A little bemused, I heard a writer addressing the farmers’ protests recently say in all solidarity and sincerity – “What we have been writing about for long, you have demonstrated at ground level.”
On the contrary, I believe that this massive and electrifying protest against the farm laws is at the cutting edge of political theory and political practice, from which writers and academics must listen and learn.
Please listen to the statement by Kanwaljeet Singh on the Supreme Court judgement staying the farm laws, and setting up an “expert” committee to “negotiate” between the farmers and the government.
Speaking on behalf of the joint forum of farmers’ unions, Kisan Ekta Morcha, Kanwaljeet (of Punjab Kisan Union) makes what I think are two critical points regarding the law and how movements can relate to it. These thought provoking points have larger resonance and require wide ranging debate and consideration. Continue reading A lesson in political theory from farmers’ unions→
The Central government is playing with fire – and along with it the Supreme Court of India. They had banked upon the ‘Modi magic’ or ‘Modi charisma’ to see them through this time as well, just as it had on earlier gambles like demonetization. The overconfidence that they can push through anything- even the most unpopular measure – by using a combination of the media-administered ‘nationalist potion’ and Modi’s ‘magic’, has led it to the corner it has painted itself into.
The situation is serious, as over 60 people have died and innumerable old people are still out there in the freezing cold. They have put their lives in danger, expecting the government to come out with the only solution that can save them, their livelihoods and their autonomy, namely the repeal of the laws. They aren’t prepared to go back home for the way they see it, it is better to die fighting than simply die the way the government wants them to.
However, the worst is yet to come – for the confrontation is bound to reach a flashpoint as 26 January draws closer and the farmers are forced into the desperate action of holding their proposed tractor rally by entering Delhi. If the government continues to fiddle, simply hoping that the storm will blow over, it is sadly mistaken.
Let’s face it: for the farmers there the new farm laws constitute a death warrant – as some of their leaders have put it – and therefore a matter of life and death. For the government, on the other hand, it is a question of further expanding the obscene super-profits of crony corporate capitalists, who have already made a killing even as lakhs and lakhs of ordinary people were pushed to destitution during the lockdown. Continue reading The Farmers’ Struggle – The Govt is Making a Big Mistake→
As a spontaneous reaction to the failure of the government to bring the discussions with the farmers to a conclusion even after eight rounds of discussion, many farmer-organizations in North Karnataka took out a tractors protest rally today. A broad-spectrum of farmer organizations, civil society organizations and members of political parties participated in it.
One saw active presence of the former BJP Union Minister in Atal Bhari Government Baba Gowda Patil, now in JDS , Gururaj Hansimarad, JDS, farmer activist Gangadhar Patil-Kulkarni, CPM-Union activist Abdul Khan, Gandhian social worker Adv. Nerlikar, Congress member Basavaraja Malkari, Secular Unity activist Ashraf Ali and many other prominent figures form North Karnataka standing on tractors and shouting slogans.
Farmers across the country have geared up to escalate their protests against the farm laws, as the government remains adamant in its commitment to its crony capitalists. The talks yesterday failed as three Union ministers part of the negotiations said it was not possible to commit to a rollback of the legislation without “consultations with higher authorities”.
Who are these mysterious higher authorities whom they dare not name? Do they mean the Pradhan Sevak Himself, who is after all, within tweeting distance at all times, and could have deigned to talk to the farmers’ representatives; or do they mean his paymasters?
Meanwhile 60 farmers have died at the Singhu Border protest site alone, according to doctors, to deafening silence from this utterly shameless government, that has tear-gassed and lathi charged its people, and forced them to brave the bitter cold and torrential rain in protest at these laws, which will wreak devastation on agriculture and on food security for all.
Today is the last day of the dreadful year that 2020 was – not only because of the pandemic but it has been a year full of the most vicious attacks on dissent and protests. It has also seen wanton arrests of those who raised their voices against the myriad injustices of this regime. The year that began with the epic struggle against the CAA-NRC ends while another epic struggle – that of the farmers – is going on. This post is dedicated to them and to the future of the farmers in struggle.
In the video above, Narayana Reddy, a farmer talks about farming. Having run away from home at a young age and worked as a cleaner earning Rs 40 a month, Reddy gradually got better jobs and saved some money with which he bought land for farming. Listen to his brief account here and you will realize that this charismatic and much celebrated farmer started off farming exactly the way it was understood in those days – that is to say, with standard ‘Green Revolution’ techniques. In five to six years, Narayana Reddy tells us, he became a spectacularly successful model farmer but something was amiss. Despite high yields, I was continuously losing money, he says. The story, with minor variations, was the same as that of Green Revolution farmers in Punjab: a few years of prosperity, accompanied by huge losses due to rising input costs (tractors, fuel, fertilizers, high-yielding variety seeds, pesticides, electricity run pumps), and rapidly deteriorating soil quality, depleting water table, disappearing of locally suitable crops.
There was no historical destiny or necessity in all this. Major US foundations like Ford and Rockefeller Foundations were involved in pushing this new way of doing ‘industrial’ agriculture developed by Norman Borlaug. I am not suggesting that this was a conspiracy but it was certainly something that took away control from the hands of the peasants and in the name of modernizing agriculture, made them dependent on big corporations (backed by the state) who were lurking behind this innocent-sounding rhetoric of increased productivity and prosperity. With the new farm laws, we are currently facing a fresh round of attacks on the autonomy and livelihooods of the farmers – and this time the government can’t pretend to any innocence in this regard.
So let us ask an elementary question: Why do people work and produce? The answer obviously is because they want to live well and live better in this world, here and now.
हाल ही में मोदी सरकार ने हिंदी, अंग्रेजी एवं पंजाबी में 106 पन्नों की एक किताब कृषि क़ानूनों के पक्ष में निकाली है. मोदी ने यह भी कहा है कि किसान आन्दोलन जारी रखने से पहले इस को ज़रूर पढ़ें. मोदी की बात मान कर हम ने इस को पढ़ा. सब से पहले तो यह देख कर धक्का लगा कि 106 पन्नों की किताब में नए कृषि क़ानूनों वाले अध्याय में मात्र 28 पृष्ठ हैं और इन 28 पन्नों में भी मोदी के भाषणों, मोदी सरकार के कृषि कार्यों और मोदी द्वारा गुजरात में किये कामों का विवरण शामिल है. इस लिए इन 28 पन्नों में भी सीधे सीधे नए कृषि क़ानूनों पर तो मात्र 13 पेज हैं. इस में भी बहुत दोहराव है, एक ही बात को बार बार कहा गया है. शेष पुस्तिका तो मोदी सरकार द्वारा किसानों के हित में किये गए कामों के दावों पर ही केन्द्रित है. यहाँ हम मोदी द्वारा गुजरात और केंद्र में कृषि और किसानों के लिए किये गए सारे दावों की पड़ताल करने की बजाय नए क़ानूनों के पक्ष में किये गए दावों की ही पड़ताल करेंगे. (यहाँ पर कई स्थानों पर दो तरह के पृष्ठ नंबर दिए गए हैं. पहले पीडीएफ फ़ाइल के और फिर छपी हुई पुस्तिका के; अगर एक पृष्ठ नंबर है तो वो पीडीएफ का है). इन का संक्षिप्त विवरण इस प्रकार है.Continue reading कृषि क़ानूनों पर नयी सरकारी किताब में बड़े बड़े दावों के अलावा सफ़ेद झूठ भी : राजिंदर चौधरी→
The farmers unions have called for a boycott of all products of Adani and Reliance, the two corporates closest to the Modi-Shah regime and which stand to benefit the most from the opening up of the farm sector to agribusiness, which will not only destroy farmers’ livelihoods but affect food security for everyone. The new laws have been drafted to facilitate ease of doing business for these corporations, eliminating safeguards for both farmers and consumers.
This post is simply a quick, not comprehensive, list of products we could all boycott (compiled with help from Anindita Bose and Rohit).
( न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिव, दलित लेखक संघ, अखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंच, प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ, जन संस्कृति मंच, इप्टा, संगवारी, प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा और जनवादी लेखक संघ द्वारा किसान आंदोलन की माँगों और 8 तारीख के भारत बंद के समर्थन में जारी बयान )
Image : Courtesy Reuters
तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों के खिलाफ़ किसानों के ऐतिहासिक आन्दोलन का साथ दें!
केन्द्र सरकार के कार्पोरेटपरस्त एजेण्डा के विरोध में अपनी आवाज़ बुलन्द करें!
8 दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाएं!
भारत का किसान – जिसके संघर्षों और कुर्बानियों का एक लम्बा इतिहास रहा है – आज एक ऐतिहासिक मुक़ाम पर खड़ा है।
हज़ारों-लाखों की तादाद में उसके नुमाइन्दे राजधानी दिल्ली की विभिन्न सरहदों पर धरना दिए हुए हैं और उन तीन जनद्रोही क़ानूनों की वापसी की मांग कर रहे हैं जिनके ज़रिए इस हुकूमत ने एक तरह से उनकी तबाही और बरबादी के वॉरंट पर दस्तख़त किए हैं। अपनी आवाज़ को और बुलंद करने के लिए किसान संगठनों की तरफ़ से 8 दिसम्बर को भारत बंद का ऐलान किया गया है।
सरकार भले ही यह दावा करे कि ये तीनों क़ानून – जिन्हें महामारी के दिनों में पहले अध्यादेश के ज़रिए लागू किया गया था और फिर तमाम जनतांत्रिक परंपराओं को ताक़ पर रखते हुए संसद में पास किया गया – किसानों की भलाई के लिए हैं, लेकिन यह बात बहुत साफ़ हो चुकी है कि इनके ज़रिए राज्य द्वारा अनाज की खरीद की प्रणाली को समाप्त करने और इस तरह बड़े कॉर्पोरेट घरानों के लिए ठेका आधारित खेती करने तथा आवश्यक खाद्य सामग्री की बड़ी मात्रा में जमाखोरी करने की राह हमवार की जा रही है।
लोगों के सामने यह भी साफ़ है कि यह महज़ किसानों का सवाल नहीं बल्कि मेहनतकश अवाम के लिए अनाज की असुरक्षा का सवाल भी है। अकारण नहीं कि किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के साथ खेतमज़दूरों, औद्योगिक मज़दूरों के संगठनों तथा नागरिक समाज के तमाम लोगों, संगठनों ने अपनी एकजुटता प्रदर्शित की है।
जनतंत्र और संवाद हमेशा साथ चलते हैं। लेकिन आज यह दिख रहा है कि मौजूदा निज़ाम की ओर से जिस ‘न्यू इंडिया’ के आगमन की बात की जा रही है, उसके तहत जनतंत्र के नाम पर अधिनायकवाद की स्थापना का खुला खेल चल रहा है।
आज की तारीख में सरकार किसान संगठनों के साथ वार्ता करने के लिए मजबूर हुई है, मगर इसे असंभव करने की हर मुमकिन कोशिश सरकार की तरफ़ से अब तक की जाती रही है। उन पर लाठियां बरसायी गयीं, उनके रास्ते में तमाम बाधाएं खड़ी की गयी, यहां तक कि सड़कें भी काटी गयीं। यह किसानों का अपना साहस और अपनी जीजीविषा ही थी कि उन्होंने इन कोशिशों को नाकाम किया और अपने शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष के काफ़िलों को लेकर राजधानी की सरहदों तक पहुंच गए।
किसानों के इस आन्दोलन के प्रति मुख्यधारा के मीडिया का रवैया कम विवादास्पद नहीं रहा। न केवल उसने आन्दोलन के वाजिब मुद्दों को लेकर चुप्पी साधे रखी बल्कि सरकार तथा उसकी सहमना दक्षिणपंथी ताक़तों द्वारा आन्दोलन को बदनाम करने की तमाम कोशिशों का भी जम कर साथ दिया। आंदोलन को विरोधी राजनीतिक पार्टी द्वारा प्रायोजित बताया गया, किसानों को खालिस्तान समर्थक तक बताया गया।
दरअसल, विगत कुछ सालों यही सिलसिला आम हो चला है। हर वह आवाज़ जो सरकारी नीतियों का विरोध करती हो – भले ही वह नागरिकता क़ानून हो, सांप्रदायिक दंगे हों, नोटबंदी हो – उसे बदनाम करने और उसका विकृतिकरण करने की साज़िशें रची गयीं। किसानों का आंदोलन भी इससे अछूता नहीं है।
यह सकारात्मक है कि इन तमाम बाधाओं के बावजूद किसान शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष की अपनी राह पर डटे हैं।
हम सामाजिक-सांस्कृतिक संगठन किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के प्रति अपनी एकजुटता प्रगट करते हैं। हम जनता तथा जनता के संगठनों, पार्टियों से अपील करते हैं कि वे इस आन्दोलन के साथ जुड़ें और 8 दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाकर केंद्र सरकार को एक स्पष्ट संदेश दें।
हम सरकार से यह मांग करते हैं कि वह अपना अड़ियल रवैया छोड़े और तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों को रद्द करने का ऐलान करे।
हम आंदोलनरत किसानों से भी अपील करते हैं कि वे शांति के अपने रास्ते पर अडिग रहें।
जीत न्याय की होगी ! जीत सत्य की होगी !! जीत हमारी होगी !!
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिव दलित लेखक संघ अखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंच प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ जन संस्कृति मंच इप्टा संगवारी प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा जनवादी लेखक संघ
Not only did the Modi government not pay any heed to the demands raised by the massive Kisan Mukti March of November 2018, it in fact, went on to surreptitiously promulgate three ordinances, in June this year, that go directly against everything that the farmers want. Indeed, they seek to hand over agriculture to the corporate sector – which will effectively mean destruction for a large mass of farmers. Naturally they are up in arms in what is perhaps the most determined struggle of the last four decades. The protests have been going on in many states since September 2020 and have reached the capital only now.
The three ordinances – now laws – that are currently pushing farmers into a ‘do or die’ struggle in different parts of the country, have been widely written about and their different dimensions explained (for instance, here, here and here). We will therefore not go into their analysis in this article. The ordinances are: (i) Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, (ii) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and (iii) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Farmers’ organizations opposing the ordinances claim that they have been very misleadingly named so as to give the impression that they empower the farmers; they suggest the ordinances might be more accurately renamed the “APMC Bypass Bill”, “Contract Farming Promotion Bill” and the “Food Hoarding by Corporates Bill” respectively.
The long and short of these ordinances is quite nicely summed up in these suggested names – for what the three together aim to achieve is the dismantling of state procurement (though on paper it may continue to remain), and thereby open agriculture to contract farming for big corporations, allowing them to corner essential food commodities in as large quantities as they want. The entire attempt, it is not hard to see, is to open out the agriculture sector to giant retail chains like Reliance – which is why it is necessary to remove the limits on purchase and storage of essential commodities.
Contract farming, already happening informally at individual levels, once it is made the norm, is certainly going to seriously compromise food security for all. For if an agribusiness firm eyeing quick and massive profits wants farmers to change from essential food production to some other crop, it will decide what will be produced. And of course, what gets you quick profits is not what is sold as essential food item in the domestic or local market but it could be anything from potatoes for chips to maize to manufacture ‘alternative fuel’ for US consumers. So entire cropping patterns can change, endangering our food sovereignty as a people.
The farmers, in a word, are not just fighting a battle for their own survival but one where the survival of all of us is at stake. If the design visualized in the three ordinances comes to pass, it will also lead to the complete destruction of lakhs of people who earn their livelihoods by selling fruit and vegetables – for those too will be produced by farmers under contract farming with corporations which will sell them at their retail stores. Prices for millions of consumers too will then be determined by these giant retail chains.
But these issues have only come up now. Why have the farmers/ peasants been agitating for the last couple of years?
In the course of the Bihar election campaign of behalf of his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Mahagathbandhan (the grand alliance), the chief ministerial face of the alliance Tejashwi Yadav has been indicating a significant shift of focus. ‘That was the era [his father Laloo Yadav’s] of social justice; this is the time of economic justice and the youth today want jobs’. Clearly this shift comes against the backdrop of the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods over the past six years since this government came to power. The lockdown was only the most inhuman culmination the the process of destruction of livelihoods that began with demonetization, followed by the ill-thought out Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Translated from the original Hindi by Ekta News and Features
It is said that had the spread of the Novel Coronavirus not been contained by imposing lockdowns, by now, it would have consumed a substantial chunk of the human residents of the earth. But this claim requires closer examination.
Lockdown killed lakhs of persons the world over and its after-effects have ruined the economies of scores of low- and middle-income countries like India. Crores of persons have been condemned to a life of poverty and misery.
What is going to change Offices and educational institutions were a gift of modern age. By bringing human minds together, the places of work and the centres of education not only scripted a new chapter in the development of the human race but also brought diverse communities on common platforms. It is almost certain that in the post-Covid world, schools and offices would not exist as we know them today. A new law for bringing about changes in educational institutions has come into force in India. Labour laws have been almost abolished and companies have been given the licence to exploit the workers. Not only manual labourers but white-collar workers, too, would be caught in this web of exploitation and mental turmoil. The rights of journalists and media employees, related to their service conditions and salary and allowances, have been withdrawn through changes in the law.
There is also a real danger that globalization (the spurt in commercial and business activities at the global level around the 1990s) would be reversed. This will spell disaster for the economies of the developing countries. In India and many other countries, the poor could join the middle-income group only due to globalization. Continue reading Post Covid world and Bahujan: Pramod Ranjan→
The world today desperately awaits the emergence of a new, rainbow Left that is liberated from the disastrous hold of the twentieth century. Indeed, attempts to find or forge such platforms are visible in different parts of the world. Falteringly and with setbacks to be sure, but there is no doubt that serious attempts are underway. And many of these attempts are powered by a different kind of imagination that is unencumbered, to a large extent, by the suffocatiing grip of the last century.
One hundred years ago, on 17 October 1920, the emigre Communist Party of India was formed in Tashkent with MN Roy as its chief initiator. This date of the party’s formation is, of course, contested by the current CPI, which dates its formation from 26 December 1925, when the first ‘Indian Communist Conference’ was held in Kanpur. The date became a matter of contention, especially after the split in the CPI and the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964 – and at the core of that contention were two related issues. One opinion at the time of the Kanpur Conference had argued for a home-bred and ‘nationalist’ ‘Indian Communism’, in opposition to which the other section saw itself as a contingent or a chapter of an international movement. The second question became more of an issue in the later years, after Stalin’s death and the revaluation of his role and the manner in which the Comintern came to play a subordinate role to Soviet foreign policy. In between these two lies the phase of the ‘Bolshevization’ of all socialist and communist parties across the world, which ensured that the CPI too, no longer remain an independent party in the sense in which some were arguing at the time of its formation.
If the post-Mandal Dalit Bahujan upsurge was an expression of the democratic revolution, the advent of Adityanath’s BJP government constituted the beginning of a counter-revolution that is on the way to consolidating itself in Uttar Pradesh.
The facts of the case are well known, even though the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is trying, ever so hard, to produce a different narrative by resorting to the usual Hindutva tactic of assigning it to an international conspiracy. It is typical of the utterly farcical and shoddy nature of the Indian police (and maybe indicates the regime’s over-confidence) that it in the name of collecting evidence of the conspiracy, it has done a cut-and-paste job from an American site, even forgetting to delete references to ‘NYPD’ and ‘white supremacism’! Incidents of gang-rape and murder have since also happened elsewhere in the state, notably in Balrampur and Bulandshahr. We are witnessing the heinous episode of the Hathras gang rape and murder when the memory of the Unnao rape case in which then BJP leader Kuldeep Sengar was accused, is still fresh in our minds. The victim’s father died in police custody, having already been very badly beaten by Sengar’s brother and their goons, a video of which was proudly circulated on social media. Some other members of the family were killed in an accident when a truck with a blackened number plate hit their car. In a second rape case, in the very same Unnao, two years later, a 23-year old woman who had been raped and was on the way to a hearing of the rape case, was caught and set ablaze by five men and died soon after that. In the first case, the rape-accused was a ‘popular’ figure – a Rajput leader – in whose support demonstrations were organized after he was arrested. In the second case, the girl was a Lohar (a blacksmith jati) while those who brutalized and killed her were Brahmins.
Are these really coincidences? That the rapist in these ‘paradigmatic’ cases is always an upper caste (Rajput or Brahmin) and the woman always lower caste, or at any rate powerless in class terms? And are these really about sex? The answer to the second question has of course been provided to us by long years of meticulous and painstaking research by feminists the world over: rape is always about power. It is about caste, community, race and gender based power – gender is certainly not unimportant in this particular kind of display of power but sex is not the issue here.
It is the first question that merits closer attention here. The fact that in these type of cases the rapist is almost always an upper caste man is doubly interesting. We already know, in a very generic and commonsense way, that this is how the caste power of the upper-castes and powerful landed interests is asserted over the Dalit Bahujan castes. I am reminded of some short stories by Mohandas Naimishray, where he talks of this mode of asserting power as a regular practice. In’ Apna Gaon’, ‘Saali chamari, thakur se zuban ladati hai!’ (you Chamar bitch, you dare to talk back to a Thakur!) is how the Thakur curses the hapless Dalit woman before five Thakur men pounce upon her in a description that is not unlike what we read ever so often in accounts of gang rapes in newspapers. In another story, ‘Reet’ (custom), he describes the age old practice of newly wed Dalit women being forcibly taken away to the Thakur’s place on the very first night, where they would be raped. In this story, Bulaki’s wife too is taken away by the Thakurs on the first night.
‘The landlord did what he liked with her, tormenting her body and bruising it. After all, who did he have to fear! In the morning, she was thrown out like joothan [left over food] for her family members.’
The Democratic Revolution
I recount these literary narratives from some of the most poignant fiction that emerged from Dalit literature in Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, simply in order to underline that naked, untramelled power over the lower castes, is what the Thakurs and other upper castes lost with the democratic revolution of the 1990s. And it was the democratic revolution of the post-Mandal 1990s that made possible the emergence of writings such as Naimishray’s or Om Prakash Valmiki’s widely-acclaimed autobiography, Joothan (1997). It is literature that is not really fictional but in some sense, docu-fiction. Look at this world that Dalit literature of that period presents before us – and then look at what is happening in Yogi Adityanath’s UP today and you will immediately get what is going on there.
For the intervening period in the state saw a major reversal of power relations, especially with the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). The rise of the Dalit Bahujans and of the BSP and SP, especially Mayawati’s stints in power, actually saw the reversal of the power dynamic in the rural areas as well. So powerful was the immediate impact of that upsurge that within a year of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BJP lost power in the state, and only won state elections in 2017, three years after coming to power at the centre, in 2014, when the counter-revolution really began. The Congress too wilted in the face of the Dalit Bahujan upsurge and had all but disappeared for almost three decades.
I should perhaps state here, in parenthesis, that the term ‘democratic revolution’ here should not be understood in the Marxist sense of a ‘bourgeois-democratic revolution’ – for there is nothing democratic about the bourgeoisie, nor anything essentially bourgeois about democracy. That was but a specific and momentary historical conjunction of the two in nineteenth century Europe, whereafter democracy was quickly yoked into the service of liberalism that was the ideology of capitalism par excellence. The democratic revolution, rather, is to be understood as the process whereby the demand for and claims to equality are made and rapidly extended to different arenas of social life, leading to ‘the end of a society of a hierarchic and inegalitarian type, ruled by a theological-political logic’. (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy).
In a very important sense, the democratic revolution of the 1990s reconfigured power equations, even if the demand for equality was not specifically raised and theorized in the context of that upsurge. The very ferocity of the upper caste counter-attack, in the form of the anti-Mandal agitation, ensured that the question of power was foregrounded. However, neither ‘self respect’ of yore, nor ‘social justice’ of this period are really demands for equality. Nonetheless, it is true that the demand for reservations in education and employment was no longer made in the language of ‘safeguards’ as Ambedkar had been forced to do, but was being raised in conjunction with Ram Manohar Lohia’s ‘picchda maange sau mein saath‘ (backwards demand 60 percent in employment – that is to say, in proportion to their percentage in the population). To the extent that it did pose a serious challenge to the deeply hierarchic and inegalitarian society, sanctioned by Hindu dharmashastras, it was a profoundly democratic revolution.
The Revolution Derailed
In retrospect, it does seem that the democratic revolution seemed destined to be derailed partly because it could not seize, head-on, the full meaning of its own claims. For a large part, the movement remained fixated on the superficial semiotics of power in purely caste terms. The giant statues built by Mayawati, often derided by critics, are emblematic of this fixation. A more radical claim of equality, in contrast, would have proceeded to the next stage of breaking the economic power of the landlords, Thakurs in particular, simultaneously finding ways of strengthening Dalit economic power. The call for the formation of a Dalit bourgeoisie, despite the power of its innovativeness, seemed to have remained so trapped within the logic of neoliberalism, that any idea of redistribution was beyond its horizon of vision. The hostility of its chief enunciator, Chandra Bhan Prasad, to Marxism, ensured that it remains simply at the level of a ‘get rich quickly’ mantra for those who are in a position to do so. However, this is not just about Chandra Bhan Prasad but of the entire range of parties that were vehicles of the democratic revolution. All of them remained trapped within the larger world of neoliberal thinking and had practically no economic vision of their own. Having arisen in the era of the collapse of socialism and the larger disenchantment with Marxism and the sense that neoliberalism was the only game in town, all these parties totally shunned the economic question.
There was another reason for the derailment of the revolution that had started becoming apparent soon after the victory of the SP-BSP alliance in UP in 1993. As the panchayat polls drew nearer, it became clear, as Naimishray himself had explained to me once, that the pact between the two parties was merely political; at the social level there wasn’t any real connection, and the social conflicts had started playing out as soon as the question of local power came up on the agenda. The unfortunate and difficult realization for those who believed in Kanshi Ram’s agenda of Bahujan unity was that it was the powerful among the OBCs who were the immediate and proximate oppressors of the Dalits. This was evident not just in UP but across different states. It was in this context that Mayawati embarked upon her programme of wooing the powerful Brahmins and even Rajputs (the ‘sarvajan’ slogan) – rather than say, the utterly powerless non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav, non-Kurmi OBCs. The lure of power was also beginning to become its own justification.
In a sense, the Unnao rape accused, Kuldeep Sengar provides quite a telling illustration of what happens all too often to revolutions. His being a Rajput did not prevent him from retaining his local power by aligning himself, now with the BSP and now the SP, getting elected and serving as MLA of both these parties respectively. Had he turned over a new leaf? Certainly not. If I had the space, I could show how the character of the CPI(M) and the Left Front changed rapidly after accession to power in 1977, as erstwhile enemies joined the new arrangements of power. Sengar was not doing either BSP or SP a favour. He knew that his remaining MLA would be the key to his power in a context when both the BJP and the Congress has ceased to be claimants of power.
That was the interregnum when the erstwhile powerful groups were being forced to negotiate with the parties of the revolution – and these parties mistook it as their strength. They thought they had broken the back of the powerful upper castes, whereas the latter were simply biding their time and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before them.
That opportunity came in 2014. Both the SP and BSP had already revealed their feet of clay and in any case, election studies figures show, they had already started losing votes and supporters even among their own social base. All this happened quite sometime before the 2014 election that then became the occasion, with Narendra Modi at the helm, for the upper castes in UP to hit back. Now confident that these parties would not even be able to mop up their own base, the BJP moved rapidly to become the party of counter-revolution. The party’s unprecedented and breathtaking performance in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections set the stage for the recapture of the state in 2017. The decision to make Yogi Adityanath – not a BJP insider – the chief minister was a shocker for many, even among many of those sympathetic to the party. But in retrospect, both the 2014 and 2017 victories were not simply BJP victories; they were part of this upper caste, especially Thakur bid to recapture the state.
What is happening in the state should not therefore be read simply in party terms. Any party in control of the situation, especially one with a Hindutva platform, should have been keen and able to show to the whole world that it acts in favour of the most poor and oppressed Dalits. That would win lasting support from these sections and forever doom the prospects of Dalit parties and organizations. But the BJP under Yogi Adityanath is clearly not going to go that way, for the simple reason that this is the time for the counter-revolution to consolidate itself.
The moral of the story is this: Social and political spaces never lie in a limbo or a state of ‘equilibrium’ of any sort and the minute you relax your guard, the adversary takes the upper hand. Especially if age-old power configurations are disturbed. And leaving battles half-fought can lead to the most disastrous consequences, as we are seeing in UP today.
We condemn the horrific rape and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras, UP.
We stand with the family in their sorrow. Extend support, solidarity and rage.
We demand immediate action against the state officials responsible for mishandling the case, destroying key evidence, and further traumatising the family and community.
SHAME ON THE STATE THAT STANDS WITH THE GUILTY. SHAME ON THE STATE THAT INCREASES THE IMPUNITY WITH WHICH UPPER CASTE FORCES COMMIT VIOLENCE AND HATE CRIMES.
Today, over 10,000 people from all walks of life, cutting across caste, religion, gender, occupation and community came together from almost every state in India and more than a dozen countries across the world such US, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia etc to demand justice for the heinous rape, brutalising attack and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras.
In a sharp statement condemning the incident, they got together to say that “despite a continuing saga of countless other cases of brutal sexual assault and murders especially of young Dalit women the conscience of this nation does not seem to be shaken enough to do anything serious to stop the systematic targeting of women, Dalits and the poor.”
While there is a historicity to these incidents, but under CM Yogi’s rule, Uttar Pradesh has only gone from bad to worse. Crimes against women and Dalits have increased, and police have been given unlimited powers without any accountability. Today UP tops the charts for atrocities against Dalits, it also tops the charts for crimes against women.
Joint Press Statement issued by All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) and National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ)
On 29th September 2020 India has once again failed Dalit Women and Girls in upholding their rights and safety; we have lost another young life to the savage brutal gangrape and murder. This brutal incident occurred on 14th September in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh and once again exposes the harsh realities of caste based sexual assault faced by Dalit women and girls in this country. Victim was dragged with the dupatta around her neck into the field where she was gang raped; suffered severe spinal cord injury, severely beaten up and also got deep cut in her tongue as she fought back the rapist. She was not in a situation to give her statement till 23rd September 2020 due to the severe injuries that paralyzed her condition.
The level of brutality and inhumanity continues even after the demise of the victim, as the UP police forcibly cremated the body in the early morning around 3 AM on 30th September. Victim’s body was burnt by the police against the will of the family members and not letting them take her home one final time. Beside this, the police locked family members and locals inside the house as per the statement of family members of the deceased.
Such ghastly incidents of violence are perpetrated everyday against women and minors and especially during the Pandemic and the Lockdown. The state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed several cases of atrocities against Dalit women; with Lakhimpur Kheri leading in the graph of violence. In the past 60 days more than six atrocities were reported in the district against Dalit women and minor girls. Similarly in Saharanpur district, six cases of abduction and rape have been reported where NDMJ has intervened. These gruesome incidents of sexual violence reflect the real picture of Indian society constructed on violent casteist patriarchal structure.
It should be noted that the crime rate against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh has been rising exponentially in the last few years. As per the NCRB report of 2018, Uttar Pradesh tops the list of number of crimes committed against Dalits including Dalit women in 2018. Also, Uttar Pradesh has recorded the maximum number of cases of rape (526), attempt to rape (48), incidences of kidnap and abduction of Dalit women (381) and incidences of assault (711) in the year of 2018 under the SC/ST (PoA) Act. As per the compiled data of the NCRB reports of 2014-18, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed the maximum number of atrocities against Dalit women in India and an increase of 15% in the number or rape cases against Dalit women from 2015-18. 7,920 number of atrocities against Dalit women have been registered under the SC/ST (PoA) Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh from 2014-18. A big majority of this figure has been for the cases of assault (3,421) and rape (2,410) of Dalit women. Attempt to rape (219) and kidnap and abduction (1,870) also form a major form of violence committed against Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh from 2014-18. Continue reading AIDMAM & NDMJ Condemn Rising Atrocities Against Dalit Women and Minor Girls in UP→
Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit…Our words, our song and our cry is so that the dead will no longer die. We fight so that they may live. We sing so that they may love. – Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1996), Zapatista National Liberation Army. Cited as epigraph in Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.
The New Grave-Diggers of Capital?
‘The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’. This neatly sums up the idea of the ‘pluriverse’. Reading it, I was reminded of an interview of ‘Subcommandante Marcos’, ‘leader’ of the Zapatistas, some years ago. In that interview, Subcommandante Marcos (then anonymous) recounted that he and his colleagues at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, who joined him in the Chiapas mountains in 1984, were Marxists and had basically gone there to organize the indigenous people. And for Marxists that bascially meant to ‘raise their awareness’ about capitalism and exploitation.
यह मानने के पर्याप्त आधार हैं कि राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन के लिए चुना गया यह समय एक छोटी रेखा के बगल में बड़ी रेखा खींचने की क़वायद है, ताकि नरेंद्र मोदी और उनकी सरकार की बढ़ती असफलताएं जैसे- कोविड कुप्रबंधन, बदहाल होती अर्थव्यवस्था और गलवान घाटी प्रसंग- इस परदे के पीछे चले जाएं.
अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन से पहले लगा प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी और अन्य नेताओं का एक होर्डिंग. (फोटो: पीटीआई)
बीते दिनों जनाब उद्धव ठाकरे द्वारा अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के प्रस्तावित भूमि पूजन को लेकर जो सुझाव दिया गया है, वह गौरतलब है.
मालूम हो कि आयोजकों की तरफ से जिन लोगों को इसके लिए न्योता दिया गया है, उसमें महाराष्ट्र के मुख्यमंत्री का नाम भी शामिल है, उसी संदर्भ में उन्होंने इस बात पर जोर दिया है कि ‘ई-भूमि पूजन किया जा सकता है और भूमि पूजन समारोह को वीडियो कॉन्फ्रेंसिंग के जरिये भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है.’
उनका कहना है कि इस कार्यक्रम में लाखों लोग शामिल होना चाहेंगे और क्या उन्हें वहां पहुंचने से रोका जा सकता है? कोरोना महामारी को लेकर देश-दुनिया भर में जो संघर्ष अभी जारी है और जहां धार्मिक सम्मेलनों पर पाबंदी बनी हुई है, ऐसे में उनकी बात गौरतलब है.
गौर करें कि ऐसा आयोजन जिसका लाइव टेलीकास्ट भी किया जाएगा, कोई चाहे न चाहे देश में जगह जगह जनता के अच्छे-खासे हिस्से को सड़कों पर उतरने के लिए प्रेरित करेगा.
और अगर दक्षिणपंथी जमातें इस बारे में अतिसक्रियता दिखा दें तो फिर जगह जगह भीड़ बेकाबू भी हो सकती है और केंद्र सरकार और गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी गाइडलाइंस की भी धज्जियां उड़ सकती हैं.
The attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men is yet to develop in India.
Does anybody still remember the Dalits of Chakwara, a village around 50km from Jaipur in Rajasthan, who had launched a struggle to gain access to the pond in their village? It is more than 18 years since the Dalits, supported by human rights organisations, won that fight for water. Their undertaking had echoes with the historic struggle launched by Dr BR Ambedkar in March 1927 at Chavdar tank at Mahad to assert the equal rights of Dalits to water. It is well known to most people that while animals were allowed to use the water of this tank in present-day Raigad district of the state, the Dalits were not. Anand Teltumbde has described the events of this satyagraha in his book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2016.
But what happened at Chakwara after the Dalits started using the village pond is hardly known: the upper castes slowly stopped using the water from the pond once the Dalits gained access to it, saying it had become “impure”. Enraged by the assertion of the Dalits and keen to humiliate them for it, they dug up the village sewer and directed the waste water to their own village pond. There is no change in the status quo there.
Around 700km away, in Viramgam near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a village cemetery used by Dalits was recently flooded with sewer water, a stark reminder that the gap of two decades has not changed the caste scenario in the country. The executioners of this sinister plan in Viramgam were the residents of two housing societies in which the well-off and educated middle classes live. For more than the last six months, the graves of the socially-disadvantaged Vankar, Chamar, Rohit, Dangasia, Shetwa and other communities have been surrounded by dirty water. The district administration did not intervene on behalf of the Dalits despite their repeated complaints. The fact that dignity after death is being denied to marginalised communities did not seem to rouse the administration.
रणवीर सेना, जिस पर बहुत पहले पाबंदी लगायी जा चुकी है, नए सिरे से सुर्खियों में है।
पिछले दिनों उसने अपने सोशल मीडिया पेज पर भीम आर्मी के बिहार प्रमुख गौरव सिराज और एक अन्य कार्यकर्ता वेद प्रकाश को खुलेआम धमकाया है। उसने अपने ‘सैनिकों’ को आदेश दिया है कि उन्हें ‘जिन्दा या मुर्दा’ गिरफ्तार करें। बताया जाता है कि इस युवा अम्बेडकरवादी ने ब्रह्मेश्वर मुखिया- जो रणवीर सेना के प्रमुख थे और 2012 में किसी हत्यारे गिरोह के हाथों मारे गए थे- के बारे में जो टिप्पणी की, वह रणवीर सेना के लोगों को नागवार गुजरी है।
An unpredictable element has found a new lease of life thanks to the coming Assembly election.
The outlawed Ranvir Sena—the private army of upper caste landlords of Bihar—is in the news again. It recently threatened the Bihar chief of the Bhim Army, Gaurav Siraj, and one of its activists, Ved Prakash, through a Facebook post. The so-called army has “ordered” its “sainiks” to “arrest” him dead or alive. The sena is apparently peeved over how the young dynamic leader of the Ambedkarite organisation has described Brahmeshwar Singh, their slain “Mukhiya” who was killed in 2012.
Will there be any action against those who have threatened the young leader? If history is any guide then there is little possibility of this.
Merely two years ago, Nawal Kishor Kumar, Editor Hindi, Forward Press was targeted by this “sena”. The aggrieved journalist had lodged a police complaint but there has been no progress in the investigation.
It is not that there is no law to punish such miscreants. Social media posts of the threatening kind relate to various offences under the Indian Penal Code, from criminal intimidation punishable under section 503 to section 505 related to creating mischief in public, to section 506 which awards punishment for criminal intimidation and section 153A which relates to penalties for promoting enmity between different groups and so on. In fact, based on its activities, the Ranvir Sena is also liable to be prosecuted under section 3 of the Bihar Control of Crimes Act, section 3 of the Arms Act and section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.”