Crushing Dignity, Force-feeding Honour: The CPM is Back in Form Again!

The hunt, it seems, is on again. The CPM in power has begun to show its fangs again, and shamefully, they seem to threaten only dalit people who refuse and criticise their disciplinary/welfarist embrace.  In north Kerala, two dalit women were arrested for having allegedly attacked a DYFI leader who abused them in casteist terms. In the south, the persecution of the Buddhist Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM)seems to have begun afresh, with the police and the press foisting on them responsibility for the recent bomb blast at the premises of the Kollam Collectorate. The two women mentioned belong to the Congress party; as for the DHRM, the CPM has had a long-standing grouse against them, carried forward now from their last term in power. I am not sure, but the recent ouster of Laha Gopalan, the leader of the Chengara land struggle in the wake of the CPM’s return to power, could be part of this story too. I have no love lost for that man, who evoked the name of Ambedkar but ran the village set up by the landless in Chengara like a crude caste headman. But the timing of his expulsion and the way the village seems to be under the thumb of the police arouses discomfort.

It is striking that the CPM’s attacks on dalits is never random – they are not merely acts of anger provoked by some specific or immediate chance event. Rather, they occur every time dalit people or persons demand dignity.  That is, when they demand unconditional respect for their identity and demand welfare on that basis – and not just as unmarked poor. So Chitralekha, the woman autorickshaw driver who has faced repeated attacks from local CPM cadre and is now a figure of dalit resistance in Kerala, is facing a steep uphill climb in her efforts to build a home for herself in the land allotted to her by the former government. The two women Congress workers in north Kerala protested against casteist insults and were promptly arrested – even if they did attack the male leader who does not seem to have suffered even minor injury, how come this is counted as more of a crime than casteist slurs?

I am however, more deeply disturbed by the attacks on the DHRM because while the other attacks have produced ripples of discussion and protest among large sections of the critical public offline and online, there is a disconcerting silence about the violence unleashed against the DHRM.  Really, not even the warriors on Facebook who protested against the recent Malayalam hit Kammattippaadam, claiming that it misrepresented dalit men as violent, destructive losers.  Interestingly, in this movie, the dalit protagonists decisively outshone the savarna-looking ‘hero’ in that they fought for dignity in the face of tremendous odds; the film also triggered considerable discussion on caste and displacement in Kerala’s history among the yet-unconverted sections of the public. The movie brought into active critical public discourse the question of masculinity in Kerala’s wretched ‘dalit colonies’ where young dalit men – the most disadvantaged in Kerala’s male population- are recruited by politicians and criminals for all sorts of nefarious activities.  Yet, when the state actually tries to profile an organization that has sought to work with precisely these men, the critics and the admirers of Kammattippaadam are equally silent!

I have been in conversation with them since 2009. I still remember the early conversations with the DHRM’s founder-leader, Tathu, who stressed the organization’s role in rebuilding from the ground up, notions of honour and dignity, focusing on re-forming specifically, dalit men who have been abused and misused by elites.  His struggle was to actualize what appeared to me a future that is both Ambedkarite as well as rooted in the traditions of dalit and anti-caste resistance in Malayali society. It combined the search for a new spiritual home, in Buddhism of a specifically Malayali-dalit sort, with constant engagement with democracy through participation in general elections, and through the adoption and reform of practices to ensure the continuing democratization of the casteless community to be actualized in the future. The last is the reason why elite civil society and the mainstream press has found them unsettling – the all-black unisex uniform with Ambedkar’s image on it is too threatening, perhaps. The state and the CPM are disquieted because the DHRM has refused both reservations and neoliberal welfarism as routes, claiming that these may lead some dalits to honour defined in terms of, and in favour of, the savarna, but will never help to rebuild dalit dignity and a casteless society. They also do not believe in depending overly on mainstream media and their passivizing sympathy, which seems to have generated a grouse against them.

For this, they have been punished with alarming severity, and the CPM has been especially hostile.  The DHRM was accused of murdering an elderly morning walker at Varkala in 2009, allegedly to ‘terrorise their political opponents’ –  and despite there was concrete evidence for conflict between the DHRM and the Siva Sena over the loot of natural resources in the area and the DHRM’s insistence on ending the illicit trade in liquor and drugs in the Thoduva colony at Varkala, the police, right from the beginning, refused to listen to them, rejected their complaints, and allowed the Siva Sena and the DYFI to let loose a reign of terror.(Here is a sample of the vicious slander that was spread at that time). Seven DHRM men have been handed down life sentences at the end of this completely biased investigation. The terrible violence against dalit women and children at the colony is still unpunished – despite the fact that their testimony was widely available, being publicized by activists, in online forums including Youtube.  Indeed, one can’t help feeling that the manner in which the Jisha case is being handled by Pinarayi Vijayan’s team is inspired by the ‘success’ of their past strategy against the DHRM. Essentially, it involves giving the dog a bad name – and our mainstream press is only too happy to help – and then hang it. In fact, fling so much dirt that some will surely stick and influence the judiciary.

I appeal to all the people in and associated with the CPM, especially pro-CPM students who have been in the forefront of the protests against the Sangh Parivar’s assault on dalit and OBC students in JNU and HCU : if your acts in support of dalits in the country were not out of sheer narcissism (induced by Facebook, especially), we need to hear you question your leadership and bring to an end these ugly attacks. Sure, sure, one knows that internal battles are slow to produce outcomes, and maybe an entire generation needs to pass etc. etc. But even more surely, the slowness of change internally contrasts rather unbecomingly with your eagerness to reap political capital from the anti-caste protests elsewhere. Your slip is showing –  it is rather dirty and smelly, and you may profit from attending to it.

6 thoughts on “Crushing Dignity, Force-feeding Honour: The CPM is Back in Form Again!

  1. Shankar

    “In north Kerala, two dalit women were arrested for having allegedly attacked a DYFI leader who abused them in casteist terms.” This statement is completely falsehood and contorary to dalit woman’s statement to the media. Please see the video of her statement to one of the news channel:
    Please see the transcribe of the interview [പി ജി സുരേഷ് കുമാര് :
    അച്ഛനെ മര്ദിച്ചു എന്നതിലുള്ള പ്രതിഷേധം അത് വക്കാലാണോ അതോ കൈകൊണ്ടു പ്രതികരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ടോ ?
    അഖില : ഇല്ലില്ല അച്ഛനെ മര്ദിചിട്ട് എത്ര ദിവസമായി അതിനു ശേഷം രണ്ടു മൂന് ദിവസം കയിഞ്ഞിട്ടാണ് ഞാന് അച്ചന്റെ അടുത്തു വന്നത് കാരണം എന്റെ മോള് ഹോസ്പിറ്റലില് ആയതുകൊണ്ട് എനിക്കാട വരാന് പറ്റിയിട്ടില്ല അപ്പോള് അവിടെ എത്തിയപ്പോള് , കുറച്ചു രണ്ടു ദിവസം കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ടാ ഞാന് അവിടെ എത്തിയത് അപ്പൊ ഞാന് ചോയിക്കാന് വേണ്ടിയിട്ടാ അതിനു മുകളിലേക്ക് കയറിയത് ചോയിക്കുന്നതിനു മുന്നേ തന്നെ ഇരുന്ന കസേര എടുത്തിട്ടാണ് എന്നെയാണ് എന്റെ കൈക്കാണ് അടിച്ചത് കാരണം അവിടെ മൊത്തം സി പി എം പ്രവര്ത്തകരാ അവര് എന്തായാലും അങ്ങിന ഷിജില് പറയുന്നതെ പോലെയേ ചെയ്യു കാരണം ഈ ഷിജില് എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് ഈ പാര്ട്ടിയില് തന്നെ കണ്ടൂടാത്ത ആള്ക്കാരുണ്ട് ഈ സി പി എം പ്രവര്ത്തകരു കുട്ടിമാക്കൂല് നല്ല ആള്ക്കാരുണ്ട് എല്ലാവരും മോശാണ് എന്ന് ഞാന് പറയില്ല ആ നല്ല ആള്ക്കാരില് നമുക്കും ഫ്രണ്ട്സ്മാരുണ്ട് നമ്മളുടെ കളിച്ചു വളര്ന്ന ഈ ഷിജില് പെട്ടെന്ന് പാര്ട്ടിന്റെ ഇതില് എന്തെല്ലോ കൊറച്ച് ഏരിയസെക്രട്ടറിയോ അങ്ങിനെയല്ലാം ആയതിനു ശേഷണ് അവന്റെ ഇങ്ങിനത്തെ ഒരു പെരുമാറ്റം അപ്പൊ അച്ഛന് കോണ്ഗ്രസ് കാരന് ആയതുകൊണ്ട് അവനെ കണ്ടൂട പിന്നെ നമ്മള് എന്നാലും പിന്ന നല്ല രീതിയിലെ ഒനോട് ഇതുവരെ പെരുമാറിയിട്ടുള്ളു എന്ത് പ്രശ്നം ഉണ്ടെങ്കിലുംകുടുംബത്തില് ആയാലും കുടുംബത്തില് തന്നെ നമുക്ക് ശത്രുക്കളുണ്ട് കാരണം നമ്മളാ ആ കുടുംബക്കാരാക്കാട്ടും കുറച്ചു നല്ല ഇതിലാ നിക്കുന്നത് അതുകൊണ്ട് കുടുംബത്തില് തന്നെ …
    പി ജി സുരേഷ് കുമാര് : അതായതു അഖിലാ ഷിജിലും നിങ്ങളും തമ്മിലുള്ള പൂര്വ വൈരാഗ്യം കുറെക്കാലമായുള്ള പ്രശ്നങ്ങള് ഇതിനാത് വലിയൊരു ഘടകമാണ് , രാഷ്ട്രീയമെന്നൊക്കെ പറയുമ്പോഴും രാഷ്ട്രീയത്തിന് അപ്പുറതെക്ക് നിങ്ങള് തമ്മിലുള്ള വൈരാഗ്യം രാജനെ മര്ദിച്ചത് അത് ചോദ്യം ചെയ്തത് അത്തരം സംഭവങ്ങള് ആണ് ഇതിനു അടിസ്ഥാനം .
    അഖില : അത് തന്നെ അപ്പൊ ഷിജില് നമ്മളെ എന്ത് പ്രശനം വന്നാലും ഷിജില് ഇടപെടേണ്ട ആവിശ്യം എന്താന്നു അതവര് പാര്ട്ടിയായിട്ടു തീരുമാനിക്കുന്നതാണ് നമ്മള് പാര്ട്ടീന്റെ ഇതില് അല്ല ഞാന് ചോയിക്കാന് പോയത് എന്റെ അച്ഛനെ അടിച്ച പെട്ടെന്നുള്ള അച്ഛനെ ചീത്ത പറഞ്ഞു ഒരു ചെവിക്കു അടിച്ചു രണ്ടാമത്തെ ചെവി അടിച്ചു പെട്ടിക്കണം എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാല് ആരായാലും പ്രതികരിച്ചു പോവും]
    It is clear from the interview that it was a long drawn family fight between women’s family and their relatives. The person who has been attacked by the girls was also a relative of the girls. Now there are clear indication it is not a caste issue, on what ground Davika claims so? Devika, could you provide any concrete evidence for your arguments? In an earlier statement to the press women claimed they have entered on their will to the office and assaulted a boy, Shijin. Police cannot just simply avoid such claims, as it indicates towards causing injuries to people. What did police do wrong here? Please at least give some argument than throw polemics.
    “I am not sure, but the recent ouster of Laha Gopalan, the leader of the Chengara land struggle in the wake of the CPM’s return to power”
    Seriously Devika!! The RSS run channel’s report has nothing to do with LDF or CPIM. It was internal fight among the protesting population is the reason of the ouster as the RSS mouthpiece report it. It is really below the belt, Devika.
    So Chitralekha, the woman autorickshaw driver who has faced repeated attacks from local CPM cadre and is now a figure of dalit resistance in Kerala, is facing a steep uphill climb in her efforts to build a home for herself in the land allotted to her by the former government.
    Did you forget to mention UDF here intentionally or just omitted for convenience of your purpose?

    1. jdevika

      Mr Shankar, I don’t think I need to provide any ‘evidence’ for my claims. All I am trying to point out is the egregious way in which your party and you too, responded to an allegation of caste insult! In fact your long defence only confirms my point. You people do not have the decency to even admit openly that it is a crime to be casteist – much less will you agree to have a fair inquiry into the incident. And about Laha, I did not say that the CPM was involved, but the manner in which the CPM seems to react to dalit questions raises suspicions! And the onus is on you to give me evidence, and not simply deny. Because the interest that the police seems to be taking there cannot be without the tacit approval of the ruling party – c’mon, Mr Shankar, we are not naive, are we? Thirdly, about Chitralekha, when will you come out of your useless illusions? That struggle has been on since 10 years, almost, and you can still see only a UDF conspiracy? How sad, foolish, disappointing, Mr Shankar! Your response makes it clear that you people have learned nothing and will never learn.

      1. Wonderful, Devika. When you make allegations (that a DYFI activist abused two Congress activists in casteist terms), those become “facts”. Everything else, such as the attack by the Congress activists at the CPI(M) office, directed against the DYFI activist, becomes just an “allegation”. Then you go on to claim that the DYFI activist hasn’t suffered even a minor injury, when the photos of his injury are widely available. It is immaterial to you that the women in question have admitted that they went to the CPI(M) office, where they are alleged to have assaulted Shijin. The accounts by eye-witnesses and the relatives and neighbours of the Congress activists which contradict the Congress version of what happened are irrelevant to you. You would contemptuously ignore the fact that one of the three people who are in remand on the basis of the complaint by the women is a Dalit himself.

        What exactly is this “egregious manner” in which “the Party” responded to an “allegation of caste insult”? (Er, wasn’t it a “fact” according to you earlier, and not an “allegation?) The party’s response can be read in the statements by State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (https://www.facebook.com/KodiyeriB/posts/1038371566243692) and the Kannur District Secretary P Jayarajan (http://www.deshabhimani.com/news/kerala/news-kerala-18-06-2016/568810).

        And your claim about Laha Gopalan does not make any sense. Your suspicion is pure speculation, and it is laughable that you are holding up a report in Janam TV, the RSS channel, to prop up your claim.

        About the Sangh Parivar’s assault in JNU and HCU: The assault in HCU was against Dalit students, and later against the student movement as a whole. The assault in JNU was against the student movement as a whole from the very beginning.

        1. jdevika

          Oh no, really – so the whole incident is ‘serious’ because the man was hurt! When the women complained, the CPM brigade jumped up to say that it was just a ‘family quarrel’, but when the man complains, it is serious physical injury! As for the images, is there evidence that the injury shown was actually because the women assaulted the man? And oh, you think we are so naive that we’d think that two women, that too, not the favorites of the local CPM, can just walk into a party office and knock the daylights off a young male leader? Wow! But then, if the insult that the women suffered is just a lie and the assault suffered by the man is the actual truth, why not inquire into it in a democratic way? Since caste insult is a serious allegation? Secondly, the Janam report does not utter a single word about the CPM’s involvement. But for many of us who do not enjoy the CPM’s patronage, it is evident that the police usually does not get passionate about protecting poor people unless they get at least a tactic signal from the powers that are or the power-in-waiting! And oh, for people like me, the student movement in JNU is special precisely because the voices of dalit and OBC students are relatively more audible in it than from earlier times. You people really need to stop being so blind and so sure that the rest of us are fools.

      2. shaturya

        While agreeing to whatever you said, I am worried about a larger phenomenon in Indian political milieu. Every political party, from far left to far right has shown authoritarian bias. Our legal and policing system are decadent and feudal , and being deliberately kept same by political masters to suit their instincts ,

        Even ideology based parties have tweaked their ideology to suit the authorianism of the system !

        In this atmosphere, obvious is the fact that weaker sections of the society which includes women, are the worst sufferers.

        My only hope is that the wide spread of communication through TV and internet raises aspirations of people and also educate them to an extent where they are able cut the shackles of feudal ropes and put pressure on political power to reform itself to become truly modern in the sense that equality of all gender, caste and religion becomes way of life in India.

  2. K SHESHU BABU

    This incident only reflects that ‘ caste’ is alive and well in the communist parties. The protests and struggles are confined to the educated ‘ upper strata’ of dalit and lower castes and the real sufferers on the ground are still untouched. While the struggles in universities and academic organisations should continue, these struggles should embrace all the laymen and women who are ordinary workers, rickshaw pullers, land tillers and other menial workers earning daily bread by ceaseless toil.

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