Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Image result for nehru ambedkar

( Photo courtesy : The hoot)

(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)

 

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.

– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.

If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.

Introduction

India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.

No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading “Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism”

Ambedkar and the Environmental Tradition

The 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar was celebrated in April 2016 all around, so much so that the United Nations, for the first time, observed this day with a focus on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we know, the 17 goals along with 169 targets and 304 indicators, adopted in September 2015, aspire to transform our world by balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. The ‘plan of action for people, planet and prosperity’ has environment at its core, along with poverty and inequality: to ‘protect planet’, create ‘healthy environment’, and ensure equality, dignity and development ‘in harmony with nature’. And Ambedkar is found in this regard to be an apt and inspiring leader.

The world can see traces of Ambedkar’s vision in the SDGs and can find his views relevant for environmental sustainability, but not the Indian environmentalists! Indian environmental movements marginalize Ambedkar. From a historical past, environmental scholars have placed Gandhi at the apex of their inspiration. Recently, Nehru and Indira Gandhi too have been constructed through an ecological lens. However, Ambedkar’s engagement with the environmental question has been relatively unexplored, even when his thoughts and interventions on nature, village, land, agriculture, water, community, industry, technology and science are some of the enduring issues of India’s environmental and political traditions. In comparison with Gandhi, credited with having an intuitive critique of modern civilization, Ambedkar has often been criticized for his modernization vision, which it is argued, drew heavily on the west for inspiration (Nagaraj 2010: 56-7)

Continue reading “Ambedkar and the Environmental Tradition”

[Audio: Hindi] Prashant Jha on Upper Caste Madhesis taking the Sorry Pledge

In the second instance of what I hope will become a regular feature on Kafila, I caught up with fellow journalist and Kafila contributor Prashant Jha on the We Are Sorry Campaign for Social Reform in Madhes , where upper-caste Nepali Hindus acknowledge they have benefited from the centuries long oppression of pretty much everyone else.

In our conversation Prashant addresses the substantive and well-founded criticism of the pledge [another example of upper-castes setting the terms of debate and discourse, largely symbolic] as well as broader questions of Nepali politics and nation-hood.

He will respond to comments on this site. Let me know if there are any particular themes you would like us to explore in our new audio work. All audio files in this series are freely downloadable, and shareable – so you can download them to your phone and listen on your commute to where ever.

 

How to be free of Caste – Guest Post by Suhas Borker

Guest Post by Suhas Borker

This year, India has sponsored the observation of the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at the United Nations for the first time. The Permanent Mission of India to the UN shall commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of the Dalit icon on April 13 at the UN headquarters, a day before his date of birth, with an international seminar on ‘Combating inequalities to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. A note circulated by the Indian mission says that the “national icon” remains an inspiration for millions of Indians and proponents of equality and social justice across the globe. “Fittingly, although it’s a matter of coincidence, one can see the trace of Babasaheb’s radiant vision in the SDGs adopted by the UN General Assembly to eliminate poverty, hunger and socio-economic inequality by 2030.”

Juxtapose this with a recent report on caste-based discrimination by the United Nations Human Right Council’s Special Rapporteur for minority issues that has stung the Indian government, provoking it to raise questions about the lack of “seriousness of work” in the UN body and the special rapporteur’s mandate. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, would definitely not be pleased. Nor are the Dalit rights activists in India and abroad.

( Read the rest of the piece here : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/how-to-be-free-of-caste-in-india/article8467518.ece?homepage=true)

Appreciating Diversity, Corporate Style – Guest Post by Anonymous

Guest Post by Anonymous

A senior leader of India’s leading IT Services Company took a moment on March 8th to send a note to his colleagues wishing them on International Women’s Day.  In the mailer, he also exhorted his colleagues, among other things, to strive towards building an environment that appreciates variety. The variety of Race, Ethnicity, Gender or Generation! He did not stop there, but went on to talk about drawing strength from these differences. Caste, quite evidently, is conspicuous by its absence in the corporate discourse on diversity (or variety as they also like to call it).

What is it that makes Corporate India, or a part of it, sensitive towards race issues/matters on one hand but allows them ignore caste on the other? Is it reflective of what a social activist friend once mentioned to me in a private conversation – Caste is only visible from “down below” and not “up above”? Continue reading “Appreciating Diversity, Corporate Style – Guest Post by Anonymous”

स्मृति ईरानी को एक जे-एन-यू के छात्र की चिट्ठि: अनन्त प्रकाश नारायण

Guest Post by Anant Prakash Narayan

सेवा में,

श्रीमती स्मृति ईरानी जी

“राष्ट्रभक्त” मानव संसाधन विकास मंत्री,

भारत सरकार

संसद में दिए गए आपके भाषण को सुना. इससे पहले की मै अपनी बात रखूँ , यह स्पष्ट कर दूं की यह पत्र किसी “बच्चे” का किसी “ममतामयी” मंत्री के नाम नहीं है बल्कि यह पत्र एक खास विचारधारा की राजनीति करने वाले व्यक्ति का पत्र दूसरे राजनैतिक व्यक्ति को है. सबसे पहले मै यह स्पष्ट कर दूं कि मै किसी भी व्यक्ति की योग्यता का आकलन उसकी शैक्षणिक योग्यता के आधार पर नहीं करता हूँ बल्कि साफ़ साफ़ कहूं तो मै “योग्यता”(मेरिट) के पूरे कांसेप्ट को खारिज करता हूँ.

मानव संसाधन मंत्रालय का पद भार लेने के साथ ही यह अपेक्षा की जाती है कि आप इस देश के केंद्रीय विश्वविद्यालयों में उनकी ऑटोनोमी का सम्मान करते हुए उसके लिए उत्तरदायी होंगी. रोहित वेमुला के मामले में आपने क्या किया यह सबके सामने है कि किस तरह से वहाँ के प्रशासन पर आपने दबाव डाला जिसका नतीजा रोहित के institutional मर्डर के रूप में हमारे सामने आया. लेकिन मै इन सारी चीजो पर अभी बात नही करना चाहता. आप बार बार अपनी औरत होने की पहचान (आइडेंटिटी) को assert करतीं हैं और इसको करना भी चाहिए क्यूंकि नारी जाति उन ढेर सारे हाशिये पर किए गए लोगों में एक है जिनको सदियों से शोषित किया गया है. मै आपसे यह पूछना चाहता हूँ कि एक दलित स्त्री जो कि हर तकलीफ उठाते हुए अकेले अपने दम पर जब अपने बेटे बेटियों को इस समाज में एक सम्मानपूर्ण जगह देने के लिए संघर्ष कर रही थी तब एक नारी होने के कारण आप की क्या जिम्मेदारी बनती थी ? क्या आपको उस महिला के जज्बे को सलाम करते हुए उसकी बहादुरी के आगे सर झुकाते हुए उसके साथ नहीं खड़ा होना चाहिए था? हाँ, मै रोहित की माँ के बारे में बात कर रहा हूँ. जो महिला इस ब्रहामणवादी व पितृसत्तात्मक समाज से लड़ी जा रही थी, अपने बच्चों को अपने पहचान से जोड़ रही थी, उस महिला को आप व आपकी सरकार उसके पति की पहचान से क्यूँ जोड़ रहे थे? आपको भी अच्छा लगता होगा की आपकी अपनी एक स्वतंत्र पहचान है. लेकिन यह अधिकार आप उस महिला से क्यूँ छीन  रहीं थीं? क्या आप भी पितृसत्तात्मक व ब्रहामणवादी समाज के पक्ष में खड़ी होती हैं? अपना पूरा नाम बताते हुए अपनी जाति के बारे में आपने सवाल पूछा और आपका भाषण खत्म होने के पहले ही लोगों ने आपकी जाति निकाल दी. मै आपकी जाति के बारे में कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं रखता हूँ और मै यह बिलकुल नहीं मानता हूँ की अगर आप उच्च जाति के होते हैं तो आप जातिवादी ही होंगे लेकिन आपके विभाग/मंत्रालय के तरफ से जो चिट्ठियाँ लिखी गई उसमे रोहित और उसके साथियों को जातिवादी /caste-ist बताया. मैडम क्या आप caste-ism और  caste assertion का अन्तर समझती हैं? मै समझता हूँ की आप ये अन्तर भली – भाँति समझती हैं क्यूंकि आर एस एस जो आपकी सरकार और मंत्रालय को चलाता है, वह वर्ण व्यवस्था के नाम पर जाति व्यस्वस्था को भारतीय समाज की आत्मा समझता है और आर-एस-एस के एजेंडे को लागू करवाने की राजनैतिक दृढ़ता हमने समय समय पर आप में देखी हैं.

Continue reading “स्मृति ईरानी को एक जे-एन-यू के छात्र की चिट्ठि: अनन्त प्रकाश नारायण”