. When we found the time ripe we made an announcement.
VB: As an ideologue you have defined the history of Dalit movement in a different way where culture play an important part. You have always proudly mentioned the Dalit culture and its glorified history but in the modern Ambedkarite discourse the focus is on delinking from the past which was always considered as subjugated and brahmanical hierarchical. Does your position contradict Ambedkarite position on this issue?
MC: If Ambedkar saw Adijan history as a subjugated history, then I must say that his view was jinxed. Being subjugated is only one side of history. Ambedkar refused to see the strength of his people. Like many NGOs of today he could not wage a battle in society if he saw the brighter side of the Adijans. That’s why he could not sustain his negotiation on separate electorate. Instead he surrendered to the idea of reserved seats. Pathos and ghetto are strong tools at the hands of Adijan leaders to promote themselves.
Dominant communities don’t want to focus on culture and history because these are smeared with violence and blood. They don’t want the rest of the world and their children to know their history. What will they show as their culture? But Adijan history and culture are filled with inclusion, resilience, primacy of women and nonviolence. We should have the courage to take these to the negotiating tables as our innate strength. Being educated in Western universities, it is possible that Ambedkar subscribed to the dominant ideas of history and culture.
If we look at Adijan leaders like Mangooram, Ayyankali, Muthukuttyswamy, Sri Kumara Gurudevan, Sri Narayana Guru etc. who have laid tangible paths of liberation have based their efforts on history and culture. Ignoring culture and history by oppressed indigenous communities will lead to subjugation. Thus in an effort to liberate the Adijans from subjugation, intellectuals like Ambedkar may have subconsciously paved the path for their postmodern subjugation. It’s unfortunate. Looking at Ambedkar as the only icon of Adijan liberation undermines other Adijan leaders of greater worth. Forgetting history will obliterate precious lessons and ideology that they cherished. Perhaps it’s what the dominant caste forces want to happen.
VB: What is your ideological difference with Baba Saheb Ambedkar's embracing Buddhism? Do you subscribe to the views which many have articulated that Dalits had their own religion and need not to go to Buddhism or do you feel religion is not that important at all in people's life? How different is your position from that of say Ravidasis, Valmikis and aadidharmis as each one of them want to keep their identity as separate?
MC: Much before Buddha arrived on the scene Adijan people practiced nonviolence. Buddha and Gandhi appropriated it from the Adijans. The Adijans didn’t have a formal religion. But they had their belief system and worship. It was a cosmic religion based on the essential belief of the cosmos being the ultimate. There was no belief in a divine being as a person. They believed in cosmic powers. Later it developed into a fertility cult based on the belief of the earth being the mother of all beings. There was also a strong reverence and worship of the ancestors. It clearly shows that the Adijans were proud of the legacy left by their ancestors. If people are proud of their history and culture, who are the ‘Dalit’ leaders to say that we do not need them? One may identify this belief and practice of Adijans as Shamanism.
Just as Charvaka, Buddha too borrowed his atheism and nonviolence from the ancient Shamanism of the Adijans. Buddhism is only an extension of Hinduism, either glorious or rebellious. Hinduism’s philosophical trajectory is Karma, Samsara, and Swarga. Buddhism’s philosophical trajectory is Karma, Samsara and Nirvana. Buddhism is different from Hinduism only on the question of Swarga. Buddha’s nirvana is once again borrowed from the Adijan’s cosmism. In his later avatar, Buddha was only a primitive Shankaracharya.
In my perception Ambedkar made a serious mistake of converting to Buddhism, taking the Adijans to a path that belongs to the caste forces. RSS accepts the conversion of Adijans into Buddhism with a glee. We have historical evidence that conversion to any religion is a regressive path. Conversion has led only to a double subjugation. Ambedkar has definitely misread the implications of conversion.
The viable alternative is a strong assertion by the Adijans that we Adijans are Adijans. It will naturally lead to the collective discovery of common culture and history. I have expatiated the nuances of recovering history and culture in my books, Dalitology, Cosmosity, Dalithink and Dyche.
VB: Today, Dalits are under various threats. Poona pact sealed their fate as the political leadership of the day is not responding the way it should have. Campaign for Electoral Reform in India ( CERI) revived the old debate of Proportionate representation. Where is the campaign at the moment and how have been the responses of political parties particularly those claiming to represent Baba Saheb Ambedkar's ideology?
MC : The CERI campaign is on low ebb because of my illness. That’s a statement of the state of affairs. There’s a lethargy set in with the thumping victory of the BJP in the last elections. Most political parties, both national and regional, subscribe to the idea of proportional representation in the way we have proposed in our policy document. The biggest hitch at the moment is taking up the issue in the Parliament. The parties have to be brought together to agree on the one national party that will move the issue at the Indian parliament. Even as I planned for two national conferences to achieve this, came my illness and for some more time it will not be possible for me to travel. The core group members of CERI are carrying on the campaign at their state level. We have a long way to go.
VB: World over religious rights are intimidatingly dominating the political discourse as Minorities and marginalised are out of their agenda. From Modi to Trump is the victory of a failed system which allow extremist view point to get people's approval. How are we going to face such a crisis today? If India's vote was against the Dalits and minorities last time, Americans seems to have reacted against the blacks?
MC: As you rightly point out, the world is passing through a particular phase in history where fascism is gaining an upper hand in governance. My hope is that such a trend will be carried on to an intolerable level and the ‘other’ world will begin to strike back at the ruling forces. The foundation for the present state of affairs was systematically laid at the beginning of the 16th century. Capitalism has consolidated the spread of its tentacles. It’s not any more the battle of any one people. It’s going to be a global revolution. Philosophers have to keep on churning out alternative vision of the world. Politicians from below need to strategize and choose the best option. Campaigners and activists should be ready to sacrifice their ego and their life to translate a collective global vision into revolutionary action. All these are possible if the indigenous women take up the leadership. At the moment all those who are concerned should begin to speak and write about alternative discourses. When there are more and more of such discourses the threads of a common action will emerge. All of us will have to be in a hurry but be hopeful and patient.
VB: You have been talking about the Dalit Panchayats a lot. What in your opinion should be the ideological position of Dalits towards the new market economy or what our prime minister called 'e-wallet' or cashless economy?
MC: Narendra Modi is the antithesis of development. He is the best agent of the agent state under the garb of nation state. Adijans and Adivasis are already paying a heavy price to sustain this perverted economic mindset. We must appreciate those Adijans who have made inroads into the world of capital. But they will fail if their economic capitalism is not coupled with a social capital. The Black people can be a good lesson for Adijans and Adivasis on this. The leverage to create and expand ‘own’ spaces within the capitalist world should be strengthened. It will require strong vision and deep rooting in the community so that the benefits that accrue will go to the people.
The largely recognized capital that Adijans have is their labor. Therefore, there needs to be a heavy focus on labor economy. It has to come from Adijan intellectuals. Recognizing the value of Adijan and Adivasi labor as well as rewarding labor both by the government and the private sector is of paramount importance. Adijans have to make their labor the biggest bargaining leverage. For example, in the agricultural field and in the sanitation industry, if Adijans strike work demanding their due the country will have to bow down and accede to their demand. In the railways, if Adijans refuse to do scavenging, the country is going to stink up to the doors of the White House.
The less said about e-wallet the better. I am thinking of the poor in the rural India. The entire design seems to be to exclude the rural masses from the developing economy. Is this what Modi promised? Perhaps it is what he had in mind, that he should design economy to the greatest benefits of his friends in high places. I am sure that Modi must go if the poor in this country have to survive.
VB: Past 20 years, we have seen growing trend of acquiring lands of the Dalits and aadivasis in the name of development. The first generational land reform did not happen. There was land redistribution but it remained highly unequal and unfair. The state apparatus did not implement it in letter and spirit of the constitution. Now, we need more highways, more corporations and so land is being acquired without asking people of what they want. Shouldn't we challenge the current 'developmental' module which is based on destruction of people, environment and ecology?
MC: From the time of India’s independence we have been going through the contradictions of development. We had no dearth of promises to gain the votes of the poor. Once the elections were over, people in governance only became busy at distributing land among themselves. India is a very strange country where even people have no understanding of the value of constitutional governance. The caste forces don’t want constitutional governance. We conveniently blame Modi for fascism. But it is important to recognize that Indian citizens in general are fascists. Those who fight against fascism are branded as anti-nationals. This explains why even before Modi came on the scene Indian society remained largely fascist. Caste fascism keeps corroding the Indian society from inside. As it happens in all dominant societies, the poor, Adijans, Adivasis and minorities are the ones who have to pay a heavy price for this anomaly.
VB: The economic policies that we followed are taking India towards private corporations where the responsibility of the state would be minimum. State has withdrawn from health. It is getting out of education as the more and more private companies are investing in hospitals and education with high fee. Reservation has virtually become redundant now. How do we fight against such onslaught of the private corporations on public resources?
MC: This is not an India specific problem. It is a global design. As you are aware, democracy, governance and the state developed along with capitalism from the time of enlightenment or as a result of enlightenment. They were designed to serve a specific purpose of the ruling class of the capitalist societies. After four centuries, the state began to outlive itself and now we are at a phase of a slow de-stating of the state. There is a redesigning of the state. The present character of the state will go through a metamorphosis to the greater advantage of the ruling classes. The state is expected to shun its development responsibility. Only those who are capable of paying for their development will be respected as citizens in this redesigned state. One should make a clear distinction between protectionism and the responsibility of the state to protect the interests of the citizens. Therefore, it is a stark contradiction and blatant double speaking that Modi has come to power on the plank of development. He knows that he is hoodwinking the people. He knows the real model of the state in the postmodern democracy. Withdrawal of the welfare state is gradually becoming an accomplished fact, accompanied by strong protectionism of vested interests of caste groups. An ignorant citizenry is the best bet for the rulers. American and Indian citizens are the best political playgrounds for rulers like Trump and Modi.
We need to discuss reservation as a separate thesis as there are multiple internal and external factors that deserve to be analyzed threadbare. Reservation has become the anti-thesis of Adijan development in the sense that the governments and the caste society wash off their responsibility by making 17.5% available to SC/ST. Once it is done Adijans are never allowed to go beyond this 17.5%. Most Adijans also are happy with this provision and become lethargic. Thus reservation has become not a ‘reserved’ benefit but a reserved slavery.
VB: The Hindutva is posing the biggest threat to Dalits. They are dictating today as what is our culture. Our food habits are being challenged. Hundreds of incident of public flogging, lynching and socio-economic boycotts have come in public domain particularly that of Dalits and Muslims due to their menial work of skinning dead cows or picking them up. One idea was like what happend in Gujarat after Una incident where Dalits have decided not to engage in the traditional occupation but then what is the alternative. We all will shout one day but go away. There seems to be no positive socio economic agenda. Your experience from Tumkur is an example of bringing the positive energy and creating a much better alternative for future. How do you perceive the future could be ?
MC: Just think of this, Rawat. If there are about five thousand small communities in India that are internally strengthened with a strong constitution of not impinging on the rights of other communities, Hindutva will be on the run. This is what we are proposing and doing in the Adijan Panchayat Movement. We know that India is not one country.
All communities must have a system of internally governing themselves through democratically derived norms. Based on this strength they should elect a national government through proportional representation system. It will lead to hard negotiations and peaceful co-existence with deep respect for differences in each community. When this happens, no religion will be able to hold a sway over people. Nationalism will assume stronger connotation of peaceful co-existence in this context.
It will require a lot of homework and deeper reflection on the part of the communities. Sanity of approach can be achieved through community education. We shall become a country of million gardens with millions of flowers in millions of colors. This is not at all utopian. It is possible if one has a serious look at the Tumkur model.
VB: What is the best way to bring various Dalits, aadivasis, Muslims and other communities together to fight against the menace of Hindutva ? We all know who are the victims of brahmanical system in India but is not it important for us to also describe what could be our idea of India ? I felt Dr Ambedkar has given that through the preamble of the constitution and in many of his writings but our political class is still unable to take it further?
MC: The First Past the Post electoral system that is a British legacy is for the politicians. The Proportional Representation system that is now implemented in 89 democracies is for the citizens. It is one thing to have a beautiful constitution. It is another thing to implement the same on behalf of the citizens. Having failed in his demand for separate electorate the next best thing Ambedkar could have and should have done was to agree for PR system in the constituent Assembly. By opting for FPTP he has sealed the fate of the Adijans, Adivasis, MBCs and Minorities for a long time to come. Now these communities should come together first to fight for PR system and then make the best use of the PR system to gain their political leverage. On this question they have to watch out against the shenanigans of political parties as well as their own political leaders for whom FPTP offers short-term benefits.
VB: Dr Ambedkar has always emphasised that without encouraging women in our structure our movement can not grow. Jyotiba Phule encouraged Savitri Bai Phule who took the torch and revolutionised the movement but when we see the Dalit Bahujan movement women face lots of problems, resistance from the male counterparts. Most of the decision making places where people address the communities, are, 'all men's club', which is seriously disturbing. You have seen many movements and can better analyse for us so that the movement is benefitted.
MC: Women are being spoken about for the survival of men and for the legitimacy of male dominance. History has shown sufficiently enough that men have spoken in flowing terms of women’s equality only to camouflage their male dominance. I see Jyothiba Phule and Kanshiram as noble exceptions to this male trend. Men are not the right people to bring about women’s equality. It should be women. Men should simply sit back and watch women take the reins of governance without sitting on judgment seats in any way. I have no faith in any men leaders who speak of women’s equality.
The need is to focus on the primacy of women. It is a strong value foundation of the indigenous communities including Adijan community. It is unfortunate that most of these communities have blindly aped patriarchal societies. Male celebrities of these communities have done precious little for the primacy of their women.
It is one of the reasons why I give much focus on history and culture. Adijan communities in general and most of the Adivasi communities have a culture of family governance by women. Modern men have appropriated much of these capacities from women and have led the community to indignity and penury. It is Adijan men who have allowed untouchability, slavery of their communities, have supported the deprivation of education for their children, have let themselves into bonded labor etc. If Adijan communities still survive it is because of the capacity of their women to sustain the family. Adijan communities have survived a bit not because of their men but despite their men.
Through the revival of own history and culture it is possible for Adijan women to take back the reins of family and community governance. Men from these communities should tender an apology to their women and sit back in silence believing in the wisdom of their women. Women are the biggest harbinger of hope to an intolerant and violence torn world.
VB: Many activist feel that your work 'Dalitology' try to glorify superstition and irrationality in the name of 'culture'. How do you respond to those fears of Ambedkarites who feel that culture gave nothing, a position that Baba Saheb has taken and that is why gave a call to come out of the brahmanical Hindu practices?
MC: Let’s get this right. I’ve come across some such people. When I question them further I come to know that they have only heard of Dalitology from others but have not read it themselves. It becomes difficult for me to carry on any meaningful dialogue with those who have not read a book. Dalitology and Dyche are major documents for the future of Adijan development. On the need for history and culture I have already said a few things in this interview and don’t want to repeat them. It is Christianity, Hinduism and now Buddhism that are promoting superstition. Culture provides the value system for governance. This is accepted by many rational philosophers.
If you go back a little to the mechanism of colonization you realize that the first thing the colonizers did among the indigenous people was to destroy their culture and their cultural symbols. They knew for sure that the indigenous people were bound together by their cultural values and governed themselves strongly. Destroying their culture would break their backbone and pave the way for the governance of the colonizers. In order to do this they also infused their highly superstitious religions. Which indigenous community has accepted the possibility of virgin birth?
Gramsci speaks of organic intellectualism. How many ‘Dalit’ intellectuals have some importance to this dimension in liberation politics? In an effort to gain some space in the dominant intellectual world many ‘Dalit’ scholars only develop a bookish intellectualism. These books have been written by dominant forces. How many intellectuals sit at the feet of Adijan women and men and draw their intellectualism from them. Dalitology was written drawing its ideas and inspiration from the illiterate masses of Adijan people. I have given only a philosophical framework to the content. It is my strength. Organic intellectuals within the Adijan community largely remain unnoticed and unrecognized. That is the tragedy of India.
Dalitology is a document against all forms of superstition and that’s why all fellows belonging to dominant religions and some egotistic ‘Dalit’ leaders have hounded me out. It is a rational document par excellence. I am a proud rationalist. They have stopped talking to Jyothi and me and have prevented others from talking to both of us. If they are rational they should argue with my position and tear me into pieces. I am ready for that. There is a bloated ego at play and not any search for truth. But there are also some people who have invited me for discussions on Adijan spirituality and mysticism.
By converting to Buddhism, Babasaheb and his followers have only taken the Adijans back to Hinduism through the backdoor. It is a mark of their inability to recognize the internal strength of the oppressed Adijans. At the back of their head may be a sense of worthlessness both of themselves and of the poor Adijans. It is a dishonest effort to indulge in mass conversion of Adijans by making use of one’s leadership position. Ordinary Adijans are illiterate but they are very wise. They are able to see through the game plans of conversion. They can also clearly see that it’s a Mahar effort at establishing their superiority over other sections of Adijans.
Yes, Adijans should come out of Brahminism and Hinduism. There will be no development as long as they are within the Hindu fold. However, converting to other religions is not an alternative. Reclaiming their own history and culture will be the surest way of getting out of superstitions and other religions. This is what some of the liberated indigenous communities have achieved in many parts of the world.
VB: How relevant is Annihilation of castes? Do you believe in it or you believe that Dalits were never part of the brahmanical culture. If not then the reality is they are part of brahmanical cultural practices. What should they do to come out of this fold? Do you think the necessity of them to delink themselves from the caste structure?
MC: Let us simply acknowledge the truth that annihilation of caste is a wild goose chase. Caste can never be annihilated and there is no need of doing it. Even if it has to be annihilated why should Adijans waste their time and energy on this useless exercise? It’s one of the worst intellectual deviations that Babasaheb has provided to many half-baked ‘Dalit’ intellectuals. They can hold on to this log of wood all their life while the rest of the community can drown in the flood of caste cauldron. There is no problem with people clinging on to their caste. Let Brahmins be Brahmins, let Kshatriyas be Kshatriyas, let Vaishyas be Vaishyas and let Shudras be Shudras. Let them not come on the way of Adijans being Adijans. Let there be a constitution to govern all these communities.
Constitution should be agreed upon and be supreme in the instruments and mechanisms of national governance. Let each caste community govern itself with its culture and norms. Let there be no interference in the way other communities govern themselves. Let there be a constitution to protect people from dominant intervention in their internal affairs. Let all people abide by common laws as envisioned in the constitution. I am speaking of a new constitution when this truth of differences is accepted in national life. Only then shall we be able to show the door to people like Modi and to forces like RSS. No single culture should be allowed to have a sway over the formation and implementation of the constitution. This is possible if we have the PR system. Do not threaten the Brahmins and do not play one caste against another. Let there be negotiations on peaceful c-existence. Let there be constitutional provisions to bring to books those who deviate from negotiated positions. This is a big thesis I have proposed in my 1100 page volume Dyche.
VB: Many ideological movements happened. You have been an ideologue and a philosopher on the ground. You also provided us the new dimensions of the proportionate electorate system through CERI which were hitherto not known but we have not seen you any of the meetings which claims to set political agenda for Dalits and Bahujans particularly BAMSECF or RPIs ? Any particular reason ?
MC: Educating Indian citizens on PR system is going to be a long drawn out process. We are such mental slaves of the British that many of us don’t want to get out of the cozy comforts of colonization. Our role model of national governance is the colonizer. PR system requires Adijan parties to come together as a coalition in order to meaningfully share power both within and outside. Many ‘ego’ based ‘Dalit’ Political leaders are not prepared for this. They are happy with the crumbs that fall beneath the dining table of the Dives. Who can demand a leader to give up his ego? He will not live if he gives up his ego. PR system provides the space even to ego-based leaders to come together to the negotiating table as an Adijan coalition. Such a coalition can get into the business of negotiating with other political parties for their legitimate space to grab power to govern at the national level. Instead, many of them are happy with the one or two seats that they gain by joining the coalition under the FPTP. I remember once when Thirumavalavan negotiated with the DMK for seats to contest, Karunanidhi did not give his party even one seat to contest. Then Karunanidhi said that Thiruma had a place in his heart. They design their political game under the presumption that ‘Dalits’ are sentimental fools. Let it be any ‘Dalit’ political party. They are the biggest betrayers of the Adijan people. They allow their ego to be the primary platform of political negotiation and not the future of the community.
Each Adijan community must set its political agenda. All such agenda must be brought to the negotiation table internally. A collective Adijan and national agenda must be evolved and negotiations with other parties must take place on the strength of this agenda. A national collation with other political parties can evolve through such negotiations. This is a long-term process. It needs a strong commitment not only to the process but also to the ultimate liberation and development of the Adijan people.
If other caste communities, Adivasis and religious minorities also follow this path, then India will have not only the largest democracy in the world but also the best democracy. India has only a sham democracy at the moment.
VB: How is a Dalit Bahujan Aadijan unity possible? What could be the programme agenda? Do you think that the left parties could be part of such a structure if not the mainstream left then those who claim to work for the Dalits ? Left had made lots of mistakes in past. Their leadership rarely gave representation to Dalits but then those claiming the Dalit Bahujan leadership too form the part of the powerful castes only. How do we come to a common minimum agenda to defeat the divisive communal brahmanical forces in India?
MC: I think I have already answered this question except the one on the comrades. I have emerged from a Marxian school of thought though I did not join any communist party. Am happy that the comrades both in the CPI and the CPM see the value of this now. Such acceptance comes after many years of isolation only because I work for the Adijans. The ground for their rejection was that I was taking support from donor NGOs for my work. When I think of the comrades in India I remember the Maoists in Nepal who struggled hard to usher in true democracy to their land. Adijans have no issues with Indian communists and it is unfathomable why they think that any liberation work among the Adijans is an impediment to the class ‘revolution’ that they want to bring about. It shows their insecure position.
Now we should be happy that most communists have come out of this insecurity and are ready to join hands with Adijans to usher in a new society. Unfortunately though, they are quite lethargic after the rise of Modi. Often it makes me think whether they have found at last their bed-fellow and want him to continue in the saddle.
At my level, I have convinced many ‘Dalit’ leaders that they should sit at the negotiation table with the comrades and hope that better light will come soon. I believe that ideologically they are the only force on Indian soil that can play a constructive and creative role in changing the face of Indian democracy. But I remain with the confused question: ‘who will bell the cat?’