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?’