Friday, March 30, 2007

Issue of OBC Reservation in India

Mandal will have the Last Laugh

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

A two judges bench headed by Justice Ajit Parsayat has stayed the 27% quota meant for the Other Backward Communities in the higher education. The upper caste Hindus today celebrated Holy and Diwali. After the miserable failure and huge loss of advertisement by the favorite Indian cricket team virtually surrendered to Bangladesh and then to Srilanka, the reactions were similar to that happened to anti Mandal agitation in 1991. If our memories have not faded, we must revisit the events in Eden Gardens, Kolkata when the downtrodden Sri Lanka was inflicting a humiliating defeat and the Bhadralok crowd at Kolkata started throwing paper missiles, and stones at the Srilankan players. I am afraid, if this World Cup were being organized in India, the Indian people would not have allowed Bangladesh to win. That is upper caste nationalism in India. A nationalism, which does not recognize merit but purely create merit on the basis of one’s caste.

The defeat by the under estimated Bangladesh spelled a pall of gloom over the market which has been monopolized by the caste media which had lionized the team without realizing its real strength. India sunk into gloom (it was not a game but the nation was already declared world champions) and defeat clearly put the astrologers also to mat who were predicting super performance from the team. Nevertheless, despite this entire nonsensical attitude, the irrational astrology still is the best medicine that the caste Hindus takes. The doctors also have the same attitude as they have red tilak over their forehead and big temples outside the ICUs in Delhi. Nothing is irrational and unscientific as long as the Hindus believe in it. So Muslims become cruel for they slaughter animals but Hindus become ‘non violent’ when they slaughter goats, buffalos and pigs in the temples to please their Gods and Goddesses.

After days of gloom, the anchors at the TV studios are smiling for a ‘historic’ judgment of Supreme Court. Now, they can discuss things and bring the ‘cheerleaders’ to their studios suggesting that the ‘whole’ ‘nation’ is against reservation. A few doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or as I would like it call All India Institute of Manuwadi Studies have become ‘nation’ imagination. Based on their assumptions, the Supreme Court has stayed the order of the reservation for OBCs in the institutions of higher education, which were always meant for the Brahmins when Manu’s law first defined it. As India moved to secularism and democracy, Manu’s laws became politically though socially they remained as powerful as ever despite 9% growth rate. Understanding that power of democracy means power of number and not just democracy for the people but now it has become ‘of’ the people and ‘by’ the people. With the marginalized groups asserting their number power with more political aggressions, the upper castes were left with no options except to dilute the entire concept of social justice through the judicial process, which remain outside the purview of the quota. Moreover, through privatizing the various government owned corporations and services, the government has already nullified the concept of reservation.

Now, after the formation of Special Economic Zones, the government as well as the courts have hit on the backbones of our farmers. SEZ have been declared legalized while people have been uprooted from their nation. Land Reforms have been made redundant by the continuous protections by the courts. Today, the politicians use the courts for their own purposes. It is due to this ambiguity that the courts have now become the most powerful and uncontrolled institution of the country. A healthy democracy need independent judiciary and committed governance. Nodoubt, the political leadership during the past 20 years have reduced to nothing as more criminals taking lead but the power of the masses is relegated to ‘people’s representatives’. Still, even a bad democracy is better than an unaccountable government or military dictatorship. Ofcourse, this clearly means that it is the political class which will need to run the country and not the courts and the bureaucrats which is increasingly becoming the case in India.

Upper castes elite in Delhi often says that reservation is denying them basic human rights of equality and hence they are leaving for the United States. Let the courts ask them to stay in India if they studies in Indian schools. They cannot go abroad after getting the subsidized education at the premier Indian educational institutions. The youngsters do not know what is happening even outside their house. They would not even ask their parent as why the scavenger who clean their shit and toilet come from one particular community. This elite would not even know that in India there are places where people still clean shit and carry night soil. Yes, they are not interested to know about this.

Shockingly, the judgments in the past few years reflect of the growing trend to keep the middle classes happy. We have judges who speak for Hindutva terming it as a way of life. We have a former Supreme Court Judge who did not implicate a single politician in the anti Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 and later became a Member of Parliament against all the ethics of impartiality of an institution. Right to Strike was also banned by the Kerala Highcourt, which was appreciated by the media and industries.

The Judges went overboard in terming the quotas as vote bank politics. Question is why not vote bank politics after all what are politicians required to do? Yes, if they are working for their people than the best one is that who does not to take care of their constituencies? It is absurd as former Prime Minister V.P.Singh said about the court order. Parliament passed a bill unanimously and the court’s are terming it as vote bank politics. The Judges further said that politicians should not divide the country on the basis of caste and that in India it has become habitual for people to claim ‘backward’ status. One need to support V.P.Singh’s demand for a referendum and census based on caste.

It is tragic that the record of the courts related to social justice and social reform reflect poverty of ideas and lack of human rights understanding. It is also reflected that the courts are consciously giving judgments on the basis of media campaign. A media, which has been thoroughly unprofessional and highly prejudiced one. Justice Rajendra Sachar had long back stated in a public meeting that the court buckle under public pressure. Unfortunately, there is no backward movement in India, which can take on the upper caste thugs who are destroying India. Except for the forthright stand of DMK, PMK and other political groups representing the OBCs there is no one to raise their voice. They remain loyal shudras providing fodder to Hindutva to kill the Dalits in the villages. It is time for the OBCs to revolt against their self-serving leaders and get a new leadership which can give them new ideas and for whom OBC does not mean a family of their own but the entire community. We need a dynamic leadership which does not sale farmer’s land to corporate houses at the throwaway prices and have a clear vision to help and upgrade the communities. Alas, most of them have nothing except their caste. They remember their people only when they do nothing are defeated in the larger games of manipulation.

Where are the OBC students and their political leaders? Tamilnadu has taken the lead in this direction in a rare gesture of unanimity among the political class. But that unanimity is not visible in the North at the moment. In UP while every OBC caste is struggling to get an identity and a share in power but none of them is raging the issue of reservation in power. The reason behind this is the absence of the cultural movement among the OBCs. Unlike Tamilnadu where Periyar launched self respect movement for the OBCs and Dalits, north Indian OBCs still have not been able to divert their attention from the ritualistic Hindutva. The political ideas of the OBC leadership remained prejudicious and anti Dalits. Dalits is good for them as long as it vote to them but bad if the Dalit take the leadership. OBC leadership in the north must think that as long as they remain loyal soldiers of Hindutva as Ambedkar once said, they can not take on the powerful forces of corporations and religion, who jointly work together to thwart any new effort which challenges the status quo.

It is said that Periyar and his followers had no will to come to north and educate their ‘illiterate’ backward leaders who remain caged in the brahmanical agenda. Similarly, portraying Jyoti Ba Phule, as leaders of Bahujans have not worked as a community called Sainis feels that he was their leader. Kurmis have gone for Sardar Patel and Rajbhars towards Raja Sohail Dev. This is the irony of the entire movement in Uttar-Pradesh has been defeated by the shortsighted caste leaders who have very little to offer to their communities. They only need a power position and manipulating the sentiments of their communities. It is not for nothing that in Uttar-Pradesh, which is going to polls, that all the OBC-Dalit parties are running after the Brahmins and Thakurs. None of them have come out strongly against the current judgment of the Supreme Court. Perhaps, the leadership knows it would be too dangerous to ‘offend’ the Supreme Court because a majority of them are under the scanner of the Supreme Court.

More than the courts, Congress Party’s credentials in remain suspect in this regard. It is clear that with in the party, there is a group of member of Parliaments as well as Ministers who are opposed to quota for OBCs. One even doubt the credentials of H R Bhardwaj, the law minister who was brought back from hibernation for being Sonia loyalist, for his inability to put the government’s case properly in the court. A large number of OBC students who prepared for the IIMs and IITs have been denied human rights due to an intervention from the court, which many clearly term as retrogressive.

During the Mandal agitation and afterwards, it is the Dalits who have been supporting the reservation for the OBCs but OBC students hardly fought their battle. It is time for them to wake up and challenge the myth by the brahmanical media. Yes, I would say it firmly that Indian media remain confined to the sentiments of their fellow caste men who leave India after getting subsidized education from the elite institutions of IITs, IIMs and other institutions. This media does not see the plight of OBCs and MBCs.

It is the fallacy that the reservations have forced the upper castes to leave India. They had left India long before and they were using the services of the elite institutions to benefit their own community since a majority of them cannot afford to compete with the west on a level playing field.

The Indian Express today carried a story of Justice Parsayat quoting from the American Judiciary. The fact of the matter is that American Judicial system worked against the social justice but still it does not come in way of social justice. Secondly, in the United States and elsewhere, it is the minority, which is seeking the rights to be in the governance but in India it ironically the majority of Bahujans-Dalits who are asking to be given the space to govern and participate in the democracy. Prof Dipankar Gupta of the JNU has been in the news recently when he told the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in Geneva that there is no caste system in India and that the Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras do not have separate identities and they live together with great affection. Gupta has now come out strong in support of Supreme Court Judgment. Of-course, writing for mainstream media would not be that easy if you question the very basis of the Varnadhrama and its notoriety in keeping people subjugated. Dipankar Gupta is happy at the rational judgment of the Supreme Court and so are our friends in the media. The die has been caste and the judgment of the two-judge bench would become difficult for those who are celebrating today.

It may have been unintentional but the crude fact is that after the Supreme Court’s judgment, it is imperative for the government to go for a caste census. The upper caste leaders and bureaucracy has clearly not wanted to go for it, as they know it would be the last nail in their coffin. That the National Sample Survey which remains an organization of the upper elites in India could found 37% the population of the OBCs, and then it is for certain that the OBC population in Indian has grown much beyond what was in 1931. Let the government come out with a specific data on the OBC population and their social status. Just saying that all Yadavas have grown up because there are Mulayam and Lalu, is the travesty of truth. A majority of OBCs consisting MBCs whose social status remain as the Dalits. Ofcourse, these MBCs would always consider themselves higher in the social ladder despite weak economic strength yet they remain socially and educationally backwards.

There are various ways to measure socio economic ostracisation of the marginalized. And it should be done but the intention of the ruling party and those claiming ‘youth for equality’ is not to demolish the caste system but perpetrate it and ensure that their relatives and blood brothers remain safer in the new global world.

It is time not only for referendum but also for a constitutional review. To ensure that Parliament’s supremacy is retained, it is important that the leaders representing the communities have done their homework well. So far, there are very few who can speak with strength of their conviction and challenge. Democracy works on healthy relationship of judiciary with the Executive and legislature. One does not need moral preaching from the judges while exonerating themselves from the public scrutiny. If there is a Lokayukta for the state lagislature, there will have to be same provision for the judges also. And most importantly, why should the judiciary remain outside the ambit of quota and social justice. It is time for all the political parties, jurists, and academic to sit together and decide. The regular humiliation of merit and non-merit must stop. The country cannot remain silent when its majority is being humiliated by those who have no concern for the country and sole interest remain outside the country. Let us decide once for all, the entire issue of reservation. So it is also the time to review our constitution, which can make Parliament Supreme again. The present constitution was drafted by a legend called Ambedkar but his hands were tied with strong upper caste feudal presence in the constituent assembly. Let there be a new committee to look into the problems of the constitution and change it accordingly as numbers do matters in democracy. You cannot allow courts striking everything that is public welfare as against the spirit of the people.

Politicians have a lot to learn from this. No need for taking shelter in Supreme Court for taking potshots at others to score political goals. Introspecting the mistakes will help them realize whether it would the executive or the Supreme Court to run the country as they are doing it today. Their lack of convictions and moral high ground have given ample ammunition to the courts which might be unhealthy for democracy in the longer term as every good measure might be treated as ‘vote bank’ politics which the politicians are no doubt involved in. Time for them to look beyond their personal interest and serve the people.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Tribute to Bhagat Singh

The Idea of Bhagat Singh

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

On 23rd March 1931 the British government hanged three Indian revolutionaries namely Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. All of them embraced death in an entirely heroic way and therefore became legend for the common Indian masses. None of the youth leaders of India’s independence movement inspired a whole lot of generation as Bhagat Singh. Unfortunately, the ruling elite of the country reduced Bhagat Singh into a ‘terrorist’. The result was that these revolutionaries who were non violent in their thought and process and wanted to change India remain outside the purview of college students, many of them liked Bhagat Singh for being ‘violent’ and Gandhi for being ‘non violent’. However, in the absence of idealism and understanding of Indian situation, revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh are grossly under evaluated and misrepresented.

Therefore, it is important to understand the idea of Bhagat Singh in these hours of communalization where crony capitalist of Indian caste order continue to use God and religion for their nefarious purposes. Religion is the biggest market in India and other south Asian countries. Your religion is important to realize your love for nation. Hence being a Hindu in Pakistan and Bangladesh is a crime as being a Muslim in India or being a Tamil in Sri Lanka. Being a Dalit is a crime everywhere though constitutional provisions in India make it relatively better than its neighbors.

Bhagat Singh wanted a radical change in our system and would not have been satisfied with a mere transfer of power. It is absolutely demeaning when Bhagat Singh is referred as a terrorist and some of the commentators from our neighboring countries made comparison of attack on the Parliament with that on the Lahore Assembly. Our younger generation must know what Bhagat Singh stood for and therefore need to challenge such malicious writings which club a revolutionary with religious fanatics. It would be the travesty of truth if people like Bhagat Singh are bracketed with the religious fundamentalist.

The shocking attack on Indian parliament by the terrorists has been equated with the issue of bombing at the Central Legislative Assembly, Lahore, in 1929, where Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were involved. A question was asked by a Pakistani commentator as why is Bhagat Singh a nationalist and kashmiri Mujahidin as terrorists. After September 11th events the Pakistani ruling elite is under tremendous pressure to curb on the Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir, which the Pakistanis continue to term as ‘Mujahidin’despite the fact that most of them are not Kashmiris and have sneaked into the valley in the name of Islamic Jihad and are particularly targeting the people who dissent with them. Democracy has been the biggest casualty in the aftermath of the Islamisation process in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It is in the interest of us to know that the Congress particularly Gandhi did very little to save the lives of Bhagat Singh and his friends yet the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah termed them nationalists and tried to get support for them in Lahore’s political and legal circle. To understand the revolutionary zeal of Bhagat Singh one should study his writings in which he talks of humanity and brotherhood. It is equally important to understand as why Bhagat Singh became an atheist so that those who equate him with terrorism are exposed to his rational views which are not tainted in the garb of religion which the so-called Mujahidins are involved in. Bhagat Singh became an icon of Indian youth fighting against the British Imperialism and was hanged at the young age of 23 years when a large number of our political leaders were either at the primary stages of their career or enjoying their life abroad. Bhagat Singh never justified violence as he could have easily killed numerous political leaders present in the Lahore Assembly including Moti Lal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, if he had wanted that. The aim was just to awaken the ruling establishment about India’s long pending freedom. He said: “It is famous that I am a terrorist but I am not that. I am a revolutionary who has certain ideology, defined ideals and a long programme and if people think that after living in for a long period in the jail, there is any change in my ideologies then they are wrong. It is my firm belief that we cannot get any benefit from either bombs or pistols. Throwing bomb is not only dangerous but also harmful. It is required in certain specific conditions. Our main aim is the organization of laborers and farmers.”

Not only was Bhagat Singh against the communal parties and ideas but also his views on caste are equally inspiring. He mocked at India’s caste system and questioned the legitimacy of a system, which make people untouchable on the basis of their birth in a particular caste. He was equally aware of the capitalist class, which was compromising with the British imperial class. And certainly his conviction that this system based on exploitation can not be eliminated with just transfer of power from the British to ‘Indian British’. It needs revolution he said. As far as India was concerned, we can easily correlate the upper caste feudal power forces with that of the capitalist class in India who gained everything from the British occupation in India.

In fact, Bhagat Singh has become more relevant today when the state is abdicating its responsibility and private goons are being legitimized by it in the name of obstacles free capital while ignoring the same demand of the labor. It was this fact, which had disturbed Bhagat Singh and his comrades. April 8th, 1929, the Lahore Assembly was to pass a bill, which could have nullified the rights of the trade unions and labors. And this was the occasion, he felt, best, to convey his anger to those in powers. Bhagat Singh and his friends became immortal, the de-facto voice of the common man, labors and farmers of the country. While the bomb was not really meant to destroy the assembly and kill political leaders as they had made their intentions very clear. They became revolutionaries who inspired an entire nation cutting across caste and communal lines. In fact, it is heartening that Bhagat Singh is still an icon today for the youths all over the country.

On 6th June 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt said in a statement, ‘ To change the system based on injustice, we need revolution. Is it not a constructed injustice that the labors and producers, despite being the part of mainstream, are victim of exploitation and have been denied basic human rights? Farmers, who produces die of hunger. The weaver who weaves cloths for others cannot do so for his own family and children. Meson, Carpenters, Ironsmiths build huge palaces die living in huts and slums. On the other side, capitalist exploiters, anti social elements, spend crores of rupees on their fashion and enjoyment. Those who enjoy at the cost of hardworking and hungry people should understand that they are sitting on such a volcano which is about to erupt.’

The above statement clearly indicates the direction of Bhagat Singh’s thought. How worried he was about the caste and class structure in India. That he narrated the plight of the Dalits who he called as working classes is a remarkable and unparallel for a young man who was in his early twenties. It is rare for a person of that age to understand the caste prejudices and its dynamics not in terms of social and cultural but economical basis. Bhagat Singh that way was far ahead of his contemporaries. Not only he was worried about the capitalist class sucking the blood of common Indian with the blessing its imperialist masters but he clearly understood the caste dynamics and questioned the very legacy of the brahanical legacy when he wrote his famous essay ‘ The question of untouchable’.

But the powerful forces of the Raj hanged him so that the legitimate voices of the marginalized are silent but it was not to be. Bhagat Singh and his ideas have become doubly relevant in todays world where exploitation is legitimized. When the tribal are dying of hunger, when the farmers are committing suicide and when the Dalits have to face the brunt of assertion, ideas of Bhagat Singh reverberates in the air. Here was a man who unapologetically sacrificed his life for the cause of the people and country. That the country’s ruler’s are today creating ‘ Special Exploitative Zones’, to rebuild the Zamindari system which they proudly claim to have destroyed.

Tragically, while the Bhagat Singh rarely got appreciation by the Congress’s brand of historians who always belittled his contribution by arguing that a few people could not have fought with the might of British empire. The other ruling party which claim to inherit the legacy of Bhagat Singh does not feel shame in slaughtering people fighting for their rights in Nandigram. Is not ironical that the people who shed their lives for the country in the hope of an India where every person would have right over natural resources, where there would be no caste victimization and no oppression of the farmers, today we are witnessing the very antithesis of those ideas championed by Bhagat Singh.

It was the outstanding popularity of Bhagat Singh, his differences with Gandhi and other members of the Congress party, made the Sangh ideologues to assimilate Bhagat Singh as the hero of Hindutva. Like other icons such as Ambedkar who gave an inspiration to millions of oppressed world over to fight against status quo of the Varnashram dharma, they must realize that it is not an easy project for Hindutva, for, both Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh had rejected the Varna system, condemned the Hindu caste order and proudly embraced modernity. Both of them not only rejected but also questioned the so-called ‘glorious’ culture and heritage. Bhagat Singh became a staunch non-believer and remained so till his death even when his family people and colleagues tried to push him to believing God and God’s word at the last moment. That was the strength of his character that he was now cowed down. Ambedkar, for record, questioned and exposed the myths of the Hindu Social Order.

Bhagat Singh knew the dangers of religious fanaticism and capitalists legitimization of religion. Therefore it is ironical that Pakistani elite equated Bhagat Singh and Lahore assembly case with that of attack on Indian Parliament. It is blasphemous to put Bhagat Singh with religiously intolerant Islamic Jehadis or Hindutva fanatics who want to take their respective societies to backwardness and hand them over to priestly class, which had exploited them over the years. One can only laugh at the explanation and analysis of those who make such insinuation. Those who want to cleanse Kashmir or Gujarat from the ethnic minorities must understand that world is a global village and by spreading hatred in the name of religion will not work. Bhagat Singh has become immortal because of his outstanding ideas. His sacrifice for a progressive India where each of us could focus on human development. Where caste discrimination remain a thing of past and where all the ethic, religious, non religious minorities live together in extraordinary brotherhood.

As people continue to fight for their legimate rights which the Indian state has failed to provide them despite a working democracy. The democracy has turned to be a sham democracy as it turned out to be a representative democracy rather than a participatory one, youth of the country, the farmers, the Dalits, the tribal continue to live in utter marginalisation. The Muslims, the second majority of India remains clueless without any effective participation in power structure. The religious fanatics are raising their head. The affirmative actions remains failed because of our sincerity always remained doubtful. The farmers are struggling and getting fired. The country’s invited chaos today gives doubt of ‘ growth rate’. The political class has enjoyed the benefit of freedom and independence. Today, they lord over the state without any accountability. Every sector is infected with the virus of corruption. The caste prejudices have increased and God is completely hijacked by the priestly class while those oppressed are unable to ‘ reject’ the ‘love’ of God and therefore remain exploited. India remains a failed society. It remained a failed society because it was fearful of powerful ideas, as it did not want to debate openly those ideas. Bhagat Singh like Ambedkar and other humanist, rationalists are not just national icons because of their sacrifices or drafting of constitution of India. Yes, much bigger than the said ‘nationalism’ are their ‘ideas’. The ideas which shook the Indian ruling elite as well as the British empire and since their fight was not only against the British regime but also for an equitable society, a society based on modernity and science rejecting caste system, India unfortunately did not embrace their ideas. We went to the same elite class which enjoyed the fruits of power whether political or social and in return got superstition and rituals in the name of culture. Today, the market has ridiculously been using this ‘Indian’ culture for its own purposes therefore completely destroying our thinking capabilities and our sense of responsibility for the nation and other human beings.

Bhagat Singh’s ideas and sacrifice have the strength to bring hope in the lives of millions of struggling masses. Let us salute to this towering icon of our freedom movement for his indomitable spirit. Like Che Guevara, Bhagat Singh will always remain a hope for all those who believe in secular socialist values and reject the caste based hierarchical system. His legacy continue to inspire all of us who are still waiting for a modern India, an India with modern ideas and not what the crony corporate would make us believe. Yes, an India where 2% of the rogues are not smiling and shining at the cost of crying 98% oppressed who have lost their houses, forest, water, and land and whose tears do not reach the India shining media. Therefore, Bhagat Singh and his ideas have become more relevant today for the youths to stand up and challenge an entire system, which has become corrupted, dysfunctional and captive to parochial religious thugs.