Must Read

1. Republic killing its own children
8.Cast Religion & Malnutrition
9.Buddhist Engagement with Social justice
10.आर एस एस - धर्मवेड आणि सुधारणा
11A.National Libraries -Mission is possible
12.Maya and Dalit in Uttar Pradesh
13.16th Assembly Election in UP
14.Dalit Politics in Maharashtra
15.Left (Communist) Movement
16.Dr.Ambedkar cartoon contraversy
17.Price of Dalit Assertion
18.Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder
19.Sukhadeo Thorat’s book throws light on the gap between rhetoric and reality over Dalits’ emancipation.
20.Caste & the labour market
21.Two Reigns of Political Violence in Bastar by Bernard D'Mello and Gautam Navlakha
22.ट्रेव्हॉन, ओबामा आणि कृष्णवर्णीय!
23.On Hinduism
24.Wendy Doniger's second book 'On Hinduism'
25.Gita is not secular - Meghnad Desai to Times of India
26.A Disturbing Story
28.Penguin To Withdraw 'The Hindus: An Alternative History
29.Your Approach Is That Of A Woman Hungry Of Sex'
30.NITA Is The New TINA
31Last Chance To Save The Nation’
32.Flaunting It Backwards
33.With Some Reservations
34.Ram Vilas Paswan
35.The Political Commons:AAP Party
36.The Unmanifesto, Then? :AAP Party
37.Capitalism: A Ghost Story
38.Caste is in the air
39.Good Times Are Gone, By Romila Thapar
40.Political Future of Caste in West Bengal
41.Saffron Neo-liberalism
42.Peddler of myths (Front line)
43.Another ‘Gujarat model
44.Penguin & the Parivar
45.Giving Dalits their due
46.Shadow of fear Dalit (front line)
47.High tension in Hisar
48.Distorted lessons (RSS:Dina Nath Batra)
49.Parivar & Partition
50.An Ode To Climate Change Predictions
51.The prophet of Boom ( Outlook magazine
52.Golwalkar Told Kurien That It Was Actually Just Politics
५३.The Morality Tale That The Mahabharata Just Isn’t
५४.The Persistence Of The Brahmin
५५.Fading Away At The Edges (ओउत्लूक)
५६.She Rings The School Bells
57.Project Hindutv (Front Line 28.12.2014)
58.‘Hindutva elements feel emboldened by power’ (Front line)
59.Return to which home? (Front Line)
60.Conversion to Hindu Raj (Front line)
61.The shocker (Front line)
62.Case of Caste System (Front Line)
63.Foreign Swvdeshi (Frontline)
64.By means mostly foul (Frontline)
65.It is homecoming (frontline)
६६.मोदी हा संघाचा नाईलाज आहे (ऐसी अक्षरे दिवाळी अंक २०१४)

 Mayawati and the Meaning of her Victory
Anand Teltumbde is an eminent Dalit theoretician who is respected and influential. He is among the few intellectuals who is also self-critical; someone who does not necessarily believe in ‘closing ranks’. Compared to Dalit intellectuals who think criticizing Dalit politics and social movements will always necessarily be used for anti-Dalit politics, and that Dalit politics could do without self-critical exercises, he is perhaps an exception in coming up with trenchant criticisms of Dalit politics, movements and perspectives from time to time. Most times, both well-meaning, pro- but non-Dalit intellectuals and Dalit intellectuals think it is dangerous to even air legitimate criticism of anything Dalit. Thus Teltumbde is also a lonely Dalit intellectual. His position is unenviable. Almost everything Dalits do or think is either unfairly dismissed and criticized or not given sufficient credit by the media and the dominant progressive-liberal left. Intellectuals like Chandrabhan Prasad or Kancha Ilaiah focus exclusively on exposing the hypocrisy of so-called progressive intellectuals and highlighting the admirable features of Dalit life and politics. Reading Teltumbde is complementary and sometimes corrective to the work of both Ilaiah and Chandra Bhan Prasad. What is missing in the latters’ intellectual practice is that they don’t entertain any sustained self-critical perspective of Dalit politics and movements and lines of thought.
However, having read Teltumbde’s recent attack on Mayawati—circulated on e-mail, posted onZEST-Caste, and copied below—I feel the need to critically engage with his ideas, which in this case are far from acceptable. At the outset, let me say that such a critical posture is almost unique in the context of the celebratory reception of the news of Mayawati’s victory by upper caste progressives and Dalit intellectuals alike. His critique is not just unique, but is necessary and useful. That does not mean the burden of his argument is fair and acceptable. He does not posit any acceptable formulation or new revelation but reminds us of the basic fact that doing political theory is not the same as participating in celebrations but thinking a bit beyond.
First, he points to the fact that Mayawati does not have a comprehensive plan that includes such programs as land and resource redistribution and enhancement or at least does not reveal any such project either before or after the elections. It is unusual for a politician who has spent well over three decades in politics to be without any such agenda. It is equally unusual for the left and progressive intellectuals to uncritically celebrate such a politician’s victory in so unqualified a manner. I hazard an attribution to the beginnings of a conspiracy whose effects will be known only after Mayawati’s future failure. The conspiracy is simply that of undeserved praise being heaped on a personality and politics that are not going to deliver any great results, only to be withdrawn in the aftermath of the loss of the luster she now undoubtedly possesses. This praise on the part of the progressives is irresponsible for it neither points to the obvious ambiguities of her victory and politics nor offers any prescriptions to avoid the danger of being viewed as patronising.
So the question is what Mayawati can do, combined with the question of what a state government can do in the kind of system we have. And it is to be supplemented with what she wants to do, what she should do. Teltumbde does not appreciate one paradoxical difficulty she is bound to face if at all she is serious about her basic mandate: empowering the Dalits and putting an end to the discrimination against them. Unfortunately in our history the upliftment or empowerment of Dalits results in a simultaneous increase in the oppression of Dalits. The development of others too results in an increase in violence against Dalits. Of course, it is yet to be seen how much Mayawati’s emphasis on rule of law can work to prevent attacks on Dalits in the course of development and make social conflicts less violent. She has already made it clear through three government circulars that filing of cases under the SC/ST Act will not be encouraged unless in the worst of cases. She is going to have a tough time particularly in uplifting many backward communities which have been consistently showing a pattern of behavior in the course of their upward mobility: an eagerness to distinguish themselves from Dalits by means of discriminating against them and attacking them to assert their newly gained upliftment. The tragedy of Sudra ascendancy is that many Sudra communities in that phase very soon realize the difficulty of beating the upper castes in the realm of culture, public visibility, media, educational institutions, services and in fact try to imitate the upper castes rather than compete with them. The only way out they could imagine is to construct an ugly substitute of degrading the Dalits in order to feel certain ‘above-ness’ in relation to the Dalits.
The greatest challenge for Mayawati would undoubtedly be the problem of the ‘middle’. In terms of caste, it is the OBCs. In a class scale, it is the middle peasants. No party can think of winning elections without the support of this numerically substantial, resource-rich and power-seeking constituency. How Mayawati can reach out to this constituency is a big problem. It should not be forgotten that Mayawati, even in the moment of her highest triumph, could not cut much into this constituency, which remained firmly with Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Teltumbde very usefully calls our attention to the media-created myth based on Mayawati’s victory that upper caste votes are very important and that even they could be decisive. It is true that UP has a higher percentage of brahmin votes relative to other states and that they are important in deciding the victor in the elections. On an all-India scale, this is causing a new kind of ‘sensitisation’ among politicians in other states. What Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu said in his recent party’s conclave (Mahanadu) bears testimony to this Uttar Pradesh after effect. He for the first time addressed the issue of doing something for the upper castes; and his choice of words is unmistakably similar to that of Mayawati’s. The self-defeating dynamic inherent to such inflated importance bestowed on the so-called upper caste constituency is that it repeatedly calls everybody’s attention to their numerical minority and the marginal importance of their votes for winning elections. I think we should welcome it. But with the media’s shameless and unrepentant bias in favor of upper castes it is going to be a problem in the short run. It is particularly dangerous because most of our progressive social movements and political assertions express themselves in the vocabulary of anti-upper-caste struggles. Faced with the political incorrectness stigma to their rhetoric, which will soon follow the policy of upper caste appeasement on the part of political class, many subaltern social movements and political expressions will face difficult problems in legitimating their grievances and be forced to express their views in some liberal vocabulary which might be not so appealing to the purposes of mass mobilizations. Such discursive controls will result in some unproductive tension between media and social movements.
Many false paradoxes are pointed out in media analyses of the BSP victory in Uttar Pradesh. The most frequent of them is the idea of Brahmins and Dalits coming together to vote for BSP. Nothing could be farther from common sense. Unlike journalistic analysts and progressive intellectuals, the common people do not see the caste system as a textual entity. It is a matter of life and death; not an idea or ideology coded in ‘sacred texts’. It is not a superstition that has outlived its time (as urbanites tend to project it) and causes embarrassment to one’s sense of being enlightened. It is a lived practice enmeshed in the questions of power and resources. For ordinary Dalits, what texts the Brahmins take pride in are not important but the everyday encounter with the dominant Sudras on whom they are at once dependent and whom they also resist. Electoral alliances are not about deep social psychological transformations. People know very well that they will not be solved at the level of culture alone without reference to power. Thus they find no problem in aligning with Brahmins as opposed to dominant Sudras and even OBCs. None of this is lost sight of by Teltumbde. However, he fails to show the lesson the Dalit-Brahman-MBC alliance teaches the intelligentsia for whom the caste is a problem of texts and beliefs. Teltumbde should have used this as an opportunity not just to write diatribes against Mayawati but to confront the most damaging superstition of the intelligentsia that caste is merely an absurd idea still lingering among backward people. If Mayawati is praised for being everybody’s leader then Teltumbde objects to it by saying that her solid support base is just Dalits and that the other support is volatile. If you claim that she demonstrates Dalit power he would plausibly point to the possibility of she being poised to implement non-Dalit agenda and protect anti-Dalit interests because she has won with the support of non-Dalit votes. If his pessimism, which borders at cynicism, is true, he is not in fact seeing any genuine problem faced by this leader. Given such real-politik complexities, whatever contradiction is faced by Mayawati, Teltumbde sees scope only for her opportunism there and nothing else.
At one point in his essay he says, “there is an intrinsic conceptual error in assuming that the BSP as a dalit party. “At no time BSP, even from the times of its precursor movements like BAMCEF and DS4, had claimed to be a Dalit party. As its name eloquently suggests, it is a bahujan party.” However, at another point he contradicts himself: “Even though the BSP likes to don the bahujan identity, in reality its base has been dalits. It is they who provide a foundation for its victories.”
The most bizarre formulation of all is his characterization of the construction of Dalit identity in UP. For him, it is just with abusive slogans, casteism, and propagation of Dalit icons that the BSP constructed Dalit identity in the state.( He writes, in what could be termed as the most insensitive and inaccurate passage in the whole article, “The process of constructing a rock solid constituency of this mass of Dalits comprised systematic operation of exclusivist strategy with a rhetoric of manuvad, an offensive lingo against the dwija castes and later use of political power to reinforce Dalit identity by promoting Dalit icons.” Every Dalit knows that it is upper castes that construct Dalitidentity while the latter are always ready to at least forget and generally ready to relinquish the claims to a separate identity. He misses the significance of the early attempts by Kanshi Ram to organize Dalits as a separate political entity while they were of course already a separated social community with out any sympathy or understanding. Teltumbde merely notes, without any adverse qualification, perhaps with the hope that it would be disgusting enough for a left-liberal sensibility, that Kanshi Ram used to ask the upper castes among the audience to leave his meetings. He however forgets to add that even at the height of BSP’s power it does not entertain the idea of asking the upper castes to leave their places from villages. In fact, Teltumbde’s complaint is precisely that the upper castes were over-represented in her party and government. If Mayawati is exclusivist, it is a problem; even if she is inclusive she is the villain for our comrade. What appears to be consistent in such a contradictory attack is nothing more than an uncompromising hatred for her.
What angers Teltumbde is not exactly what is involved in Mayawati’s victory rather the descriptions it is receiving from the upper-caste intelligentsia. For him, a revolution is a precise political-scientific term. He frowns at the misuse of such a term. A Dalit woman’s power doesn’t automatically mean the power of Dalits and it cannot be equated with revolution. Fair enough. But it does not stop him from characterizing the victory of BSP, which included upper caste votes and disproportionate representation in party and government ranks, as ‘counter- revolution’. The representation of individuals belonging to upper castes in her party and government somehow becomes the power of the upper castes and what is more, it miraculously becomes a ‘counter-revolution’! He objects to imprecise use of political jargon only if it is used in favor of Mayawati, and doesn’t mind diluting the same if it is to dismiss her. Though he seems to be lamenting only her recent moves as degeneration of BSP politics, he seems to also disapprove of the early, movement phase of BSP’s actions since the BAMCEF days.
All in all, he is disappointed with Mayawati for her not being a communist and not implementing socialism. It does not occur to him that even CPI-M with its three decades of uninterrupted power in West Bengal, strong organisation and ideological indoctrination could not behave the way it wants largely because it is caught up in a quasi-federal system whose meta-logic is for everybody to obey. If he were to think that without the socialist restructuring of society Dalit problems could not be solved, he should say that. Then his argument would be to say that the problems of Dalits are structural and cannot be solved at electoral and governmental level. It does not have to depend much on attributing the opportunism of the Dalit leaders and mobilizations that do not think so. Teltumbde’s fixed solutions don’t grant any credit to the struggles and compromises of Dalit movements, politics and its leaders with the hope of improving their lot with the available means under the prevailing conditions. Perhaps Teltumbde needs to be reminded of Marx’s famous passage: “Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the tasks itself arises only when the material conditions of its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” The Dalits wait, unlike intellectuals, until the ultimate moment of socialist revolution. This small section of humanity sets certain realistic goals for itself and sees what it can achieve. Sometimes, like in UP, they even manage achieve a little.
Not only this, he fails to appreciate the gestures (yes, just gestures neither programs nor manifestos) of Mayawati ever since she assumed office. He did not have the heart to hail her very first speech in which she thanked the upper castes and assured benefits for the poor among them. It was a Mandelian moment! An oppressed community’s leader on the eve of transfer of power assures the former tormentors full safety. Yes, the scale, impact and the nature and stature of the politician and the gesture are incomparably varied. But the poignancy of the moment is unmistakable and deserves all praise.
Forging coalitions and maneuvering numbers in elections amount to opportunistic politics for Teltumbde. One wonders what he thinks of a revolution whose calculations involve weapons, brute force and military matters. All said and done, the so-called electioneering and that insensitive phrase, ‘social engineering’, are ways of dealing with people not coercing them. Getting people to vote may be a less edifying task then talking them into taking up arms but it is no crime either.
Teltumbde admits that the daughter of the most oppressed section of the most unequal country assuming office is a gratifying sight. However, he grossly underestimates the meaning of such an event. Politics and social processes are not dead objects. Inversions are not mere retentions of the same. It is no secret that Teltumbde prefers class-based politics to a caste-based one. His own writings have underscored the importance of interpenetration of the two. If he is a realist, as his piece appears to emphasise, he should know that to assume power in this country you not only win the confidence of the masses but also convince the ruling sections of society that you are not going to harm them much. It is now fairly clear that Mayawati has achieved this two-pronged, contradictory but necessary task. He grossly underestimates the relative autonomy of the state in relation to economy and society even in these days of globalization. If many of the exclusions Dalits face are structurally not inevitable and something can be dealt with through state power, winning elections is the shortest route toit. Social movements are, of course, a much better way to achieve such objectives. Nevertheless, Dalit movements have one inherent defect to them: almost everywhere at every level, from national to village level, Dalits are a minority group. And, against them even the otherwise passive or conflicting communities come together. Any politics based completely and solely on the mobilization of Dalits runs the risk of antagonizing the majority of the given unit of society. So far, all unifying social movements could do so only by sidelining the problems of the Dalits. In such unfortunate circumstances state power alone can achieve certain necessary, though not sufficient tasks of Dalits and Dalit movements. One of them is eliminating thesymbolic disqualification of Dalits to be in important positions in the public space. Achieving the office and using it to dispel the myth of Dalit inability is an end in itself. Even if it is dangerous to believe in the state’s capacity to transform, the best education in this regard comes by trying that means rather than by hurling copies of Lenin’s State and Revolution at ordinary Dalits without whose support no revolution worth its name can happen in India.
Perhaps Teltumbde evaluates the importance of the fact of Ambedkar writing the Constitution of India and K.R. Narayanan serving as the president only in terms of what they achieved or failed to achieve. They played a much bigger role than any rigidly biographical or historical account can capture. Like it or not, such facts have been, and continue to be, the source of confidence and self-worth among Dalits. Such an impact of the lives of Dalits goes beyond the actual doings of these representative figures. However unsavory it might seem to our rational mind, they contributed more to Dalits as symbols than by what they actually were. Mayawati is now doing something akin to that. She is proving that Dalits can rule a state on their own and not as an appointee of some other party.
Besides the question of causes and consequences of Mayawati’s victory, there is an equally important issue of the meaning of the victory which cannot be equated to or exhausted by causes and consequences of the event . For Teltumbde, the symbolic is simply what is not real or what is mistaken or substituted for the real. Whatever be the merits of such an approach, he simply cannot imagine the continuities and translatability of the real and symbolic. It is obvious that he thinks that such thinking is marxism. Even if we forgive him for such an impoverished idea of marxism, one element of his analysis should be vigorously contested. He finds no problems with the existing, even popular yardsticks to measure a political phenomenon. That is dangerous. That is giving away the dominance in the debates to our enemies.
Teltumbde fails to appreciate the single most important fate of being a Dalit politician. So far, Dalits could be legislators, mostly in reserved constituencies. Given the fact that most of the voters are non-Dalits while all the contestants are Dalits it is only the candidate most appealing to or least objectionable to non-Dalit voters who wins the election. It is at the root of the comprador and ineffective nature of our Dalit politicians rather than class dominating caste in their political behaviour . Mayawati emerged from within such structural limitations imposed on Dalit politicians in the country. We must also remember that of the 93 Dalit candidates fielded by the BSP only four were fielded in general constituencies. And of the four none could win, whereas 62 of the 89 fielded in reserved constituencies won. This shows that even today the ‘sarvajan’ support to BSP is not unconditional; a Dalit, even in Mayawati’s UP, is expected to contest and win only from reserved areas; in general constituencies, neither the brahmins, MBCs nor others seem to support Dalits. Despite such structural limitations, Mayawati today is there as chief minister with mostly non-Dalit votes. What is true of a legislator in her constituency is true for her at the state level. That is the fate of the dalit leaders in our democracy. They are a universal minority. Without resources, but only votes and the power to be organized, they are condemned to be a mere minority and not a powerful bloc. Any assertion or attempt at upward mobility has to take up the issue of some symbolic clearing. As the social practices in our country are based on systematic and totalitarian insults to Dalits even in the most unimportant aspects of daily life, it is simply not possible for Dalits not to take up such issues. This results in all the non-dalit sections of society uniting against them. Many groups, though not all groups, can afford to live parallel to each other. Dalits do not enjoy such an opportunity. Many a shrewd politician and party can please various groups separately and gain from such a policy. With Dalits, it is not a possibility. You cannot empower Dalits without angering the others. Many communities have learnt the manner of evaluating the status of their well being in terms of how well they are doing in comparison with the lowest denominator—Dalits.
How do you do politics in such a crooked world? Communists quickly learnt the hard lesson. Though their initial blindness to Dalit question was due to their brahminical prejudices and groundless hope of withering away of feudal vestiges, later some honest attempts were made to address the question of Dalits. However, they were quick to learn that you can’t command the loyalty of the rest of the society if you take Dalit issues seriously. Most of the so-called hypocrisy of the communists in the face of Dalit question can be explained by this, rather than by any essentialist understanding of its leadership’s caste origins. In fact, all enduring groups in India are minorities given the size and diversity of the country. While most other groups are allowed to be indifferent and coexist parallel to each other, it is only Dalits who are not permitted to coexist peacefully. Contempt and comparison are imposed on them relentlessly.
Such complexities do not matter to Teltumbde. He simply asks for a comprehensive program for development and resource redistribution. When he talks about this very fundamental question, he somehow gives the impression that here he thinks only about ‘class’ and not about the relational concept ‘caste’. Besides providing for the basic necessities of the people, a politician with long-term goals should also think of issues of perception. This is a society in which a caste or a group evaluates its situation not in terms of development or well being in absolute terms or comparatively with its own past, but in relative terms by assessing who are supposed to be above and below. It is suicidal for a politician to come up with a context-blind concept of development. One example I have noticed repeatedly in my home state Andhra Pradesh is telling: in many a village the absence of a school causes less protest than the construction of it near a Dalit street. I am not claiming that Mayawati might have all these factors in mind in keeping the cards close to her chest about the economic policy she is going to pursue. Perhaps she is just as clueless about economic policies as Teltumbde appears to fear Or perhaps her economic policy is not going to be much different from what obtains in other states.
With all my differences and dismay at his diatribe against the first woman Dalit chief minister of the country, we must be thankful to Teltumbde for his timely reminder that our Mayawati not so long ago campaigned for Narendra Modi and aligned with the BJP twice. Nothing can excuse her for doing this; it will forever be a black spot on her otherwise impressive career. Her chant hati nahee hai ganesh hai (It’s a Ganesha not an elephant) is one of the most dangerous slogans in recent times by any politician. The triumvirate Brahma Vishnu Mahesh is all-Hindu and too brazen for anyone to be missed. This degeneration is hopefully only a result of political shortsightedness and not going to be an enduring trend. It is clear case of ‘Congressification’ of BSP and its end point is playing into the hands of the BJP.
On the whole, it is heartening to see that a Dalit theoretician has highlighted this aspect at the very moment of the dalit leader’s victory; a courage the likes of Aijaz Ahmed or Prabhat Patnaik did not show when CPI-M and CPI came together with the BJP to form a government at the center which led to the eventual victory of the BJP and its subsequent influential position in India. Teltumbde deserves our salute for his courage and timing and it is even more praiseworthy given that most of the Dalit intellectuals of the country seem to be suffering from a ‘closing the ranks mentality’ all the time.
Then what is the meaning and significance of Mayawati’s victory?
We should not equate the government with the state and the state with society and economy. Then, there is the relative autonomy of the state and its fallout: autonomy of the government. We have an amazingly enlightened constitution given the overall backwardness of the society and culture. The Dalit contribution to it is well known. Here is an opportunity to even implement it. Implementing the basic constitutional provisions amounts to a radical program. I don’t think she will be able to make the best of these provisions even if she wants to. But what she can really achieve by being simply the chief minister is this: Many atrocities against Dalits are perpetrated not because the culprits are very strong but because Dalits are weak. Such elements will get an exaggerated idea of Dalit power and it will have some deterring effect. A government that is not anti-Dalit will surely make a difference in this regard.
Rather than narrowly focusing on what Mayawati government will do or will not do, it is better to think about the ways in which the Dalits of UP can benefit from the symbolic opportunity for them. The much bigger question is weather the UP Dalits can use this opportunity and achieve higher levels of education, conversion, mobility, visibility. The question is not what Mayawati can do to UP Dalits but what they can do to themselves with BSP around. It is here the role of organizations, social movements and intellectuals become important. Will the Dalit intellectual class provide such a direction, inspiration and participation for the Dalits on the street or field or it simply waits for the government to do everything is the question. It also opens up a unique and unprecedented opportunity for Dalits: Dalits are the only group whose emancipation cannot be achieved without enlightening the entire society. It is in the best interests of the Dalits to lead the rest of the society towards enlightenment. To such a task somebody like Teltumbde can contribute more than Mayawati can. Now, the Dalits of UP should invent creative ways in which they can conduct their rightful assertion less spectacularly but deeply. Jews provided despite their universal marginality the intellectual leadership to the West. Perhaps we can draw instructive lessons from that history. Mayawati’s victory is objectively and potentially no more than removing certain hurdles to Dalits. If the ruling complex of classes and castes cannot dethrone Mayawati in the next elections or stop her from becoming the Prime Minister in the future, they will definitely try to strike a deal with her. Such a bargain would be similar to the CPI-M’s implicit agreement with capitalist and business classes. Then, the Dalit party will be the most effective container of Dalit assertion. Just like the CPI-M is the most reliable and effective container of proletarian unrest in the country. The only immunity from such a nightmarish future for Dalit politics is the intense and effective educational and cultural movements in UP which alone can create a Dalit constituency that can take the smoothest road to social transformation—educational and cultural movements. Only the emergence of such an enlightened Dalit constituency can preclude the possible future temptations to exchange Dalit loyalty to the office for Dalit leaders and parties. Therefore, the question is not what Mayawati can do to us but what we can do to ourselves.

(I would like to thank S. Anand and Ravikumar of Navayana for suggesting this article, and Anand for editorial assistance.)
*The author is an independent researcher studying genocides. He recently completed a journalism course from Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.
“… No doubt, it would be a matter of great delight for the entire progressive world to see a daughter of a humble Dalit dislodging the traditional upper castes from the throne of the most unequal country on the planet. But would it be a dalit raj? Would it be a revolution? The answer to such questions may sadly be all negatives.”
A Mayawi Revolution in UP
By Anand Teltumbde
The BSP win in the recent assembly elections in UP has let loose high pitched euphoria. It is understandable that the supporters of the BSP celebrate their victory and common folks ‘worship the victor’. But what about the intellectual class, who is supposed to see beyond the surface reality and present the meaning of events? They appear to have even overtaken the common masses in their excitement. Our political analysts tend to see a ‘social revolution’ in this BSP victory, while some scholars take it as de-castization and even de-classization of Indian politics.
The kind of praise being showered on Mayawati is beyond comment. Diapankar Gupta, in his article in Hindustan Times (10.4.2007) had gone to the extent of comparing Mayawati with Mao as a strategist. He cites parallels in Mao’s and Mayawati’s incessant search of strategic partners; in their criticisms- when Mao allied with rich peasants and a section of landlords and when Mayawati joined hands with the BJP; and also in their foci, as Mao never lost sight of the poor peasants, Mayawati her poor Dalits. Prof Gupta ought to have searched for objectives, the prerequisite for strategies, before seeing parallels in them. While Mao had never compromised his objective to bring about new democratic revolution in China, Mayawati had never disclosed her, save for the implicit one -grabbing the power by any means. If the elections were a game, then there is no doubt that Mayawati has grounded all the veteran players. If they were a medium of securing personal power, then there is again no doubt that she has left everybody far behind in the race. But if they were taken as a vehicle to bring about a change in the caste/class relations to the benefit of oppressed and poor people, then Mayawati’s unscrupulous handling of them throws up a galore of serious suspicions. Mayawati’s strategy to create a constituency with Dalits, Muslims and Brahmins is eulogized as social revolution. One forgets that this is the precise strategy followed by Congress to rule for more than four decades after independence. Nobody would dare to call that rule a revolution, social or otherwise.
Why then Mayawati’s? It is explained that during the Congress rule, the strings of power were in the hands of the upper caste/class people whereas in the BSP’s case, it would be in the hands of dalits. Strictly speaking, the latter is not true. If it meant a dalit chief minister holding the strings of power, even the Congress had propped up dalit mascots to such positions. An example of Damodar Sanjivayya, who became the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in the 1960s, may be an apt reminder. Indeed, there have been many dalit chief ministers including Mayawati thereafter but it hardly meant that the power strings had come into the hands of dalits. Besides the error of equating an individual with the party or his caste, there is an intrinsic conceptual error in assuming the BSP as a dalit party. At no time BSP, even from the times of its precursor movements like Bamcef and DS4, had claimed to be a Dalit party. As its name eloquently suggests, it is a bahujan party. Now that BSP won as a party of sarvajan,
it no more remains even that. Consequently, the strings of power that it held thus no more belong even to the bahujans. Just because Kanshiram and Mayawati belonged to dalits, BSP power does not become dalit power; it strictly belongs to sarvajan, the upper castes included. Social revolution, which is transformation of basic caste or class relations, cannot come through the first-past-the- post type of elections we adopted. While election victories in India do not need even a passive affirmation of majority of people, social revolution needs their active participation. With growing fragmentation of polity into interest groups associated with the process of uneven development, which expresses itself through the existing fault lines like castes, the percentage vote required to rule has already gone down to ridiculous levels. BSP, in the present case just got 13.8 percent of total votes in UP, which means 86.2 percent voters either are passive or against it. The election victory can certainly be an enabler to mobilize peoples’ participation but cannot itself mean it. Mayawati’s rainbow politics merely represents shrewd electoral arithmetic and hence should not be confused with social revolution. Her kind of caste-based coalition rather ends up deepening castism, as the experience in UP amply demonstrates, which is antithetical to any social revolution.
Even though the BSP likes to don the bahujan identity, in reality its base has been dalits. It is they who provide a foundation for its victories. BSP has built this strong foundation labouriously over the years through its Bamcef and DS4 days. Dalits are about 21 per cent in UP, far more than the national average of 16 per cent. The process of constructing a rock solid constituency of this mass of dalits comprised systematic operation of exclusivist strategy with a rhetoric of manuwad, an offensive lingo against the dwija castes and later use of political power to reinforce dalit identity by promoting dalit icons. In the early election days of BSP, Kanshiram used to publicly ask the upper castes in the audience to leave the place. Those days, BSP had several abusive slogans against the dwija castes. This offensive strategy cultivated identity and created self-confidence among Dalits. Having created this core, BSP could attract some Muslims and lower castes and made its mark in elections.
When it maneuvered to actually sit a dalit’s beti in the gaddi of UP’s chief minister, it meant realization of a dream for dalits. They felt as though they became the rulers of the state. With this unshakable dalit base of 21 percent voters, the BSP could try any kind of strategic acrobatics with impunity. When it realized that it has reached the limits of its constituency and that a little increment could win it far more seats, it took a complete somersault and decided to befriend the upper castes. Dalits stood by it rock solid, when BSP allied with BJP, when Mayawati canvassed for Narendra Modi in Gujarat at the time when the entire world despised him for having catalyzed the heinous carnage of Muslims; when the blue elephant of BSP ceased to be a symbol of Ambedkar’s struggle or emerging dalit strength and became a Ganesha and later a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh of Hindus and now when Mayawati has come full circle discarding the bahujan garbs and joining hands with the very same people whom she disparaged as Manuwadis.
What does this party of sarvajan mean? None of the political analysts appear to ask this question. This term indicative of collaboration of castes and classes should be fundamentally inimical to the caste or class struggle of the oppressed and exploited. It assumes away the contradictions in the society. If so, what would be the premise, one may ask, for the existence of BSP? How could there be a dalit struggle without the definition of its friends and foes? By pushing such issues under carpet, it actually negates the dalit struggle itself. This approach becomes the ruling class parties’ as they have to cover up the contradictions in the society and seek to take shelter under such slippery terms to protect their class interests. They cannot be useful to the lower classes that have to target these contradictions in their struggle. Sarvajan smacks of samarasata of sangh Parivar. As such, when BSP claims to have become a party of sarvajan, it is admitting that it has not only become a ruling class party, it is also a ruling caste party.
Besides the rock solid support of dalits, specific situational factors in UP can be seen conributing to the BSP win. The misrule of Mulayam Singh Yadav had alienated most sections of populations beyond the SP’s loyal support base. They wanted a winning horse, which they found in the form of the BSP. The other two mainstream parties, viz., Congress and BJP were far too weak to pose as alternatives. Mayawati’s image as a sworn enemy of Mulayam Singh, her aggressive demeanour matching the goondagiri of Yadavs, and her solid support base among Dalits easily scored over them and became a choice of people. Mayawati’s social engineering to get the much wanted incremental votes for her has worked perfectly in this congenial electoral climate. The strategy of social alliance with the upper castes, giving them disproportionately more number of seats than their numbers deserved, helped this consideration greatly and brought the BSP that crucial incremental vote for getting catapulted to power.
This strategy is attributed to the political genius of Mayawati forgetting the fact that it could well be Brahmins’. If one considers the amount of decline in the status of the Brahmins, from the ruling caste to the political non-entity in UP, their anxiety to regain their lost status of ruling caste would perhaps be more intense than that of Mayawati. Their traditional party, BJP, stood no chance of coming to power in near future. Indeed, the strategy strikingly resembles the RSS strategy of samarasata to have a broader unity of all Hindus. Whatever the source, for the Brahmins and the upper castes, the only viable alternative available was joining hands with Mayawati. If they had indeed decided to capture the state power piggybacking Mayawati’s BSP, would it not be amounting to turning the wheel of history in reverse direction? Instead of Mayawati’s social revolution, would it not be the counter revolution of Brahmans? The marriage of convenience between Dalits and Brahmans had least hurdles on ground. Because, these two castes placed at the two ends of the caste continuum, do not have much social interaction and hence no ostensible ontradiction. It is therefore seen by many as potentially replicable in many other states. The politicians have already begun dreaming of such combinations in their states for coming elections. Unfortunately for them, this experiment may not be replicable elsewhere for the simple reason that none of the conditions that produced this dazzling result in UP may be encountered anywhere. However, it could certainly increase the influence of BSP everywhere.
Mayawati has set her eyes at Delhi. While she has not spelt out the timeframe, the Dalits have already started dreaming her as the prime minister in 2009. As the trend shows up, the next general elections will have strong anti-incumbency wave but its benefits are unlikely to accrue to any mainstream party. The largest beneficiary would certainly be the BSP. Thus seen, this dalit dream may materialize far sooner than anybody ever guessed. No doubt, it would be a matter of great delight for the entire progressive world to see a daughter of a humble Dalit dislodging the traditional upper castes from the throne of the most unequal country on the planet. But would it be a dalit raj? Would it be a revolution? The answer to such questions may sadly be all negatives.

रणनीतीत बदल करण्याचा अर्थ कुलदीप नय्यर
ज्या काळात भ्रष्टाचारविरोधी आंदोलनाची अधिक गरज होती. नेमक्या त्याच काळात अण्णा हजारे यांनी आपल्या रणनीतीत बदल घडवून २0१४ साली होणार्‍या निवडणुका लढण्याचा इरादा जाहीर केला आहे. वास्तविक असे पाऊल उचलण्याची त्यांची इच्छा नाही आणि सार्वजनिक स्तरावर त्यांनी ही बाब नाकारली देखील आहे. पण जी माणसे नेहमी निवडणुकीच्या राजकारणावर लक्ष ठेवून असतात ती माणसे अधिक प्रभावशाली झाल्याचे दिसते. असा विचार करणार्‍यात टीम अण्णाचे काही सदस्यसुद्धा आहेत. पण आता ती टीमदेखील अण्णा हजारे यांनी बरखास्त केली आहे. सिव्हिल सोसायटीच्या भ्रष्टाचारविरोधी तीव्र भावनातूनच या आंदोलनाचा उदय झाला होता. ते आंदोलन स्थगित करणे म्हणजे चालू असलेले काम बंद करण्यासारखेच आहे. सरकारची भूमिका या आंदोलनात खोडा घालण्याची होती हे खरे आहे. मजबूत लोकपाल देण्याची सरकारचीच तयारी नाही. पण लोकपालची निर्मिती करण्याबाबत विरोधी पक्षसुद्धा उदासीन आहेत हेही तितकेच खरे आहे. या कारणांमुळे लोकपाल निर्मितीची मागणी करणारे आंदोलन अधिक तीव्र करण्याची आवश्यकता होती.
या आंदोलनात उपोषणाला बसलेल्या टीम अण्णाच्या काही सदस्यांची तब्येत बिघडली होती. त्यामुळे हे उपोषण सोडता यावे यासाठी आंदोलनाची पुनर्रचना करण्यात येत असल्याचा डाव खेळण्यात आला. वास्तविक उपोषणाच्याद्वारे आंदोलनाचा आरंभ करण्याची पद्धतच अयोग्य होती. महात्मा गांधींनी कधीही कुणाच्या विरोधात कधीच उपोषण केले नव्हते. ते आपल्या मागण्यांसाठी नेहमीच सकारात्मक भूमिका बाळगून होते. त्यामुळे स्वातंत्र्य देण्यास अनिच्छुक असलेल्या ब्रिटिशांना त्यांनी भारतास स्वातंत्र्य देणे भाग पाडले होते. भ्रष्टाचाराच्या विरुद्ध कोणतेही आव्हान नसल्यामुळे अजिर्त उत्पन्नापेक्षा अधिक संपत्ती बाळगल्याचा मायावतींवरील खटला न्यायालयाने खारीज केल्यानंतर त्याच्याविरोधात कोणतेही अपील दाखल न करण्याच्या सी.बी.आय. च्या निर्णयाला सरकारने संमती दिली होती. कारण लोकसभेत बहुमत शाबित करण्यासाठी सं.पु.आ. ला बसपाच्या २१ खासदारांच्या पाठिंब्याची नितांत गरज आहे. त्यामुळे सरकारने काहीही केले तरी हे सरकार आणखी २२ महिने सत्तेवर राहील हे स्पष्टच आहे. कोळशाच्या घोटाळ्याच्या संदर्भात सी.ए.जी. ने सादर केलेल्या अहवालाबाबत सरकारने स्वस्थ बसणे, मायावतींच्या संदर्भातील अजिर्त उत्पन्नापेक्षा अधिक संपत्ती असल्याच्या संदर्भात कोणतीच कृती न करणे, यामुळे कोणताच फरक पडणारा नाही. मायावती यांनी २00३ पासून आतापर्यंत एकूण रु. ११६ कोटींची माया जमा केली असावी असे उघड बोलले जाते. अशावेळी राजकारणाच्या मैदानात उतरण्यासाठी अण्णा हजारे यांना सध्या सुवर्णसंधी आहे. ज्या आंदोलनने बौद्धिक जगताला स्वत:च्या पायावर उभे राहण्याची संधी मिळवून दिली आणि जे आंदोलन सतत अठरा महिने मीडियाच्या प्रकाशझोतात राहिले. त्या आंदोलनाच्या राखेतून एखादा राजकीय पक्ष पुढे येऊ शकेल का? या आंदोलनातून कोणतेही फलित हाती लागले नसले तरी समाजापुढील प्रश्नांबाबत सिव्हिल सोसायटी जागृत झाली ही फारच मोठी उपलब्धी आहे.
समाजात निर्माण झालेल्या या जागृतीचे रूपांतर मतदान प्रक्रियेत करणे अण्णा हजारे यांना शक्य होईल का? हेच आता बघायचे आहे. काँग्रेस आणि भाजपा या दोघांनाही पर्याय देऊ शकणार्‍या घटकांसोबत सध्या ते आहेत. लोकांना परिवर्तन हवे आहे. देशाची सत्ता काँग्रेस किंवा भाजपाच्या हातात सोपविण्याची जनतेची इच्छा नाही. गांधीवादी नेते जयप्रकाश नारायण यांनादेखील याच परिस्थितीतून जावे लागले होते. राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघाबरोबरचे संबंध तोडण्याच्या अटीवर त्यांनी पूर्वीच्या जनसंघाला आपल्यासोबत घेण्याची तयारी केली होती. त्यानंतर जनसंघासोबत त्यांची वादावादीही झाली. पण या प्रक्रियेत गैरसांप्रदायिक पक्ष असल्याचे प्रमाणपत्र जनसंघाला मिळाले. अण्णा हजारे यांनी जेव्हा बाबा रामदेव यांना आपल्यासोबत घेण्याचा प्रयास केला तेव्हा त्यांच्यासमोर तसाच प्रसंग उद्भवला आहे. धर्मनिरपेक्ष आणि अनुदार हे घटक कधीच एकमेकांसोबत नांदू शकत नाहीत. जेपींनी केलेल्या चुकीचा जनसंघाने फायदा करून घेतला. अशा स्थितीत बाबा रामदेव व त्यांचे सहकारी हे अण्णा हजारे यांच्यासोबत जाण्यास उत्सुक असतील तर अण्णा हजारे यांनी त्यांच्यापासून स्वत:ला दूर केले पाहिजे. बाबा रामदेव यांची संस्कृती वेगळी आहे. सिव्हिल सोसायटी त्याचा स्वीकार करण्यास तयार नाही.
अण्णा हजारे हे स्वत:ला जयप्रकाश नारायण यांच्यासारखे समजतात. पण जयप्रकाश नारायण यांनी देशभर दौरा करून अनियंत्रित सत्ता स्वत:च्या हाती ठेवू इच्छिणार्‍या प्रवृत्तींना पराभूत करण्यासाठी जनजागृती करण्याचा प्रयास केला होता. अण्णांनी निवडणूक प्रक्रियेत सहभागी होण्यास माझा विरोध नाही पण ते स्वत:च याबाबतीत द्विधा मन:स्थितीत आहेत. असा निर्णय करण्यापूर्वी त्यांनी मेधा पाटकर, अरुंधती रॉय यासारख्या सामाजिक कार्यकर्त्यांसोबत चर्चा केली पाहिजे. आपले आंदोलन सुरू करताना अण्णांनी यातर्‍हेचा सल्ला कुणाकडून घेतला नव्हता. सामान्य लोकांमध्ये कार्य करणार्‍या लहान लहान जनसमूहांना त्यांनी आंदोलनाच्या कक्षेत आणायला हवे होते. अण्णांना जे परिवर्तन घडवून आणण्याची इच्छा आहे त्या परिवर्तनासाठी या लहान लहान संघटनांचे कार्यकर्ते त्यांच्या मदतीस येऊ शकतील. त्यानंतर एखादा पक्ष स्थापन करण्याऐवजी एखादे राजकीय व्यासपीठ निर्माण करणे अधिक उपयुक्त ठरू शकेल. त्यामुळे उद्दिष्ट साध्य होण्यास मदत मिळेल. काही लोक आंदोलनात सहभागी होतील तर काही निवडणुका लढतील. त्यांची एकमेकांना मदत तर होईलच पण ते अधिक शक्तिशालीही होतील. महात्मा गांधींनीसुद्धा रचनात्मक कार्य करणार्‍यांना विधायक कार्य करणार्‍या लोकांपासून वेगळेच ठेवले होते.
अण्णा हजारे यांनी स्वत:च्या आरोग्याची आधी काळजी घ्यायला हवी. तसेच मूलभूत मूल्यांविषयी बांधिलकी बाळगणार्‍यांचे सहकार्य प्राप्त करण्याचा प्रयत्न त्यांनी केला पाहिजे. हे करण्यासाठी वेळ जरी लागला तरी पदरी अपयश येणार नाही. 
-कुलदीप नय्यर
(लेखक ज्येष्ठ पत्रकार आहेत.)

A Preface to Racial Discourse in India

Racial ideology in Indian society, though not recognised by the government or academic circles, is experienced on a daily basis by people from the north-east in mainland India. With the deaths of Richard Loitam in Bangalore and Dana Sangma in Gurgaon in April 2012, the accumulation of experiences and the availability of strong informal communication channels catalysed protests for justice and against racism. These articulations need to be strengthened, deepened and sustained through scholarly attention. At the same time, the north-east needs to examine mainland cultures through its own lens, to create fundamental transformations in the relationship between the two.
Swar Thounaojam ( is a playwright and theatre director based in Bangalore.
The author acknowledges the contribution of Dilip Chowdhury in interpreting the massive data contained in the schedules of the Singur Act.
After the mysterious and controversial deaths of Richard Loitam in Bangalore and Dana Sangma in Gurgaon in April 2012, a debate on racism opened up on primetime news channels, social media and traditional news platforms. It gained traction and intensity in May. The debate was a denunciation of racism faced by the north-east in mainland India. The north- east – rarely north-east Indians but often north-east persons or people – is now a popular handle used to describe the 39 million people, according to the 2001 Census, who belong to over 200 ethnic minority groups and originate, live or migrate from the eight states comprising the north-eastern part of India that ­borders China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mainland India is the handle used by the north-east to refer to the dominant ­political, social and cultural landscape of India.
One outcome of this debate was that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sent a letter to all the states and union territories, asking them to book offenders guilty of atrocities against people from the region under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) (SC/ST) Act since a significant number of persons from the north-east belong to the scheduled tribes (STs). ­According to a report in India Today, the letter stated (Sharma 2012):
A sizeable number of persons belonging to the North-Eastern states are residing in metropolitan cities and in major urban areas of the country for education and employment. It is reported that people originating from these North-Eastern states are facing discrimination as they are addressed with derogatory adjectives or face discrimination in the form of targeted attacks, assault, ­molestation and other atrocities.
The report goes on to note that ­(ibid):
According to a provision under Section 3 of the SC/ST Act, an offence will be committed if any member of the SC/ST category is ­‘deliberately insulted and humiliated in public view’.
The letter from the MHA was an offshoot of the feverish debate on racism. But the vocabulary of the Indian government carefully wielded the social categorisation of the north-east as a group of STs and used the existent machinery of the SC/ST Act to address the “reported” “discrimination” faced by the north-east as one of the many communal patho­logies that demoralise the cultural principles of the country. The language of the letter is blank on the terminology – racism – used in the debate. It is silent on the historical emergence of the debate. The mainstream Indian media made racism an explicit issue and picked up cudgels to fight racism against the north-east. However, it has not questioned the government’s categorical blankness on the point of racism, nor has it pondered the muteness of Indian academic ­researchers and scholars on this debate.
Race Thinking
How did this debate on racism emerge historically? Contemporary Indian poli­tical and social sciences have remained mute on the process of racialisation of the north-east. No extensive literature exists that explores and studies it. I will therefore try to answer this question from observations and reflections gained through personal experiences and a measured reading of contemporary texts on racism developed by western researchers.
Mainland India has, for years, exhi­bited one core characteristic of race thinking in its social interactions with the north-east. The mental and moral behaviour of the north-east have been related to their physical structure (Barzun 1937). This biological distance-marker (which is now irrelevant in contemporary studies of racism) transformed ­itself into a social fact by the formation of strongly-held stereotypes of the north-east, especially its women, and the usage of racial slurs against them. The ­racial slur chinki is persistently used by mainland India to categorise the north-east (and any person with an east Asian physical structure). The majority of ­users defend the usage as handy in identifying who is what in this country. This usage is an ideological process to define an unclassified populace who have become the nation’s citizens but do not share, in the popular imagination of the country, its biology, historicity and cultural values.
Whatever the nature of its alleged utility, it is grossly wrong to believe chinki exists as a neutral term. It has resisted neutering because it is often and deliberately used as a hostile verbal act, in public, private, educational and professional spaces, to “otherise”, offend, humiliate and taunt. Other than the north-east, the victims of such a corrosive act of naming and shaming include persons with an east Asian physical structure, residing in or visiting this country. However, if a person is from the north-east but does not have the east Asian physical structure that functions as the immediate distance-marker, it is highly unlikely that she would be subjected to racial naming and shaming.
The racism debate seemed a conflation of region and race but on further investigation, what is happening in India right now seems to reflect the racialisation of great sweeps of human variation (Downing and Husband 2005) that share a common geographic location and ethnic minority status. As a contemporary society, many forms of discrimination charge our social dynamics. Discrimination based on caste, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, age and physical disability interact in the same environment and complicate our understanding of racism (Downing and Husband 2005). This dense complication disorients current public discourses on racism in India. In the absence of potent theories on the emergence and practice of racism in India, we do not have the specific political and social idioms to ­critique the country’s racist practices.
On 29 May 2012, Yengkhom Jilangamba published an op-ed in The Hindu, “Let’s Stop Pretending There’s No Racism in ­India”. As timely and well-intentioned as it was, a fundamental failure of the article was the assumption that the Indian population as well as Indian social science comprehend the phenomenon of racism. The stories of racial discrimination in the article, institutional as well as social and ideological, do not yet have an ­accompanying racial discourse in India. Like in any other society where the study of racism is backward, racism in India is misapplied to cultural rejection and looked upon as an individual pathology which must be expected in some proportions in all societies (Downing and Husband 2005). The country also has a general scepticism of the term racism because of its western historicity. The majority of society believes the terminology has no relevance in India. The article ­denunciates the evil, but does not really analyse it (Wieviorka 1995).
In a response to Yengkhom’s op-ed, Ashley Tellis (2012) made a telling ­remark in his piece:
Mr Yengkhom’s article unfortunately reasserts an Us and Them equation when dealing with racism. The fact is that Northeasterners from all eight States are racist themselves. […] The point is simply this: we cannot ­afford to only point the racist finger at others. Several fingers are pointing back at us.
This assertion that “everyone, including the victims of racism, is capable of racism” underpins how racial discourse in any nation state is a complicated, provocative process. A postmodern analysis of racism in India, hinted by Tellis in this quote, stresses the complexities and paradoxes we must always remain alert to in our arguments and explorations of race thinking in India. However, we must also be acutely aware of the danger of demonising the victims and reducing the discourse to an idiotic binary crisis of victim/aggressor. Many of my friends (north-east as well as mainland) dismiss the debate on racism using this ­binary crisis as their shtick.
The Price of Assimilation
When a person from the north-east (or a person with an east Asian physical structure) is named, shamed and abused as a chinki in India, protests against such racist practice get counter-attacked in public as well as private discourses by the majority cultural communities of ­India. They posit that the labelling of various communities is a communal patho­logy that a diverse society like India has to live with. A familiar line of argument one hears is this: Chinki is an endearing nickname in north India. South Indians are called madrasi by north ­Indians. What’s the big deal with calling you chinki?
First, chinki as an endearing nickname might just be an Indian anomaly. Second, madrasi is a term for cultural rejection used by one dominant cultural player against an equal opponent; it is cultural politics, not racial ideology, and both are equally poisonous. Third, when you call me chinki and abuse me for ­being chinki, it is a racist gesture and practice that carries a historical baggage of hostility, subjugation and oppression; you are naming and shaming me from a position of power while I have no power to respond to you as your equal. The naming, shaming and abuse is not your human foible. It is a social ideology you have inherited from a social order that has never been challenged for its race thinking.
I left Imphal in 1998 to study in Delhi. I assimilated – I learnt to speak Hindi, cook north Indian food, and understand north Indian etiquette and custom so that my friends’ families would not be offended when I visited them. I was making things easier for people interacting with me. Assimilation was a one-way street at that time, and based on reports of current experiences, I do not think it has changed much. I assimilated into the Delhi norm. My investment into the Delhi identity was uncritical. I applied the ­homogenising logics of Delhi to my speech, body language and clothes. I never challenged Delhi. Assimilation meant I adopted the political, social and cultural stories of Delhi so that I could have conversations with my friends and classmates. They never thought they sometimes needed to adapt my political, ­social and cultural stories to have a conversation with me. When comments appear about how some north-east people do not assimilate in Indian cities, and ­reinforce their difference by rejecting the majority culture, we have to remind ourselves of this: uncritical assimilation into the ­majority culture is too huge a price to pay for a marginalised person who comes from a minority ethnic community. It creates a schizophrenic existence where you annihilate memory to be accepted. The politics of difference argues for the essential compatibility of a common obligation to participate in civil ­society as equals, and a commitment to negotiating cultural coexistence (Downing and Husband 2005).
The entrenchment of such racial ideo­logy in our society, though not recognised by our government or academic circles, is experienced on a daily basis by the north-east in mainland India. When Richard Loitam died with a bloody head and Dana Sangma committed suicide ­after she was accused of cheating in her exam and allegedly humiliated by the invigilator, it was the accumulation of such experiences and the availability of strong informal communication channels that catalysed protests for justice and against racism. In the past, collective experience had been shared as incoherent narratives. For the first time, a sustained articulation sprung forth after the violent deaths of two young students. The mainstream media participated and projected the articulation of racism in India. In the present context, the articulation is limited to personal stories of racism, limited examples of ­institutional racism and a modest call to include chapters on the north-east in the National Council of Educational ­Research and Training (NCERT) books. This articulation needs to be streng­thened, deepened and sustained by scholarly attention.
If we are serious about tackling the existent racial ideology in our society, our scholars need to go beyond sympathising with the victims and overcome their resistance to mapping racism. We need to diligently create the tools necessary to understand Indian racial ideo­logy. We need to develop ideas and research to create specific political and social idioms to critique our society’s race thinking so that the media can do a more sophisticated job with debates on racism and project critical thinking about race in the country to its audience. Thorough sociological studies on racism are needed to effect a change in government’s policymaking vis-à-vis the social interactions of mainland India with the north-east.
If the muteness of academic circles on the racism debate is an indication that it is not a field worth studying, it would be necessary for scholars to ­explore and create a relevant framework to understand the expressed dissatis­faction of the north-east people in their social ­interactions with mainland India, and the otherisation they routinely face in private, public, educational or ­professional spaces.
Thinkers, artists, writers, activists, journalists, professionals and students from the north-east have to realign the representation of the region. We have to challenge the triad representation (that those from the north-east also often ­endorse) as “sportspeople, women and entertainers”. The North East Blog on IBNLive is perhaps the first of its kind in mainstream media; it presently acts as a platform to “develop an informed perspective on matters related to this part of India”. I appreciate the effort and the bloggers involved in this articulation. Over the next few months, it would be important to parse the quality, depth and diversity of the articulation.
As the dialogue occurs between contemporary voices from minority ethnic groups and the media, extra efforts should be made from both sides to transcend the majority guilt of the media and the valorising of good ethnicity. ­Using this blog as a starting point, we should look into the possibility of building independent platforms to discuss, dissect and develop social interactions between the north-east and mainland India. A model we can examine is the now folded Sepia Mutiny.1
I am an admirer of the commitment, irreverence and doggedness that the blog demonstrated in battling and ­discussing the identity and place of the south Asian American diaspora in North ­America. Sepia Mutiny brought attention to the political economy of south Asian Americans in the United States, highlighted violence against south Asian Americans and broadened discussions beyond simple hate crimes, discussed south Asian literature, music and the arts with nuance and panache, and celebrated and critiqued the emergence of a south Asian American diaspora. Are we at a place where we can build an erudite, informed and self-aware platform like Sepia Mutiny to transform perceptions and enrich dialogues?
Yes, we create Facebook pages and groups to discuss our issues. We tweet and blog our thoughts. We go on the streets and protest; we write letters to our governments and register our dissatisfactions. We now go on TV debates. These activities are important in creating the necessary noise. But if we want to create fundamental transformations, our present articulations need nuance, comprehension and awareness of international racial studies, political depth and philosophical strength. As much as we fight against the abuse and homogenising of our existence, we have to guard ourselves against valorising our ethnicity, and examine the ever-present campaigning of our uniqueness. We need sophisticated arguments and astute thinking on our condition.
We are at a much better place than our parents’ generation to voice our ­issues. We can speak, write and argue in English. We have easy access to informal and independent social media platforms that can broadcast our stories. What gets knocked about in social media directly affects the course of social interactions now. Our storytelling need not be ­inward-looking all the time. Perhaps it is time for us to examine mainland cinema through our lens, review mainland literature through our sensibilities, discuss mainland arts through our aesthetic ­values, and critique mainland writings of our region through our perspectives and experiences. Perhaps it is time to turn the gaze around.

मार्क्सवादी फिक्शन

मार्क्सवादी कम्युनिस्ट पक्ष म्हणजे विद्वानांची मांदियाळी. परंतु सामान्यांना बदलत्या जगाचे जे भान आले, ते यांना आलेच नाही. पांढरपेशा वर्गाचे हितसंबंध जपायचे, पण शेतकरी व असंघटित कामगारांमधील पाया विस्तारण्याकडे दुर्लक्ष करायचे, असे यांचे चालले आहे. प्रामाणिकपणा, तळमळ, गरिबांबद्दल एकरूपता आणि वैचारिक निष्ठा हे डाव्यांचे गुण. पण भारतीय कम्युनिस्टांना एखाद्या गोर्बाचोव किंवा डेंगची गरज आहे.

भारतातील लोकशाहीस 'बूर्झ्वा फिक्शन' मानणाऱ्या साम्यवाद्यांपैकी, मार्क्सवादी कम्युनिस्ट पक्षाला पश्चिम बंगाल व केरळातील जनतेने हिसका दाखवून 'फिक्शन'च्या भूमिकेत जायला भाग पाडले. मात्र, पाठीत रट्ट्यामागून रट्टे बसले, तरी हा पक्ष शहाणा व्हायला तयार नाही, हे पक्षाच्या कोझिकोड येथे भरलेल्या विसाव्या अधिवेशनात स्पष्ट झाले.

उत्तर प्रदेेश विधानसभा निवडणुकांमधील पराभवाची जबाबदारी काँग्रेसचे महासचिव राहुल गांधी यांनी स्वत:कडे न घेता इतर नेत्यांवर ढकलली. माकपने काँग्रेसचा कित्ता थेट गिरवला नसला, तरी कठोर आत्ममंथन करण्याचे टाळले आहे. काँग्रेस व भारतीय जनता पक्षाला मार्क्सवादी कम्युनिस्ट पक्ष हा उत्तम पर्याय होऊ शकतो, असे सरचिटणीसपदी पुन्हा बसवलेले प्रकाश कारात यांनी म्हटले आहे. ज्या तीन राज्यांत पक्ष सत्तेवर होता, त्यापैकी दोन राज्यांमधून लोकांनी घरी पाठवून दिल्यानंतरही इतके स्वप्नरंजन करावेसे वाटणे कौतुकास्पद मानले तरी सद्यस्थितीत तिसरी आघाडी स्थापन करण्यास वाव नसल्याचा साक्षात्कार पक्षाला झाला, ही त्यातल्या त्यात समाधानाची बाब. कदाचित २०१४पूवीर् शरद पवार वा मुलायम-सिंग या नेहमीच्या खेळाडूंना या 'खेळा'साठी मोकळीक द्यावी, असाही हेतू असू शकतो.

कोझिकोडच्या अधिवेशनाचे वर्णन स्थानिक वृत्तपत्रांनी 'दहा कोटींचा रिअॅलिटी शो' म्हणून केले. एकतर गंभीर गुन्ह्यांमधील आरोपी असलेले बंगालमधील माजी मंत्री सुशान्त घोष अधिवेशनास उपस्थित होते. बंगालच्या मुख्यमंत्री ममता बॅनजीर् यांना पातळी सोडून लाखोली वाहणारे दुसरे नेते अनिल बसू यांनाही आमंत्रित करण्यात आले व तेही हजर होते! बूर्झ्वा पक्षातील अपप्रवृत्ती (उदाहरणार्थ लैंगिक छळाची प्रकरणे) माकपमध्येही शिरल्या असून, त्यांच्या विरोधात संघर्ष जारी असल्याचे मोघम आश्वासन देण्यात आले. परंतु काही वर्षांपूर्वी पक्षाच्या प्रदेश शाखांमध्ये सुरू करण्यात आलेल्या 'रेक्टिफिकेशन' कार्यक्रमाचे काय झाले, हे कळू शकले नाही. साम्राज्यवादी शक्तींच्या धोरणांनी निर्माण केलेल्या आव्हानांना तोंड देताना समाजवादी देशांनीही काही चुका केल्या, हे पक्षाला मान्य आहे, हे नशीब. मात्र 'निवडणुकीतील तात्कालिक लाभ मिळवण्या-साठी आम्ही पक्षवाढीचा विचार करत नाही,' असे पॉलिटब्यूरो सदस्य एस. रामचंद पिल्लई यांनी सांगितले. वास्तविक निवडणुकीचा विचार करून माकपने वारंवार मुस्लिम अनुनय केला आहे. शिवाय, गटबाजी, व्यक्तिवाद, करिअरवाद या अनिष्ट बाबींचा प्रवेश माकपमध्येही झाल्याची कबुली द्यावी लागली.

काँग्रेसच्या नवउदारमतवादी सुधारणा व भाजपचा जमातवाद जनतेला मान्य नसला, तरी लोकांनी डाव्या शक्तींनाही धुत्कारले आहे. उदारीकरणाने विषमता निर्माण झाली व शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्या होऊ लागल्या, ही कारात यांची टीका ढोबळ आहे. याचे कारण उदारीकरणापूर्वीही विषमता होती; पण तिचे स्वरूप निराळे होते. तेव्हा मध्यमवगीर्यांची संख्या कमी होती. आज ती फोफावली आहे. पुन्हा शेतक-यांच्या आत्महत्या १९८०पासून होत असल्याचे वक्तव्य केंदीय कृषिमंत्री शरद पवार यांनी केले होते.

जगात कोणत्याही समस्या उद्भवल्या की अमेरिकन साम्राज्यवाद, जागतिकीकरण, उदारीकरण आणि बूर्झ्वा हितसंबंध यांना दोष देऊन मोकळे व्हायचे, ही मार्क्सवादी परंपरा आहे. जागतिक मंदीपासून भारत सुरक्षित राहिला; कारण आम्ही बँकिंग-विमा-पेन्शन क्षेत्रांमधील खासगी-विदेशी भांडवल रोखले, असा माकप नेते सीताराम येचुरी यांचा दावा असतो. पण आज या सुधारणा न होताही भारताची अर्थव्यवस्था संकटातच आहे. बँकांचे राष्ट्रीयीकरण झाल्यामुळे भारतीय बँका वित्तसंकटापासून बचावल्या, असाही त्यांचा युक्तिवाद असतो. पण इथल्या खासगी बँकाही संकटमुक्त राहिल्याच होत्या की!

माकपने सोमनाथ चटजीर्, बुद्धदेव भट्टाचार्य, व्ही. एस. अच्युतानंदन यांसारख्या नेत्यांना अवमानित करण्यात धन्यता मानली. पण आज पाठ्यपुस्तकांमधून मार्क्सला हद्दपार करण्याच्या ममता बॅनर्जींच्या निर्णयास स्पष्ट विरोध करण्यात पुढाकार घेतला तो सोमनाथबाबूंनीच. सिंगूर व नंदीग्रामच्या चुका करताना बुद्धदेवबाबूंना पक्षाचे समर्थन होते. पण पराभव झाल्यानंतर त्यांच्यावर खापर फोडण्यात आले. उद्योगीकरणातूनच राज्याला दिशा मिळेल, हा बुद्धदेवबाबूंचा दृष्टिकोन योग्यच होता, हे मात्र पक्षाला मनापासून पटले नव्हते! काँग्रेसच्या भ्रष्टाचाराविरुद्ध गर्जना करणा-या माकपने केरळातील पक्षांतर्गत गैरप्रवृतींविरुद्ध लढणा-या अच्युतानंदन यांची सतत उपेक्षा केली.

एकेकाळी 'छोडो भारत' आंदोलनास कॉम्रेड डांगे यांचे सुप्त समर्थन होते; तर बी. टी. रणदिवे यांची त्यास सहानुभूती नव्हती. भारतास स्वातंत्र्य मिळाले, तेव्हा ते खरे स्वातंत्र्य नसून, तो ब्रिटिश साम्रज्यवाद्यांचा कट असल्याची मांडणी करून सशस्त्र उठावाचा कार्यक्रम कम्युनिस्टांनी स्वीकारला. या धोरणास स्टालिनच्या रशियाचा पाठिंबा होता. गोर्बाचोव यांच्या 'पेरेस्त्रोयका'नंतर भारतातील डावे भांबावले. हा मार्क्सवादावरचा हल्ला असल्याचे नंबुदीपाद यांचे प्रतिपादन होते. तिआनेनमान चौकातील हत्याकांडवादी धोरणाचेही समर्थन करण्यात आले.

माकप म्हणजे विद्वानांची मांदियाळी. परंतु सामान्यांना बदलत्या जगाचे जे भान आले, ते यांना आलेच नाही. पांढरपेशावर्गाचे हितसंबंध जपायचे; पण शेतकरी व असंघटित कामगारांत पाया विस्तारण्याकडे दुर्लक्ष करायचे, असे चालले आहे. वस्तुत: काँग्रेस व भाजपकडून जनतेचा अपेक्षाभंग झाला आहे. अशावेळी डाव्या शक्तींची वाढ होण्यास वाव आहे. प्रामाणिकपणा, तळमळ, गरिबांबद्दल एकरूपता आणि वैचारिक निष्ठा हे डाव्यांचे गुण आहेत. तरी बंगाल, केरळ, त्रिपुरा व तामिळनाडूतील लोकसभेच्या १६ जागाच माकपकडे आहेत. उत्तर भारतात त्याचे अस्तित्व नाममात्र आहे. दुदैर्वाने तेथे व इतरत्र नक्षलवाद्यांचा विस्तार प्रचंड गतीने झाला आहे.

राष्ट्रीय पक्ष भ्रष्ट असून, प्रादेशिक पक्ष अस्मितावादी आहेत. अशा पोकळीत मनसेसारखे विवेकशून्य पक्ष आणि अण्णा हजारेंसारखी बेभान आंदोलने 'रिझल्ट्स' देत आहेत. माकपमध्येही एखाद्या गोर्बाचोव वा डेंगची गरज आहे. कारात व येचुुरी यांच्या जोखडातून मुक्ती मिळाली, तरच पक्षाला नवी दिशा सापडू शकेल.

हेमन्त देसाई

डाव्यांचा स्थितीवाद
व्या कम्युनिस्ट पक्षाने प्रकाश करातांना आपले सरचिटणीसपद तिसर्‍यांदा देऊन गेल्या वीस वर्षांत आपण फारसे काही शिकलो नसल्याचेच देशाच्या लक्षात आणून दिले आहे. केरळातील कोझिकोडे येथे भरलेल्या पक्षाच्या दहा दिवसांच्या अधिवेशनाच्या अखेरच्या दिवशी करातांची त्याच्या सर्वोच्चपदी निवड झाली तेव्हा हा पक्ष यापुढेही जुन्याच मार्गाने जात राहील आणि त्याच्या वाढीची फारशी शक्यताही असणार नाही हे सार्‍यांना कळून चुकले. करातांच्या नेतृत्वात डाव्या पक्षांची लोकसभेतील सदस्यसंख्या ६३ वरून २३ वर आली. प. बंगाल व केरळ ही दोन्ही राज्ये त्या पक्षांनी गमावली. ज्योती बसू, सोमनाथ चॅटर्जी आणि अच्युतानंद यासारख्या जुन्या व लोकप्रिय नेत्यांचा करातांनी केलेला पाणउताराही याचकाळात पक्षाने पाहिला. काळाची बदलती पावले लक्षात न घेता मार्क्‍सच्या जुन्याच पोथीशी व पक्षाने कधीकाळी पत्करलेल्या एकांगी अमेरिकाविरोधाशी घट्ट व एकनिष्ठ राहण्याचे करातांचे धोरण सार्‍यांनी स्वीकारल्याचेच दिसले. परिणामी बंगाल व केरळ ही राज्ये करातांच्या नेतृत्वकाळात माघारली आणि त्याचे दुष्परिणाम पक्षाला पहावेही लागले. डॉ. मनमोहनसिंगांच्या पहिल्या आघाडी सरकारला बाहेरून पाठिंबा देण्याची करातांनी दरदिवशी जी वाढती व जुलमी किंमत मागितली तिला कंटाळून 'ते मला आपला वेठबिगार समजतात' असे उद्गार पंतप्रधानांनी काढले आणि त्यांना त्यांची जागा दाखवून देण्यासाठी त्यांच्या पाठिंब्यावाचून अमेरिकेशी केलेल्या अणुकराराला संसदेची मान्यताही मिळविली. आपल्या बरोबरीच्या येचुरीसारख्यांचा प्रभाव कमी करण्याचे व आपल्या मुठीतील विजयन सारख्या भ्रष्ट माणसाला बळदेण्याचे राजकारणही करातांनी या काळात केले. एवढे सारे झाल्यावर त्या शहाण्या व पुरोगामी पक्षाचे पुढारी नेतृत्वबदलाचा विचार करतील असे अनेकांना वाटले होते. पण पराभवातूनच नव्हे तर कशातूनही काही शिकायचे नाही अशी प्रतिज्ञा करून बसलेल्या इतर कोणत्याही राजकीय पक्षाहून करातांचा पक्षही वेगळा नाही हेच त्यांच्या कोझिकोडेमधील निवडीने स्पष्ट केले आहे. परवा झालेल्या पाच विधानसभांच्या निवडणुकीत काँग्रेस, भाजपा आणि बसपा हे तीनही पक्ष सारखेच पराभूत झाले. काँग्रेसला उत्तर प्रदेशात आपल्या जागा थोड्या वाढविता आल्या आणि मतसंख्येत थोडी वाढ करता आली तरी अपेक्षित यशापासून त्याला फार दूर रहावे लागले. भाजपाची मते आणि जागाही तेथे कमी झाल्या. काँग्रेसला मणिपूर आणि उत्तराखंड राखता आले आणि भाजपाला एकट्या गोव्यात विजय मिळविता आला. मायावतींनी राज्य गमावले आणि ते गमावताना पुढचे राजकारणही घालविले.. तीनही पराभूत पक्षांनी त्यांच्या वाट्याला आलेल्या पराभवातून कोणता धडा घेतला? नेतृत्व तेच, धोरणे तीच आणि घोषणाही जुन्याच. कोणताही खणखणीत निर्णय नाही, दुरुस्तीची योजना नाही आणि सारा खचत राहण्याचाच वसा. या पक्षांसारखेच कम्युनिस्टांनीही ठरविले असल्याचे कोझिकोडेतील करातांच्या निवडीने देशाला दाखविले आहे. पक्षाच्या राजकीय धोरणात कालानुरूप बदल करीत नेण्याची लवचिकताच सार्‍यांनी गमावली असल्याचे हे स्थितीवाद सांगणारे आणि निराश करणारे चित्र कधी बदलेल आणि त्यात नव्या माणसांना नेतृत्वाची संधी कधी मिळेल?

No comments:

Post a Comment