Guest Post by Umar Khalid
I went to Maharashtra as I along with other activists and intellectuals were invited to come there. I along with others was a guest there. And I would remember fondly the love and support that I received in Pune and Mumbai. I would remember the resilience and enthusiasm of the people I met and their resoluteness to fight Manuvaad and centuries old casteist tyranny. I would remember the immense inspiration that I felt, when we paid homage to Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule in Phule-wada, Pune. And, No I will not let two days of media trials by a few TV anchors, who are more of professional howlers, spoil these wonderful memories. I will not let their criminal cacophony and mindless vilification of me, Jignesh & others shadow my beautiful memories of Maharashtra.
The state of Maharashtra as well as the rest of the country is at a critical juncture today. On the one hand are forces in power who want to push our country back to many centuries and on the other are people who are resisting this Neo-Peshwahi, the casteist-communal-fascist regime of BJP-RSS. In my speech at Elgar Parishaad on 31st December 2017, I had said that the year 2018 is going to be a very challenging one. The last 3 and half years of the Modi Sarkar has exposed the BJP’s jumlas of Ache Din and Vikas as hollow, bitter and brutal lies.
As the General Elections of 2019 approach, BJP/RSS will now resort to creating civil strife amongst the people, polarising them on the basis of caste and religion and unleashing attacks on muslims and Dalits. The developments over the last few days vindicate me, a little too soon. Several regions of Maharashtra are in the midst of an acute agrarian distress. Both Marathas and Dalits are victims of this agrarian crisis that has been precipitated by the policies of both Modi and Fadnavis. The BJP/RSS regime has no resolution to offer to the farmers of Maharashtra. Therefore, unleashing attacks on Dalits through their hoodlums and portraying it as a caste clash between Dalits & Marathas will remain their only strategy.
The attack on the Bhima Koregaon gathering happening a day after the Elgar Parishad in Shanivarvada, Pune is also not surprising. Contrary to what is being portrayed, the Elgar Parishad was not a gathering of only Dalits and Ambedkarites. Yes, they were in the forefront but there were left, adivasi, farmers, minority, women & even Maratha organisations. The historic conference witnessed an incipient unity of the oppressed, that spoke about caste atrocities, agrarian distress, attacks on minorities, attack on adivasis, and the cannibal economic policies of the current regime. Thus, the desperate attacks and desperately vicious media campaign!
A section of the ‘media’ ran a vicious trial where they tried to implicate me and Jignesh as the culprits who had “incited violence”. The ridiculousness of this shrill campaign is apparent from the fact that there are videos of the attack where those brandishing saffron flags can be seen attacking Dalits. Their exclusive focus on the two of us is just an effort to divert our attention away from the real culprits – the likes of Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. And mind you, these are no fringe elements. Bhide is admired by no one less than PM Modi himself who claims to be inspired by him and described him in January 2014 as a “Mahapurush” and “Tapasvi”. The current CM of Maharasthra was also on the stage when Modi made these comments.
But then these channels are not worthy to be called as new channels, they are stooges of the Modi Sarkar funded and patronised by BJP. They are only doing their duty – i.e., lying and fabricating news to shield their ideological brethren. These channels announced to their viewers that our speeches were provocative and had led to the violence.
They scanned both our speeches hard, only to be left lurching in the vain (both of our speeches are in the public domain, and you can access them too). Finally, they played a small excerpt from Jignesh’s speech where he had said that we need “sadko ki ladai” to end caste and class oppression. Voila, the formula was cracked. The “street war”, the “caste clash” happening across Maharashtra was therefore Jignesh’s doing! Dimwits that they are, they don’t even understand metaphors. Let me explain to them what “sadko ki ladai” looks like.
The country-wide student movement against the banning of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in IIT-Madras, the historic 100 day strike by FTII students, the historic 114 day #OccupyUGC movement against the funds cuts in education, the spectacular movement demanding #JusticeForRohith, the celebratory #StandWithJNU movement, the rage-filled movement of the female students of BHU, the spirited student agitation against fee hikes in Punjab University – this is what “sadko ki ladai” looks like.
Wait, there is more! The outpouring of the Dalit rage for self-respect & dignity in Una, Saharanpur and now across Maharashtra; country-wide protests against lynchings of muslims; the farmer rallies and the Workers’ Mahapadav is what opposition on the streets looks like. When the Modi Sarkar came to power, it was said that there is no formal opposition left in the country. But despite and in-spite of that, people came out on the streets repeatedly & showed this fascist regime what real opposition looks like.
These channels might have chosen to vilify these movements, or blacked them out from the TV screens. But, these have haunted their master terribly and given him many sleepless nights. He knows, that on the ground, away from the TV screens these movements are now coming together & uniting. He is even more sleep deprived. He knows that this unity will prove to be his undoing. He has therefore deputed these TV anchors – 21st century version of Goebbels – to brand, threaten, silence and scare us into submission. But it is they who are scared – scared of our unity, our conviction and vision of an India of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar’s dream. Let me end by explaining their fear in the words of the poet Gorakh Pandey –
वे डरते हैं, किस चीज से डरते हैं वे
तमाम धन-दौलत, गोला-बारूद पुलिस-फौज के बावजूद ?
वे डरते हैं, कि एक दिन
निहत्थे और गरीब लोग
उनसे डरना, बंद कर देंगे
Umar Khalid is a research scholar at JNU, Delhi and an activist with the Bhagat Singh-AmbedkarStudent Organization (BASO)