Category Archives: Identities

Chandrabhan Prasad and the Other Backward Classes

Outlook

In light of the two posts that have appeared on this blog on the peculiar politics of Chandrabhan Prasad, I reproduce below an essay I wrote for Himal Southasian a few months ago, and which CBP refused to respond to. The question of Dalit-Bhaujan unity, which is one of the points in Aditya’s succinct post, is by no means a simple one, and I do realise that I left it open-ended in this essay. But my point was more about reservations for OBCs and CBP’s opposition of it, than Dalit-Bahujan politics. Given that the two are not unrelated, I have been thinking a lot on this – Gopal Guru and Bhalchandra Mungekar are two amongst many who say that the OBCs need aan Ambedkarite political movement. Kancha Iliah and VT Rajshekhar are amongst the OBC thinkers who agree. But I don’t see that political movement happening anytime soon. Such political stagnation is another aspect of demography-driven dalit politics. Continue reading Chandrabhan Prasad and the Other Backward Classes

Dalit Betrayal and All That

Ever since Chandrabhan Prasad (CBP) embarked on his distinctive style of politics, he has really managed to annoy many self-proclaimed radicals. Ravikant’s earlier post on CBP’s recent salvo on deserting the vernacular and inhabiting the world of English language is in that sense really welcome, as it sets things in perspective.

A few years ago, when CBP called for a Dalit bourgeoisie, there was a similar sign of dismay, scandal and utter incomprehension among many friends – even those who have now started recognizing that ‘Dalits’ constitute a key component of any future radical democratic (or socialist?) transformation. What many of these friends do not recognize is that it is not enough to say that “the Dalit question is also important”: As Khairlanji or the hundreds of other earlier episodes show, there is no way in which the ‘Dalits’ can ‘also’ become part of some imagined larger unity (say the peasant unity dreamt of by communists, or the so-called ‘secular unity’ propounded by bleeding heart secular liberals). For, to take the standpoint of the Dalit is to take the standpoint of a minority in the village and to incur the anger of the majority. The effort to unite might be desirable from a longer term point of view, though I am not quite sure about that too. CBP thus also annoyed many secularists as his attack on backward caste ‘secular’ parties was seen by many as a way of justifying BSP’s alliance with the BJP.

The real point about CBPs politics that earnest radicals do not get is that irrespective of the substantive aspect/s of his argument, he is opening out a new way of enunciating a politics of the oppressed: anger and emotion are sublimated here into a performative excess, thus initiating a politics of irony and hyperbole. Ressentiment (resentment?) is not the main mode of this politics of ‘betrayal’ (which I would call the politics of fleeing) which began in a true sense with Dr Ambedkar’s flight from Hinduism. There is one critical difference from Ambedkar though. I have often told CBP that he is a deviant Ambedkarite (kujaat Ambedkarvaadi, to twist Lohia’s term): after all, “chicken, mutton, daaru aur daliton ki kuchh samasyayein” is certainly not the mode of Ambedkar’s renunciatory Buddhist politics that still remained imprisoned within the logic of ressentiment.

Whatever Happened to the ‘Fake Beard’ ?

The Malegaon Bomb Blast Trail

Shab-e-Barat, the day when Muslims pray for their departed ones and visit their graveyards, saw blood of innocents getting spilled in Malegaon, Maharashtra. It saw deaths of 31 people and injuries to hundreds.

From day one, there have been allegations that the police has not remained even handed while dealing with the case. Apart from providing lax security at the time of the Shab-e-Barat celebrations, it is also alleged that it did not follow some vital clues.

Now comes the claim, as per ATS (anti terrorist squad) in Maharashtra, that a group of Muslims, supposedly associated with some extremist Muslim organisation, implemented the gory act. It is understandable that why the latest claim has been received with lot of disdain as news pouring in from the city informed that a bandh had been planned on 14th of November to protest the arrests.

Can it be now said that the truth is finally out as far as Malegaon bomb blast is concerned ? And the real perpetrators of the gory carnage have been apprehended ? Or there are still loose ends which are to be met.

Continue reading Whatever Happened to the ‘Fake Beard’ ?

Walled away in faith’s defence

Like today’s ‘secular’ or ‘moderate’ Muslim, a species called the ‘nationalist Muslim’ was extremely sought after, and equally rare, in pre-Independence India. The nationalist Muslim was the counterpoint to the problem of Muslim disaffection that surfaced after 1857 — a statist problem to which the colonial solution was the creation of a set of collaborators. In turn, the nationalist retort was to create a nationalist Muslim i.e., one willing to consider mutual agreements to resolve disputes rather than the colonial state as a bulwark. That is to say, a Muslim who ratified the Congress was a nationalist, one who did not was a communalist. But since even the best nationalist Muslims remained disaffected — read Maulana Azad’s ministerial correspondence — and many who started as nationalists ended as communalists or separatists — take Jinnah, Mohammed Ali Jauhar or Iqbal — a Muslim’s only respectable political choice was to become a communist. Continue reading Walled away in faith’s defence

The Orkut Brahmins

This excerpt from a discussion on the message board of a ‘Brahmin’ community on the social networking site young people spend hours on these days, offered without comment:

T.U.»»: Why do we have Ram’s Picture ?
I know that Ram was one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, but the thing is Ram was not a Brahmin, he was a Kshatriya..The Raghukul Gotra among Kshatriyas are from Ram’s descendants..So as a Hindu I respect Shri Ram, but as a Brahmin It is lord Vishnu we should worship..what say? Correct me if I am wrong ..

krishna: just a reply……..
well……there r lot many humans to bind in castism man…..keep LORD RAM separate from this stupid concept……GOD don’t have any cast they r above of all this…..
if u say ur a brahmin u shud keep this simple fact in mind that our GOD’s doesn’t come under the concepts of what we brahmins created as CAST………any correction of what ever i said always welcome….thanx
and one more thing LORD vishnu is neighter a kshatriya nor a brahmin…… Continue reading The Orkut Brahmins

The Dalit ‘Betrayal’ of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan

Karan Thapar of CNBC -TV18 recently presented a half-hour debate on whether Dalits have a better future adopting English rather than one of the so many Indian languages. Some of us followed it keenly because we knew where it was comig from and also the dramatis personae – Chandrabhan Prasad(CP), Yogendra Yadav(YY) and Alok Rai(AR) – all very dear friends, and people who have been deeply engaged with the politics and practice of languages in North India. It was a one-sided debate from the moment it started: clear victory to Chandrabhan Prasad from the word go, first of all, because he had managed to pitchfork his provocative stance into a full scale discussion in the national press and the big media. Think about it: it has taken him just three consecutive annual Macaulay’s birthday parties to friends, to bring it to the attention of a much wider number of intellectuals and a larger public. It was a victory for his own brand of Gandhigiri – that you could very much debate and advance your cause while having fun: ‘chicken, mutton, daaru and daliton ki kuchh samasyayein’ is his style, in his own inimitable words. This is not to say that he does not believe in agitational politics. He does that as well.The debate was also one-sided because CP’s interlocutors did not have convincing answers to his extremist views on language and religion and the coupling of the two, which had to inevitably sneak into the discussion, considering en mass dalit conversions were fresh in media memory. For example, when Karan Thapar probed CP on why he suggested Dalits take flight from Hindi and Hinduism; was it because he hated Hinduism? CP had perhaps an obvious but pithy answer: I did not choose to hate Hinduism, Hinduism never loved me!YY and AR looked aghast and betrayed at the idea of rejecting Indian languages, for Dalits, after all, were communicatively, politically and experientially rooted in these languages, beginning with Marathi, most of the(autobiographical) dalit literature was written in indian languages. They went on, the NRI example of turning away from one’s language is not a healthy one: look how they have all become Hindutva supporters, etc. etc. CP of course rubbished this secular middle class sentimentalism by citing Ambedkar’s example, that he always wrote in English and he did so knowing very well that it is not the Dalits who would read him!

Continue reading The Dalit ‘Betrayal’ of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan

Politics, political consciousness and being

Sometimes it is a matter of a moment, just that moment …

I headed towards the cobbler at Madhavan Park to repair my broken sandal. He was a darkish man. His shop had a photograph of Dr. Ambedkar.

Around Madhavan Park are some small shops and spaces occupied by people at different times in the day. There is a coobler shop, then a knick-knacks shop which also sells newspapers and is an information space for the auto drivers who are lurking there. A lady also comes by in the afternoon and sets up shop to sell food to the auto drivers and to other clients.

I stood by the coobler shop, watching the cobbler repair my shoe. An old vegetable vendor came by and dropped some tomatoes in the cobbler’s shop. The two of them had a mischievous exchange and the cobbler continued repairing my shoe. I continued watching the cobbler at work, very intently watching him, his facial features, his craft. It struck me then that here is a man who would be called ‘chamar’, a ‘dalit’. But how different is he from me? What is this theory and politics about caste?

My words are proving to be futile here because I am really attempting to describe that moment, that moment where a certain transcendence occurred and I could only see this person repairing my shoe as myself, as me. Such a moment betrays all theory, all politics and it is perhaps such moments which cause major transformations among humankind.

Such moments are those which give me a great amount of hope. There is much hope in this world. We all live by it!

As I walk by Bangalore, pass by the city in the buses, I watch the newly formed cobbler kiosks. Most of them are empty. The occupied cobbler spaces are many. And most of them are laced with photographs of Dr. Ambedkar. This photograph does not appear in a vacumm. It appears as a source of consciousness of being, it emerges out of an assertion of a certain identity.

The empty cobbler kiosks are empty not as a matter of lack of occupancy. They are empty because politically, these spaces are flat, devoid of the very identity which forms the basis of our everyday politics.