Monday, December 28, 2009

Following the Rule of law means end of Justice?

Salute to the spirit of struggle of Subedar Jasram

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

As I write this tribute to a very respected friend who looked to me to get the justice for over 150 landless Dalit families in Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, for over 20 years. It was way back in 1994 when Subedar Jasram met me in Delhi at Ambedkar Bhavan. It was a meeting called by a friend when Subedar narrated story of horror in the Tarai region of Uttar-Pradesh. Afterwards, we got in touch regularly watching and reviewing the situation in that region where land ceiling laws were never implemented and where the terror of certain communities are still the order of the day.

We all know how difficult it is to fight for land battle in this region where a padyatra conducted by us last year was met with spying of our activities and threatening the poor villagers of dire consequences. The threat did not end at the grassroots, it came to me many time on my mails and various comments at my blogs too. In 1995, when some of us went from Delhi to investigate the case and assure the villagers that we are working with them, the encroachers of the land, attacked us for ‘inciting’ the ‘harijans’, a term deliberately used to describe the Dalits. Subsequently, the threats continued and when they did not work, there were efforts for co-option and finally the economic boycott of the Dalits.

Each activity was reported to not only the courts, but to the governments of the days in the form of representations to political parties and autonomous institutions yet nothing yielded result. Led by both Maywati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, the governments in Uttar-Pradesh did not do anything. Contrary to this, they played with those who had really exploited the Dalits, the powerful land mafia in the region. Later, when Uttarakhand state came into being, the condition of Dalits worsened in this region as the government, the bureaucracy did not work to help them.

To those who do not know the background of this, I would like to inform that, over 1167 acres of land in possession of M/s Escorts Farms Limited by declared as surplus land by the Commissioner of Nainital in 1990s. Nobody ever take notice of it as the land was being tilled by about 150 Dalit families who had developed ‘Ambedkar Gaon, near Hari nagar. Several years later, when the land became cultivable by seer hard work of the Dalits, the owners of M/s Escorts Farms Limited realized that the land should now be cleared. With the help of police and local administration they not only bulldozed the community but put them behind the bar for charges of illegal occupation of land and trying to disturb peace. Cases were filed in local courts. Commission of inquiries suggested that the Dalits were tilling the land and had some cemented structure also, but the company always tried to say that nothing existed. In a clever and manipulative way, it challenged the government’s ceiling order in the high court to make it a case between the government and the company. It was natural but with efforts, the Allahabad High Court decided to hear the cases of the Dalits as a grieving party.

In 1997, Allahabad High Court’s judgment upheld the order of the Commissioner of Kumaon, Nainital and posed a fine of Rs ten lakh on the company to compensate the government. It also asked the government to suitably rehabilitate the Dalits.

The government never took control of it. I had personally been involved in the entire exercise. From the chief ministers to senior leaders, we searched every option. The National Human Rights Commission, SC-ST Commission and every avenue in this ‘liberal’ democracy was used but to no avail. The government never took over the land. Interestingly to our disgust, the lords of the company were selling the land illegally to people outside the state. Nobody can procure land in Uttarakhand yet the number of immigrants from other states have been increasing but our governments do not understand this. Most of them are poor farmers from Punjab who have been lured for big land in this region. They end up in nothing as they can not really legally own it.

The aggrieved party went to the Supreme Court and in February 2004, it lost the case there. The two judge bench upheld Allahabad High Court order yet the authorities decided not to act on it. Again, we had the same exercise asking the political leadership to act. Congress party had come to power at the centre in May 2004 and Sonia Gandhi became chairperson of National Integration Council. Representation were made to her but nothing happened. Instead, the honorable chief minister of Uttarakhand, Mr Narain Dutt Tiwari, found a noble way of implementing the court’s order. He first ordered demolition of the houses of encroachers and later when lot of noises were made by Akali Dal and other political parties including BJP and Bharatiya Kisan Union, that Sikhs were being targeted in Tarai, redistributed to the same land to people along with hefty compensation package. Finally, Subedar Jasram approached the Lokayukta for justice. Some of us informed him to find out the political solution rather then approaching the courts as it was too tidy and danger of being rejected. After two years of hearing, the Lokayukta of Uttarakhand, Justice S.Z.Raza submitted a report to state government indicting the revenue department and district magistrate of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar for violating the Supreme Court order. When we challenged the government redistributing the land to those who the court called encroachers, the government rejected our plea. It said that it has a right to redistribute the ceiling surplus land according to its own choice and it can not be forced to distribute it in a particular way. We showed them the clauses of the Zamindari Abolition Act and also the clause of how the ceiling land should be redistributed after declaring surplus which clearly mentioned SC, ST, war widows etc. All those who were given land never came under this category but nothing happened. Based on the report of Lokayukta, we went to the Supreme Court where the petition is pending for final disposal.

This is a small side of a big story which has taken nearly 20 years and yet to get justice. Subedar Jasram, who was 85 years of age continued with this battle. Just four days before his death, I tried to speak to him. His family contacted me that he is in the last stage and was barely able to speak. I said that we will win this battle. He was an optimist. I never saw a person like him. He did not suffer from any ideological crisis. He wanted land for his people. He was very simple but true to his convictions. I know very well that every movement has to pass through it. Hungary stomachs can not wait for even a year. People used to contribute money but justice was not in our hand. People would blame him that he is not doing enough but what could we do. We did not have enough number to make a protest felt in Dehradun, or Nainital. Most of the Dalits there are immigrants and the upper caste dominated Uttarakhand simply has no time for them. Narain Dutt Tiwari, the honorable retired governor of Andhra Pradesh was instrumental in getting many outsiders huge benami land in this region. He simply did not act on any of our complaints. In fact, why should he alone, none were ready to act.

It was painful for old man to come to Delhi and walk kilometers and kilometers. He would complain to me that it was becoming difficult for him to walk now. For us finding lawyers were difficult. All those who claims to be champion of social justice, become typical lawyers when we go to them. It was difficult to convince the lawyers. They would go with their speed. For them every case is same. It does not matter whether it is delayed or not. I knew the pain of an activist. I know we feel disgruntled at the turn of event but at the home people would always ask: what is happening? When is the judgment coming? Many time, I felt whether we are cheating people for not fighting a big battle. I do not know what is big battle by asking people to pick up arms. I never believed in that as I know nobody has got anything out of it so far. All those fairy tales are good in red books only and not in real books. But definitely our record as a democracy does not shine.

These uncomfortable questions were regular for me. Once I approached a political friend of mine from the region to help ask his government to expedite the case and he promised to bring a set of ruling party leaders but for that we needed big mobilization of people. I declined saying that was not possible for me to arrange a huge political rally for him. It was a clear case of human rights violation and for resolving them, we do not need to bring a massive crowd. How can a minority community bring massive mobilization in India? I remember Baba Sahib’s prophetic words that a Gandhi can do fasting unto deaths for Muslims but not for the Dalits. Same thing is true today. The seculars do not get interested in Dalit cause. So they remain completely isolated and marginalized where their numbers are absolutely miniscule. That is the tragedy of India.

Subedar, during his battle lost his two sons and his wife. He was a rare gem of person who served his wife who was totally paralytic. He would talk to her and help her in emergencies unlike other ‘revolutionary’ males in India who are typical husbands at home while champion of liberalism outside. Whenever, I used to visit him, he would be sitting with his wife. She would ask me : ‘zamin to mil jayegi na’.. kya main dekh paoongi who din’.. ( hope I will get the land… can I see that day.. ) and the subedar would always remind her that people like me are always there with them.

Last year, we decided to do a Padyatra to carry on the battle and send a political message to those in powers to implement the court verdict. These government officials are simply anti Dalits and do not want to even negotiate. We were hounded every day by intelligence officials while the powerful mafia were after us, asking us to mend our ways. Subedar was very happy with our yatra. He promised to send his colleagues to our yatra. The age was catching him. And just two days before the yatra reached the village Harinagar, on December 28th, Subedar Jasram had a massive heart attack but he survived. I felt it was his spirit that survived him. We continued our padyatra in that difficult hour and culminated at his home. All of us met him and he realized that people from different regions were there for the padyatra. He felt bad as he wanted to greet each of us. That day, In realized that he had enough energy as none of the friends who met him that day felt that he would survive for long.

It was a miracle that the Subedar survived even after that. I had been updating him about our activities and about the court case. He was ever optimist of our efforts. He wanted to organize a big reception when the final order would come. Some time, I always felt that it was difficult to say no to people when they have hopes. Even a person like me who never felt much in these institutions had to believe in and do the best. Things were not in our hand and we could only do our best. The community was not there all the time. Many of them had died and many migrated. Most of the young children today have their children and narrate the horrifying image of that time. They have passed through one period. Rarely very few of them got educated. Subedar ensured that his grand children and daughter get educated, ofcourse, none of them had much with the movement.

Like every social activist, subedar too was quite alone at home. Some of his family people cared for him while other did not. Perhaps they felt that the man was giving too much time to villagers at their cost. Other felt his need for the land piece. I do not know what to say but some time I feel what one gets after following the constitution of this country. All of us who follow rule of law have to die without getting justice. Today, when I see tribal fighting their battle with gun, I do not know how to condemn them, I have a clear case in my own front, and waiting for justice and my beloved friends are leaving one by one without justice. There is no one to weep for all those who do not have a tag of big neta, abhineta or an educated intellectual. People like subedar Jasram, who contributed to the cause of their community, with a big heart remain unknown as those who write history only do parikrama around a few political leaders.. for them that is the final moment of empowerment but none of them dare to write that despite all these noise and slogan of empowerment, people still waiting for justice. What will be the compensation for those who lost their every thing ? Can any one return the life of those youngsters who lost their livelihood, their parents, their land and therefore their schooling?

For me, it is a personal failure. Though I am still optimist as our courts will do justice and the shameless political class will act on the cry of people, I am at loss of words for my inability to get things on time. One remains helpless in the heap of papers in the name of law. One remains pitied once you visit to a court. You are not at your own. You can only hope. I am sure the great services of Subedar jasram and his friends will not go in vain despite all these disappointments and shocks. The struggle for life will continue. Jai Bhim, Subedar, I salute your endless spirit. Hope it will inspire all of us and all those who have heard about his tireless efforts to get justice to his community. May be being a soldier, as well a Dalit, he had faith in country’s constitution. Subedar is no more and the wait is now more painful. Hope the pain does not convert into anger as Baba Saheb had predicted in his constituent assembly speech. The political class must ponder over, that if it continues to deny people justice, if our court become shelter of power brokers, then the oppressed communities will take law in their own hand and destroy everything that we do in the name of democracy. That would the saddest day for India as no body would have patience like me in the democratic values as people today are becoming more and more fed up with the current structure helping the status quoists and denying the oppressed their legitimate due to live with dignity.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Implement reservation in Private Sector

Udit Raj on fast unto death against non implementation of reservation in private sector

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Jantar Mantar in Delhi is witnessing numerous hunger strikes and fast unto deaths these days. The Telengana verdict has suddenly focused on the power of self sacrifice for people’s cause. Though essentially a Gandhian tool, fast unto death is becoming a new instrument to highlight the issue and compel the ‘insensitive’ authorities to activate it.

In the post globalised India, when the government job sector is shrinking, it is important the challenges are tackled in the new way. The reservation debate can not remain the same as it used to be. Now, private sector constitutes a big chunk and the government has itself disinvested many of its public sector companies. Though Dr Udit Raj and the organization that he is president off, namely All India Confederation of SC/ST Employees Associations have always opposed privatization and globalization, yet they feel that despite their political opposition, it is time that government accepts their demand for reservation in private sector.

Associations of SC-ST employees under the banner of Confederation as well as Indian Justice Party, are sitting on Dharana since November 19th in Delhi for speedy implementation of the quota, particularly completing the backlogs which are not being promoted. So, far no government official has visited them. Not a single member of parliament thought of this issue and political parties have not felt it an issue to be responded. ‘ it is rather unfortunate and painful, feel Dr Udit Raj, who decided to sit on fast unto death for this cause, which he feel is much bigger than being a prime minister or chief minister of a state. It empowers the entire community, it is not for some time and it does not just empower an individual, he emphasized.

Udit Raj has been in the forefront of campaign to save reservation. The Confederation has been organizing rallies and protest marches, meeting ministers, planning commission members, Member of Parliaments and Group of Ministers. The UPA government formulated a bill in the fag end of its previous term which was produced in Parliament in February 2009. It was passed by Rajya Sabha but the Lok Sabha did not pass it. There were many objectionable points in the bill which again re-emphasized the issue of ‘merit’, for the ‘creamy’ positions. So, according to the bill, many of the ‘expert’ positions would not have reservation in the name of ‘compromising’ with merit. The Confederation opposed it but now the government in the new term is not interested at all to bring the bill. Udit Raj feel that the bill for ensuring reservation must come in parliament but not in its original form. They have given their suggestions to the government.

In 2004, when the UPA government came to power, it had a lot of intention to listen to us. It started a dialogue on this with industries which were not supportive of quota but promised the following :

1. Creating 100 entrepreneur
2. Supporting 500 professional from SC-ST in better institutions nationally-internationally,
3. supporting 10,000 students for coaching.

The prime minister’s office had been monitoring this for long but now, feels Udit Raj, one does not know what the status of these promises made by the industries. What have industries done so far voluntarily which they emphasised so much? That is why, he says, we oppose to these voluntary efforts which end up voluntarily without any accountability.

‘Now, Congress party does not want to speak on the issue. The Dalit parties are unable to go beyond their castes and Muslim reservations. No question is raised in parliament. The issue is completely suppressed. CII and ASOCHAM, FICCI became proactive against quota and emphasized on voluntarism again.’

Udit Raj feel that government should bring reservation act in this session only after correcting anomalies in it particularly no reservation in class I post in the name of compromise with merit. Reservation is not a compromise with merit, he says. The government must implement reservation as per law and there should be no dilution in it. Now, we have information that it has dropped filling backlog posts which is in lakhs. Its various departments and bureaucrats are playing dirty games to stop implementation of reservation.

Udit Raj plunged into politics after much struggle for SC-ST employees and their rights. But the political games are different. At the grassroots, lot of issues, contradictions comes up and he too had to face these dark realities of caste and sub caste. Today he feel disgusted with all this though he continues to fight. He says ‘ Fighting for reservation in private sector is most important than fighting for becoming PM and CM, as it gives strength to entire community and not one individual. Secondly, it is permanent solution to our issues and all other positions are time bound and you may not be there the next time. He gives example of Sahara company which employ nearly 10 lakh persons. How many of them are Dalits ? If there is no fixed quota and no constitutional guarantee, there will not be many SC-STs. They may recruit one or two voluntarily but then who will stop the discrimination? Most of the HR people in private sector are dominated by high caste Hindus who have their own prejudices against us.

‘Why has he not been able to get political success’, I ask. ‘Sub- castism and blackmoney are the factors that are influencing activists and leaders today. He complaint against Mayawati government in Uttar-Pradesh is that it is promoting predominantly belong to one community and now helping the upper castes. Secondly, due to consumerism, radicalism is lacking among people. He challenges those who claim to be Ambedkarites and still promoting their own caste interests and talks of caste identities. He says that Ambedkar stood for total ‘annihilation’ of castes and caste identities do not help the Dalits at all. It may help them at first one to consolidate but at the end it helps the upper castes only. Dalits should come together under one identity of Dalits and not consolidate their own castes, as it would defeat Ambedkar’s broader perspective of a common struggle against brahmanical system.

He says that those who talk of identity politics among Dalits must understand the social struggles and movements and should not speak from ivory towers. ‘Do not divide dalits on caste and sub-caste identities as it will kill the movement? He feels those who are talking of sub caste identities are actually making irresponsible statements. They do not face ground reality. They should see it and then talk. Caste identity helps individual leaders but at the end of the day it harms. Dalit community is emotional and any appeal on caste identity is based on that emotion and the political leader is not responsible for any other work.

One of the major point of our discussion in the Jantar Mantar was about globalization. What do you think of globalization as many of our friends perceive it helping the Dalits, I ask. Udit Raj is very clear on these issues, actually much more then those who claim to have understood Ambedkarism. He says, not only as an individual but the Confederation and Indian Justice party is oppose to globalization and economic liberalization. Initially, some of us felt that globalization would help change in mindset of the people. People are adopting new technologies but not really changing their mindset. Secondly, the fact is that it is the Dalits and tribal who are losing their livelihood, their lands, their work, their forest, water and their jobs. So, how can we be insensitive to not think of this massive onslaught on our right by them? International corporate works in close cooperation with their Indian counterparts, so where is Dalits in this entire agenda. He admits that it is the similar mistake that we made in understanding communism. We thought caste and class was same but it did not happen. We felt that the same would happen with globalization that it would lead to change in mindset and liberate them but mind never got globlised and upper caste hatred and prejudices remained same against the Dalits.

Udit Raj also feels that the talks of smaller states are fraught with danger. How can any body who claim to understand the issue of Dalits think of dividing Uttar-Pradesh in to so many regions and disempowered them. Today, Dalits in Uttar-Pradesh are organized and can stand despite all our differences but if a Harit Pradesh come into being, will the Dalits remain the same. A Harit Pradesh is nothing but a dominant idea of a kingdom of high caste farmers who have always exploited Dalits and been ruthless in their violence against Dalits. Similarly it will happen in Bundelkhand where the Dalits remain predominantly landless. Both, western UP and Bundelkhand has high oppression of Dalits by the powerful farming communities. If these regions are made states, Udit Raj, says, the Dalits will go back to their early stages. Situation in Telengana is different then these areas. In Telengana, there is substantive Dalit presence and they have been part of the movement for long, fought different battles hence a demand for a separate state in Telenagna can not be equated to that of Western Uttar-Pradesh, Eastern Uttar-Pradesh and Bundelkhand. Dalits will have nothing in their hand politically, if these states come into being.

Today Udit Raj decided enough is enough. The government does not listen to the genuine demands of Dalits and their empowerment. One must not ignore the cause of Dalit representation. Like land, reservation is a potential weapon to empower the Dalits. It gives them leverage to power structure. So, far only upper caste used to sit on fast unto death for their cause, what is wrong with Dalits doing the same for their cause. It is important Dr Udit Raj as cause of reservation in these times, when the government is diluting and political leaders remain conspicuously silent to get upper caste votes, some body has to do the needful. Udit Raj needs your support for the cause.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Threat to the livelihood of Dalits and tribals in Tarai

‘Tarai main Dalit Adivasi Asmita pe badhata Sankat’
‘Threat to Dalit-Adivasi livelihood in Tarai’

A documentary by Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Language: Hindi
Duration : 35 minutes

Land Rights activists belonging to National Land Alliance went on a Padyatra to highlight the issue of land rights of dalits and tribals in the Tarai region of Uttar-Pradesh and Uttarakhand in December last year. Tarai is a fertile belt on the foothills of Himayalas and consist of districts like Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, Lakhimpur Khiri, Pilibhit, Baharaich, Gonda districts of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh states. The Padyatra started from Golbohji forest village in Palia district of Uttar-Pradesh on December 13th, 2008. After traveling 20-25 kilometer a day, the Padyatra finally culminated at Harinagar village in Kundeswari (kashipur), Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar today on December 28th, 2008. During these 16 days, the marchers did social audits of various villages, addressed village community meetings and talked to students in different colleges and schools. They talked about human rights, humanism and challenge of climate change and threat to our environment. Some of the activists well trained in miracle exposure programmes also displayed their skills in these educational institutions and village Panchayats. During these 16 days, the Padyatris stayed at village Panchayat Bhavans, slept in the tribal areas and visited large part of those villages which are still facing discrimination and exclusion in their daily lives either from social system or from the government departments.

The main reason of this Padyatra was to highlight the importance of land and livelihood issues of the Dalit-tribal communities in tribal region of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh. Communities such as Tharus, Boxas (a Primitive Tribal Group), Tongiyas is a matter of great concern as they remain isolated and excluded in the general set up of both the states. The condition of these communities is particularly alarming in Uttarakhand because of lack of understanding of Dalit-tribal culture and popular mass support. In the Tarai region the sale-purchase of tribal land is prohibited yet most the tribal land today has been transferred to dominant communities here. The tense peace exist here as these communities are so well oppressed that they find it difficult to explain their conditions to outsider as the goons of the powerful communities and land mafias always spy upon them. Both the Tharus and Boxas are victim of the forest department also and border police also.

In its last leg, the Padyatra reached Harinagar ( Kundeshwari) today. After 16 days and crossing over 350 kilometer of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh state, the reason of culminating the Padyatra in Harinagar, Kundeswari was to support the demand of over 150 landless Dalit families who have been fighting for their land rights for the past 20 odd years when they were brutally thrown away from the land they had been tilling for many years and which was declared ceiling surplus by the Commissioner of Kumaon, Nainital. Despite favorable verdict from the highest courts of the land, the government of the state did not have the courage to implement the ceiling act there and provide land to these peace loving people who had shown their faith in the constitution of India and did not resort to any unlawful activities. Social Development Foundation has gone to Supreme Court against the empathy of the Uttarakhand government against these people but shockingly the government of the state in a brazenly shameless way suggested that the Dalits do not hail from the district. In the same affidavit the government justify giving land to those Sikhs who were declared encroachers by the Supreme Court and who actually were responsible for excluding and discriminating against the Dalits. We ask the question to the state government as how come these people got land under ceiling act and what was the criteria used for them ?

Now, based on our experiences and fact finding during the Padyatra, we have produced a 35 minute documentary ‘ Tarai main Dalit Adivasi asmita per badhta sankat’ i.e. ‘Threat to Dalit-Adivasi livelihood in Tarai’. The documentary is based on direct interviews with victims who have lost their land to various dominant forces in the region including land mafia, forest department and irrigation department. It gives you a live picture how Tharu, Boxa villages are on the verge of extinction and how the Dalits despite court’s order have not been able to get their legitimate due.

The struggle for social justice continues in this hostile region of India where political parties, social action groups, media have kept conspicuous silence on non implementation of land laws including redistribution of land and implementation of land ceiling act. Our effort is to bring these ugly facts to you so that as activists, jurists, media persons, government officials, political leaders, you would be able to take it further. It is a voluntary effort hence we have not been able to create more CDs. We request your support for it. Those who would be interested can write to me for CDs and DVDs. The contributory price for CD would be Rs 200/- and for DVD Rs 500/-.

We would be screening the documentary at different places including colleges, social action group’s programmes. Friends, who would be interested to organize any event or discussion on issue are welcome and can contact me for the same.

Remembering my Padyatra : How disabled are isolated in the family

A Night of horror: Isolation of a disabled in the family

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

On December 13th, 2008, we started a Padyatra i.e March on foot, on the issue of land and forest rights in the Tarai region of Uttar-Pradesh and Uttarakhand. We were about 25 land rights activists from both Uttar-Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the padyatra started from Gulbojhi village in palia tehsil of lakhimpur khiri district Uttar-Pradesh. Gulbojhi is a forest village and on the verge of extinction because of the threat posed by the forest department. Every individual is being monitored and each activity of the Tharu Advisis are considered as a challenge to the state. The village people were frustrated by the continuous exploitation by both the forest department and police which is bordering the border with Nepal.

About 4 in the afternoon, we started our walk as the villagers finished the meeting. Amidst darkness of December, about 100 villagers walked with us, shouting slogans, ‘ Give Justice to Tharus, Forest department stop exploitation of tribals, Land distribution must be done in the Tarai areas and many other related slogans. As the Padyatra was being done in the deeply dense forests, and completely isolated tribal areas, it was natural that the issue of debate may not be same as among the Dalits. When we entered in the forests, the tribal women on each turn would pick up a dry stick and throw it in to into a common place. I was quite amazed and asked what they were doing. The answer was that it was their way of praying the goddess to keep them safe. Once you pass through the deep forest, it is a ritual to pray goddess for their safe return.

We walked nearly 20 kilometer that night. It was tough but never tiring. The sky was absolutely dark and the stars were greeting us. There was no mobile access anywhere. In fact, all those who were carrying mobile, had to stand over a ‘teela’ to get access. WE were worried as none of us could contact our family members. Amidst, this complete natural darkness we were warned that wild animals roam around but I was definitely waiting to see the tiger. I had my camera ready to capture any eventual situation. The entire forest was being enveloped by cold waves and fog. We reached the village of Beldandi where we were supposed to have our night halt.

The house was like a palace. Hugely build compound with nicely cleaned mud floors painted by cowdung, as Tharus live in joint families and one family consist of more than 40 people in most of the time. While the food was being prepared, at one side of the house, people were sitting in round enjoying the fire. You can enjoy fire at such place which was deeply cold and one can see expensive wood being used for this, the wood that would be a luxury for most of us in cities.

After much difficulty, all our friends were able to get some space. At one room, about 20 activists were asked to adjust for sleeping. As it was the winter of December, it was nearly impossible to sleep outside. Most of us had come prepared with blanket and woolens as we knew that it would be difficult to move around in this chilled cold for the next 15 days. We had used the ‘Pual’ leaves as our bedding, apart from a common durry. Any peep outside was horrible and fearsome as the darkness would haunt you. I slept near the door in the adjacent room with nearly six seven people. It was about 10 pm and as usual in the villages by 7 pm it is night and by 9 it is like mid night, when everything must have been sleeping in the dead night, a voice came from the room. In the room, most of the friends had been joking and talking so I thought they had not slept yet. Again, the voice came, the man was trying to say something, but there was no response. Our friends were unable to understand that. After some time, the man started shouting virtually abusing. I felt that may be he was not happy with our friends sleeping in his room. I was unable to understand but I felt deeply pained as why the family people were unable to respond to him. I was not aware about the person, but I could realize that man was unable to speak but he was in desperate need. To my utter horror, none in the big family thought of attending the need of the person. I inquired from my colleagues as why is no body responding. I found that the man was deaf and dumb, he was an elderly person in the family, one of the uncles of these family people who was suffering from disability and was virtually unable to walk. He needed support. He was desperate to pee yet none in the family thought that he should be helped. In utter disgust he peed on the bed only. He was crying and shouting all the night. After, the first pee, he kept quiet. I suppose he did not have enough quilt and hence was shivering. I asked the family people to take care of him. After an hour and a half, a girl woke up and went to him. Perhaps helped him go to pee and came back. There were no words. The elderly men in the house were contemptuous towards him and nobody had any botheration about his needs and issues. I was really wondering as why the family has such atrocious attitude towards its elder.

Around 3 pm in the night, the old man again cried. He started shouting again, virtually abusing to every one. I thought that the man is about to die. He voice was terrible. In the mid night of forest, when there is no human being other then your family, when there is complete dark outside, no electricity. For us, it was not good to intervene except to inform the family people to please take care of him. Yet, so brutal were the members of the family that they were just abusing him in night rather than helping him.

So, the entire night passed off without a proper sleep, ofcourse, we all had a good sleep as every body was too tired by walking nearly 20 kilometer and that too not plain road but concreted semi completed roads. In the morning the man was sleeping. I tried to find out as what happened and why none was coming to him. My friends who have been working with the tribal narrated a horrible tale. He said that the man was suffering from various problems and these people refuses to take him to the doctor and feel that he has some evil spirit in him. Actually, in these forests, you will not find doctors. Government has not reached here except that the police and intelligence people might roam around, eat and sit with villagers and forest people might ask for the cut. Hence in the absence of doctor, the people only believe in the local ‘tantriks’ and witchcraft hunters. So, this man who had become invalid because of his physical position, who could not walk around, could not talk anything was considered to have been possessing evil spirit. And that was the reason, he was kept in ‘isolation ward’. Since, we were outsiders and did not know anything, each one of us was put in that room with him without informing us the condition of the man. I asked to the family people as why don’t they help him. Every one say that if they go to the room they too would be possessed by the same evil spirit.

But that was terrible for me to hear. As the sun came out, I found the same man sitting outside with family women sitting with him. Why was it that the same evil spirit not possessing them during the day? Actually, this is an excuse to help the people. This is the condition of physically challenged and older people at home. Since they need special attention and unfortunately none has time and patience to help them, we end up in developing different stories about them. The ghost, the evil spirit is just pretence to get rid of the person. In traditional societies, these people remain unwanted. They have sin of previous birth and hence not to be looked after.

During our fifteen days foot march, we came across numerous such incidents when we found how the modern value system remain far and outside the reach of communities and how the local feudal elements, anti people leaders dominate the society. Though Tharus are relatively a bitterly govern matrilineal system yet their isolation from the rest of the world has put them in the hands of these witchcraft hunters and local village priests, who exploit. Every where, whenever we talked of equality and treating every one equal, showing our care for physically challenged children, people would bring more from their home to show us, in the hope of help. It was tragic that you would not like to treat them equally but if you get some money in lieu of their ‘picture’, you will bring them out from the ‘leftout’ boxes to say please help him, he or she can not do anything.

We all know that poverty is the biggest crime but in our villages it is poverty of ideas that exists today. I remember Dr Ambedkar’s prophetic words as why village need a change, a revolution to look forward. Why he was angry with the whole village system which caste based and brutal in terms of its treatment to its own people. Those who are romantic of this life, should try to understand this isolation of the people. It is time for all of us to fight this internal discrimination existing in our society where prejudices based on your caste and physical disability put you in isolation. In the caste discrimination, you are violated by the others but being a physically challenged, your own family leaves you to fetch yourself. Such brutal system must be condemned with. The answer lies in our social movements to work for social change in the villages. It is not that I am condemning them but we must realize that in terms of preserving rigid social structure, villages are very particular. The issue of ‘ijjat’, i.e. honor is the highest in the village. And honor come from big land holding, smart children with fair colour, marriages and so many things. Among these the most honorable thing is having sons and belonging to a particular caste. Hence if you have a son or a daughter with a disability then you will always find people coming to you and taking pity at your son or daughter who ever has some disability. Rather than fighting against these prejudices, people preserve them, try to justify them under various excuses and kill the spirit of these people by showing pity at them. There is no encouragement and they are completely isolated in social customs, marriages and other functions. Therefore, we need social movements against evils in our society. I d not say that these prejudices are not there in cities but they are reducing also. We need to fight against them and not keep them under the carpet. These movements should emerge with in but with a wind of freedom and not in the caves of isolation. The world has changed a lot for better, so we too need to change for better.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Victory of people's aspiration in telengana

Power of the unorganized: Hail the decision for a separate Telengana state

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

It is December 10th today, the day of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And co-incidentally, it became the day of a new dawn for Telenagana people. So definitely, a day of victory of people’s right. Hail it.

Telengana will be a reality soon. The announcement by Home Minister P.Chadambaram, in the midnight has ended the uncertainty around this and brought back life in the historical city of Hyderabad. Obviously the city did not sleep. The whole region is witnessing festivities.

It is a happy occasion. It has been the longest struggle in the history of India that a people who have been denied rights to development, had to struggle this way. But at the end the
Government of the day realized that it has no option but to hear the voices of the people.

This brings us to the main lesson from this spontaneous outburst of the people of Telengana. That no organized movement succeed as that is led by particular party and leaders, to succeed, you have to reach the heart of the people and people have to participate at their own. Though TRS ignited the flame. It was the main party that raised the issue of Telengana during the past few years, yet if the current upsurge is concern, it was obvious that people had decided, enough is enough. It is the power of democracy.

This victory of people of Telenagna has lessons for all. Particularly for those who consider democracy as mere bourgeoisie one. Who consider democracy can not give them any thing. That it is a fad and they pick up guns and mould public opinion on the basis of guns. Yes, it is time for them to think off. Come in the political battle to fight for their cause. There is enough space in India to put the government on knees and get your right. A democracy, even in the worst form is million time better then a theocratic state or dictatorial communist regimes which uses military tanks to keep people suppressed, deny them right to speak and organize.

This is time to celebrate. I know cynics will say what difference does it makes. Ofcourse, it is up to people to control their leaders, monitor their work and put them to mat with the electoral process. Yes, ballots have more power then bullets. As I said there is no time to think how it will happen. Take some time, think of it and work for a better state you all worked hard to achieve. Let the hatred from the heart go. This is not a victory. In democracy it is people’s victory. It is not a defeat of any one as at the end of the day, we all are citizens of India and interdependent on each others. Many people will move to their states but they will still have friends and relatives in other states. So, all the heart burns must end here. Andhra and Telengana should be friend again as equal partners.

There will be many such demands for more states and the centre will have look into them. They will strengthen India and its idea of diversity. This is the realization of the rightful demand of the people of Telengana. If at all, it is the victory of democratic system in India, it is the victory of idea of India. Let those who are working with tribal, claiming to fight for their rights learn from this historic struggle of Telengana as how government can be brought to understand their demand. It is democracy and in democracy it is people who matter most. Many states have been created on people’s popular will but the role of the people is now much bigger. And it is to control their leaders and force them to take their decisions in public interest. We are waiting for that day. One hope, the people of Telengana, will keep this spirit up when the new government takes over the state. The battle for human rights has begun now.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Time for a Separate State of Telengana

Time to listen the painful cry of Telengana

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K.Rossaih has recently said in an interview that his government can not do much about bifurcation of state as it does not come under his purview and the center has to take action on it. It is interesting that Congress party is says it supports the demand for separate Telengana. State parties like Telugu Desham has already come out in support of it and BJP raised the issue in the parliament. TRS is already there in Telengana spreading the stir, therefore one does not understand as what stops the government to form a separate state of Telengana if its people, do not want to live under the regime dominated by Andhrite. It is shocking that state government does not want to speak on it. Most of the state which has been carved ouf of their previous states have actually been created when resolution have been passed by the respective assemblies. For Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattishgarh, state assemblies of Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh passed resolutions for these states.

Yes, left part as usually are opposed to the creation of Telengana state. For last six decades they claimed to be the champion of Telenagana’s Dalits and Adivasis, informed us in their wonderful narratives, how they snatched land from the ‘powerful’ ‘ landlords’ and handed over to the poor Dalits which is rarely visible. The movement build up them remain no where. One does not know whether it is another educated conspiracy to keep the local populace subjugated under their ‘revolutionary’ leadership.

Telengana’s current upsurge reminds me of Uttarakhand’s mass protest against Uttar-Pradesh government

While, I am not fascinated personally by these arguments of small or big, as every argument has a counter argument. I was born in the hill state of Uttarakhand which was earlier part of Uttar-Pradesh and totally different from it in terms of culture, languages and geography. Irony was that top political leaders of Uttar-Pradesh came from Uttarakhand such Gobind Ballabh Pant, H.N.Bahuguna and N.D.Tiwari (interestingly all Brahmins and Congress party chief ministers). And any demand of Uttarakhand was looked down upon by this class for their own interest. No political party except for Uttarakhand Kranti Dal have been fighting for separate statehood. Whenever the Uttarakhand activists would go there, ND Tiwari would mention ‘ Uttarakhand state would come over my dead body’.

Tragically, the Hindutva’s forces were first to realize it. They jumped on anti Uttar-Pradesh sentiments of the people and came out openly in support of the state. It was 1993. The tumultuous years of Post Babari demolition. Uttar-Pradesh became new hot ground for Dalit Bahujan’s new access to power politics. India’s political map was changing and Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar went totally in control of these political forces, though not socially, economically and educationally, yet losing political control was painful.

The Uttar-Pradesh government was not keen on implementing Mandal commission recommendation in the state. After lot of pressures from different political forces, Mulayam Singh Yadav government actually accepted the report and notified under a separate government order ( GO). This single decision made Mulayam Singh Yadav and Maywati the biggest villain in Uttarakhand state. As a person deeply involved in the Ambedkarite movement, I came out against the mainstream political thought of Uttarakhand that no state could be build on the hate against one particular community. People like me felt that new Uttarakhand state was a desperate effort by these castes who were losing their importance elsewhere. Ofcourse, historical exploitation of Uttarakhand, its resources was definitely true and none can deny that 15 odd MLAs would make no difference in the Uttar-Pradesh’s gigantic Assembly of 400 odd people. So, demand for a separate state there was genuine.

The movement, however, was growing. People were sitting on Dharanas and two local news papers, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagaran became household names, as each report would get published new day. So, most of the protest was symbolic yet it was there widespread. Their circulation jumped in millions. The students were sitting and the retired armed forces men who live in large number joined hand. The teachers decided to boycott classes. Almost all Uttarakhand was non-functional, yet political class in India was not ready to take the issue. Then came the announcement to organize a massive protest rally at the red fort in Delhi on October 2, 1994. All, this was happening at the non political platform. Political parties during the agitation period became defunct, in fact, they were not even allowed to venture in.

Thousands of people started coming in to Delhi from different parts of Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, our democratic leaders do not allow democratic protests. At Rampur ka Tiraha, a small village on the national high way, between Roorkee and Mujaffarnagar, the buses carrying activists was stopped by the Provincial Arms Constabulary ( PAC) of Uttar-Pradesh. In the dark night of October 1st-2, the PAC fired at the peaceful protesters, molested women and did not allow them to proceed. People ran to save their lives, in the sugar cane field. Many lost their ways. (One of my cousins remained untraced for many days and one friend died in police firing).

It was the biggest mishap in the history of Uttarakhand. Suddenly, the patience of the people burst and the entire peaceful state of Uttarakhand, which never ever saw any curfew, never even police check posts, came out in the street. The news of molestation of women had spread like wild fire. People came out in protest. Even those who were sitting on the margin joined the protest. Mulayam Singh Yadav became the most hated figure in the state. Policemen were targeted and life completely paralyzed. There was voluntary protest. Now, people were not just sitting in protest, they were out in streets. In the frenzy police had to open fire to save itself. Many young lives were lost in police firing.

This is a small state and we know each other mostly in our areas. Policing was never part of hills and for the first we saw policemen from the plains of Uttar-Pradesh, who had high disregard and contempt for hill people were brought to control the hill people. That is a irony of the ruling structure that it uses contradictions very well so to contain Telengana, it will bring police from Andhra, to control law and order in Nagaland, it will bring Assam Rifles. And that happened in Uttarakhand, giving wide disenchantment with Uttar-Pradesh administration.

While, the Uttarakhand movement was ignited on a wrong note of anti Mandal sentiments, as a human rights activist and also a native from that region, it pained me more, when I saw, people dying in police firing, women being molested by the policemen. It has been a peaceful region altogether where such cases were rare. The state did not celebrate any festival that year particularly when Dusshera and Diwali are celebrated with high zeal in Uttarakhand, that year, it was completely black out. The demand for Uttarakhand was from very beginning in 1950s. We have seen the utter contempt with which people would speak in Delhi. Like Bihar, Pahadi was a term often described for us. Most of the migrants were working in Dhabas in Delhi yet there was an elite class which always got better everywhere in the name of Uttarakhand.

The formation of Uttarakhand state was inevitable. Mulayam Singh Yadav created all kind of hurdles. Sikh peasantry from Punjab were asked to oppose the merger of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar is this area has large illegal land holdings. Uttarakhand’s hills have small land holdings except for the Tarai and Babar regions.

While Mulayam Singh Yadav and other UP friends were ready to concede the demand of Uttarakhand, they wanted to control the state. So the boundary dispute was biggest. And the main disputed land were Hardwar and Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar. The Samajwadi party and BSP was adamant that Hardwar should not be part of it while Hardwar and SUN were traditionally a hill towns though because of procurement of land through manipulations, the non hill people had dominated the entire regions. The powerful Sikh leadership from Punjab came out against it as every one of them had their interests in big benami land holdings here. Actually, creation of Uttarakhand was a problem for big zamindars as they feared that the state would acquire their land. Compared to Uttar-Pradesh particularly western UP and Punjab the so-called farmers of Uttarakhand would be termed as landless, small and marginal.

After much difficulties the state came into being on November 7, 2000. One dream was filled but the tragedy remain that those parties who were at the margin during the protests became the main decision making parties of the state. N.D.Tiwari was imposed on the state by Congress party against the popular will and BJP now continue to rule the state.
Local movements which developed during creation of state have disappeared. The netas have their vehicles but those who lost their lives are forgotten and can be remembered only when there are some political manipulations.

The BJP made Nityanand Swamy, chief minister of Uttarakhand, who was actually not from the hills resulting in party’s dismal performance in assembly elections. Congress when came to power, made Narain Dutt Tiwari as chief minister, who played his best politics in the state by disturbing red beacon vehicles to his favorites.

Separation is better than suffocation

When you do not want to live with any one then what is the solution. It is like a joint family where the younger one want to live separately. Rather then living in suffocation, better to part peacefully. After that what ever are the concern, let the families face them separately. Of-course, I am not fanciful to the idea of which state is better or worst, as I remain border less. It is also a reality that those who talk of decentralization actually remain highly centralized when they get a chance. Every state has a contradiction. Many time, demand for decentralization comes from one the forces who want to maintain their own hegemony and this continues. So, one hegemony is broken and another is created and this continues for years as our political system is meant to create hegemony and messiahs. The sovereign public become helpless and expect miracles from their leaders who become ring leaders and betray the cause.

My concern in Uttarakhand were based on the conditions of Dalits and marginalized. I can not confirm whether their condition is better off but then definitely they might be as worst as in Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar. Ofcourse, in power structure, hills were always in the hands of upper castes because of their number strength. But that is the reality of democratic process and you can deny them this right to come to power. But protection of the minorities and Dalits is a constitutional obligation and political interest can not play their game with it. The state has really moved ahead in many thing and is really better than its former state. The electricity situation is much better than even Delhi, the schools, the road networks are growing. Ofcourse, the big companies are also there selling their big dreams, selling Ganga water and so on.

Every Life is Precious

The good thing is that at the moment Telengana’s protests are spontaneous mass struggle. Though parties like TRS which often changes track are leading lights of the day, claim to have ignited this yet it is surely going out of their control. Now, the BJP, as usual, has also lent its support. I am witnessing the very same events what happened in Uttarakhand during 1994’s massive protests. It is tragedy that the spontaneous movement builds by people goes in the hands of the desperate politicians and result in nothing but their own power. Except for Assam where the All Assam Student Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad had launched a movement and became the first political movement that came to power yet in the absence of unity and understanding it fell through and virtually disappeared.

It is always painful when young lives are lost. The young must fight their battles. It is the duty of movement leaders in general and student leaders in particular to appeal to youngsters to join the movement, change the politics by joining it and not by ending their lives by committing suicide. It is the tragedy of the mass upsurge when hysteria is created through screaming TV channels, movement leaders that they forget that it is lethal for more sensitive people when they watch and hear these stories resulting in committing suicide. That is the pain of hysteria created by such jingoism. It happened on many occasions. We have seen how the stories of Ayodhya demolition were projected by the Hindutva outfits, how media plays. Now with live TV channels in each city and kasbas, we have the anchors becoming new messiahs of the people and every body happy with their names in the media and channels, hysteria is created and continued to played for their TRPs. Every tragedy is an opportunity of business for them. Living in Delhi during the tumultuous period of anti Mandal agitation in the 1990s and later on whole Ayodhya’s frenzy in UP, Bihar, Maharastra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, we have seen how the newly mushrooming channels hyped the deaths and created frenzy. Andhra itself had seen how media hyped the death of Y.S.Rajshekar Reddy, virtually making him the tallest leaders, ignoring his big faults and his attitude toward Telengana, his anti Telengana statement during Assembly polls.

One thing is clear that Telengana could never really merge with greater Andhra. The government should realize it and act on it. Secondly, the local people will always resent, if the powerful castes and communities from other regions use it their colony. We have seen it in Uttarakhand and others also saw it. It is always better to part ways peacefully and then become friends on equality. The possessiveness of Andhra’s powerful communities over Telengana is uncalled for and similar to what the powerful Sikhs from Punjab had over division of district of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand. Actually, powerful lobbies, political interests all merge together to foil the dreams. Political class is out to create these differences with people so that they can reap rich harvest on hatred. At the end of the day, you have to work together. We all remain interdependent on each other and hatred, jingoism and ultra nationalism leaves us nowhere. It is time that Congress party at the center think of creating a separate Telangana state so that this hysteria is curtailed and people are back to work and innocent lives are not lost in the politics of rhetoric making political space for redundant political leaders and aspiring power brokers.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ambedkar and demolition of Babari Masjid

Remembering Baba Saheb Ambedkar

Demolition of Babari Mosque : An assault to democratic principals of Ambedkar

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

17 years have passed when the lunatic fringe of the Hindutva variety under the disguise of Hindu nationalism and pride brought down a three hundred years old mosque supposedly constructed by Mughal King Babar, in Ayodhya. The fringe wanted that every other structure in India termed as mosque is actually some temple and deliberately destroyed by the Muslims to spread Islam in India and kill the ‘native’ Hindu dharma.

Mughals had four hundred years of history in India and then came British who ruled over us nearly for three hundred years. In all these years, the Christian population remains in India below 5% while the Muslim population remain 12% but the Hindutva’s fanatics are roaring and feel that this 17% or say 20% population will take over India some day jeopardizing its political interests.

It would be highly simplistic to consider L.K.Adwani’s w(rath) yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990 just to strengthen Hindu Unity. We all know how the Hindu upper castes created ruckus in north India on the implementation of Mandal Commission Report decided by the government of India on August 7, 1990. The Dalits and the backward communities came together. In fact, in the fight for reservation under Mandal, there were more Dalits in the streets than the backward communities. L.K.Adwani and his Sangh parivar bosses knew very well that once the Dalits and backward communities come together, it will be lethal blow to the brahmanical hegemony in India. And that is why they thought what could be better than the movement for Ram mandir in Ayodhya. Create an enemy of Muslims among the masses and convert all the Dalits and backward communities into one monolith Hindu group. Adwani’s agenda was that under the broader framework of Ram mandir, all the internal contradictions would melt and he would become the leader of entire ‘Hindu masses’ fighting for its dignity against the Muslim assault on its holy structures particularly at Ayodhya, kashi and Mathura.

For the Ram janmbhoomi campaign, the backward communities became special target. I still remember having visited one Gujar village in Haryana two days before the destruction of the mosque where a friend actually mentioned that they were going prepared to build the grand Ram Temple. The movement of hate was created all over the country. Hindutva’s ‘intellectuals’ infiltrated in media and started writing about the entire movement in a very nationalistic way. Indian nationalism was converted into an upper caste north Indian Hindi nationalism. The bricks were collected and Dalits were used. On one side, Arun Shourie kind of pamphleteers were targeting Ambedkar but for Sangh parivar he became ‘pratahsmaranaiya’, one who should be remembered first in the morning. The ‘ Shila pujan’ were conducted by some of the Hindu Dalits as they completely fixed in the Sangh Parivar’s broader ‘Samarasta’ concept. Samarasata for them mean co-option of your identity.

On October 30- 31st, 1990, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the then chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh, actually took unusually strong stand against Hindutva’s lunatic fringe. All over Uttar-Pradesh, the police assaulted any one who said Jai Shri Ram. In Ayodhya, police fired killing several ‘kar sevaks’. Many states went into communal disturbances. The central government headed by V.P.Singh also took bold step to arrest L.K.Adwani in Bihar, before he could complete his Yatra. But the gap between rhetoric of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Central government was too big and the Hindutva forces understood it well. Adwani’s arrest forced withdrawal of the support from the National Front government and it fell in the Parliament.

In the subsequent elections, Mulayam Singh’s mistakes paid way for BJP’s ascendency in power curtsy the backward communities particularly of the Lodhas. Kalyan Singh, who is today oscillating between different political outfits for survival, became the biggest mascot of Hindutva. The Shudra were completely turned into the food soldiers of brahmanical Hindutva. Once they had their government, BJP and Hindutva’s outfits realized that it is time to act. Sangh Parivar is a multi headed monster and it work thinking in different directions. Once government in power, it felt the need to communalise the entire country. Already, their paid volunteers in the media were writing and glorify their ‘nationalism’. No need to say, insiders in the Sangh Parivar were worried about Dalits hence with great strategy, December 6th was selected as the day of kar Seva in the Ayodhya’s Ram temple. It was solely aimed as Sanskritising the Dalits so that they too get involved in the anti Muslim sentiments. Broadly speaking, once both the Dalits and backward communities forget their pain, and issues of power, you would only have upper caste Hindus are your leader defending ‘ Hindu nationalism’. Already, upper caste journalists were angry with the janata Dal for Mandal commission report which they felt would threaten the very hegemony of the upper castes hence their the Sangh parivar which never had got any sanctity from middle classes and intelligentsia got wide acceptance and support from it. It was the fear of Mandal that forced these elite editors and reporters to be with them.

On the fateful day of December 6th, 1992, the nation watched with horror one of its worst nightmares which the Hindu terrorists, a term used by late Prabhash Joshi in his editorial in Jansatta, destroyed the age old mosque at Ayodhya. The central forces were kept away five kilometer from Ayodhya and were not given any marching order to contain the unruly and unlawful kar Sevaks. Adwani, Joshi, Ashok Singhals and all their upper caste friends where jumping in glory as if they have won gold madal for India in an Olympic event other than Hockey. The nation erupted into communal frenzy. It was a mishap of gigantic magnitude which rocked the basic foundation of our constitution so laboriously drafted by Dr B.R.Ambedkar.

The central forces can not act with out the permission of the state government. Kalyan Singh government was immediately dismissed by the then prime Minister Narsimha Rao but all know that he was equally guilty in participating this heinous crime against the secular constitution of India. Narsimha Rao addressed the nation on the night promising the rebuild the mosque at the very same site. Jurists like H.M. Seervai wrote in Economic Times that Hindu organizations have their legal right to claim the temple as they have unlawfully dismantled the place of worship which was sub-judice.

Ayodhya’s impact was big on nation. It survived yet the wounds are powerful. The nightmare in Mumbai in 1993 after the Shiv Sainiks and other hooligans targeted Muslims, the Gujarat 2002, are example of the state of Muslims in India and how state watch their killings in utter helpless situation.

It is in these circumstances that the Communal Violence bill being brought by the Central government in the Parliament is a welcome step. We all know those who have come to power on the wounds of others, will always oppose it. The bill gives right to central government to declare any area as disturbed area and send its forces directly. The state governments obviously feel it as an infringement in their rights. But if we understand what Dr Ambedkar wanted in the constitution to protect the rights of the Dalits and tribals was strong constitutional safeguards so that state can not do injustice to them. That is why act like SC-ST prevention of atrocities acts are central act and state have no power to amend them. It is also important to understand that Dr Ambedkar always wanted center to be proactive in protecting the Dalits and minorities.

It is important to understand that in the event of communal violence or Gujarat like situation, the central government can not just be a mute spectator with prime minister reminding the chief minister his ‘raj-dharma’. The government need to more than just reminding as how can a country allow its own citizens to be butchered by the others with connivance of the local authorities. It is also important for the government to secularise the state. The state should have no religion. It can not be a place for every lunatic from different religions to blackmail the state in the name of their identities. Dr Ambedkar challenged the religious scriptures not just of the brahmanical one but he also had the capacity to even walk out of a very personal meeting with Pope in the 1930s, which has been well described in the Times magazine.

If India need to modernize itself, Ambedkar’s forthright ideas are the best example. Ambedkar never ever glorified villages like Gandhi. He was critical of the whole village economy based on caste. He wanted to modernize and brought Dalits to negotiating tables. One can understand that despite all their tortures and humiliations, today, Dalits in India are relatively better positioned, politically, socially and educationally, compared to tribals. That is the contribution of Ambedkar as Dalits are developing their leadership, they are looking forward, they are rejecting religion and moving ahead in the democratic frame work of India. Dalits have become a big middle class and in the coming days we will have more of them in Media, companies, sports, music and every where of life. That is the silent revolution of Ambedkar which saved India from catastrophe and making it look forward. It does not come from symbol of political empowerment but over empowerment through modern education and changing themselves and not by merely romanticizing our past and our cultural value system.

Our political class needs to show strength of ideas that Ambedkar had. A vociferous reader, Ambedkar lived to the convictions. Those who lay the first brick in the name of Rama should know what Ambedkar said about Rama. He refused to accept the greatness of Rama and wrote about the pain of Sita. He wrote about how our religions were anti poor and anti women. So Ambedkar’s Ayodhya can not be that of Rama. It can be that of Buddha’s Saket. Ambedkar’s Dalit will only be enlightened one, modern looking and can not be those with jai Shri Ram on their lips and with a Trishul on their hands to kill the innocent. Those Dalits, OBCs who want to become part of such hate mongers can not be really Ambedkarite and will only serve the purpose of the brahmanical forces in India.

December 6th is a day to remember Ambedkar, who inspite of pains became modern india’s tallest intellectuals, who defended right of every individual, who cared for women’s right, who wanted land to be nationalized and who told us to be modern, to get best education and move ahead. December 6th is a day when all these ideals of Ambedkar were sought to be bullied by the unlawful, unruly and barbaric fringe who did not just destroy Babari Mosque but the secular edifice of this nation.

One sincerely hope our political leaders will have sagacity to think on these and will not play with the emotions of people in future. If India has to survive as a nation, it must respect diversity and its democratic constitution must be made applicable to defend the people, the marginalized and minorities so that they have confidence in government and its structure.