This October, a colleague and I tracked a group of young Dalits fighting caste atrocities in Uttar Pradesh. The documentary posted above is one part of an extended multimedia project. See the entire project here: https://www.thequint.com/quintlab/ambedkar-dalit-army-fights-caste-atrocities-in-uttar-pradesh/
ऐसा तो गुजरात में भी नहीं हुआ था! हाँ! हमें 2002 की गर्मियां ज़रूर याद हैं, मस्जिदों में चल रही पनाहगाह की याद है, याद हैं गम से खामोश और समझदार आँखें जो हमें देख रही थीं जो उनका दुःख बँटाने आए थे वहाँ, कुछ घंटे, कुछ दिन, कुछ वक्त गुजारने, फिर जो अपने घरों को लौट जाने को थे क्योंकि हमारे घर थे जहां हम लौट सकते थे, घर जो आपका इंतज़ार जितना करता है उससे कहीं ज़्यादा दिन-हफ्ते उससे बाहर गुजारते हुए आप उसका करते हैं. वे आँखें जानती थीं कि हमारे घर हैं लौटने को और उनके नहीं हैं. वे अशफाक, सायरा, शकीला होने की वजह से बार-बार घर खोजने को नए, सिरे से उन्हें बसाने को मजबूर हैं, कि उनको और उनकी आगे की पीढ़ियों को इसका इत्मीनान दिलाने में यह धर्मनिरपेक्ष भारत,यह हिन्दुस्तान लाचार है. जिसकी हस्ती कभी नहीं मिटती, उस हिन्दुस्तान को बनाने वालों में कई को ज़रूर एक ज़िंदगी में कई जिंदगियां गढ़नी पड़ती हैं. एक घर के बाद कई घर बसाने पड़ते हैं. Continue reading ऐसा तो गुजरात में भी नहीं हुआ था: अपूर्वानंद→
Even before the results came out, the Mayawati cabinet passed a resolution to dissolve the assembly. Never before has an incumbent shown such confidence about losing. Mayawati’s body language during the campaign was proof of the same lack of confidence. Mayawati was going to lose, the Samajwadi Party was in the air. And yet, Mayawati must be relieved right now. She knows that this defeat of hers is, ironically, a victory of the Bahujan Samaj Party and what it stands for. Here’s how.
This guest post byRAM KUMAR is a review of five years of Mayawati’s administration in Uttar Pradesh. An English translation has appeared in Fountain Ink magazine, here.
मुख्यमंत्री मायावती जी को 2007 में मिला स्पष्ट जनादेश महज मुलायम सिंह यादव के खिलाफ एन्टी-इनकमवंसी फैक्टर ही नहीं था, बलिक अराजकता और गुंडागर्दी के खिलाफ भी जनादेश था। सरकार का खुले रूप से एन्टी-दलित चरित्र और प्रदेश के अन्दर सरकार के एन्टी ब्राहम्ण टोन के चलते प्रदेश में मुलायम सिंह की सरकार के खिलाफ दलित अति पिछड़े हो गये थे। मुलायम सिंह के कल्याण सिंह प्रेम की वजह से माइनारिटी (अल्पसंख्यक) भी मुलायम से नाराज हो गए। बहन जी ने सर्वजन समाज का नारा देकर विक्षुब्द तबकों को समेटा। सभी को समेटने में रणनीति के तहत अपना नारा बदल “हाथी नहीं गणेष है ब्रम्हा, विष्णु, महेष है” का नारा लगाया। सर्वजन फार्मूला और मुलायम के खिलाफ गुस्सा बहन जी को पूर्ण बहुमत से सत्ता में लेकर के आया।
बहन जी एक सशक्त शासनकर्ता के रूप में जानी जाती थीं। इस बार भी बहन जी सत्ता में आयींऔर सत्ता में आते ही तुरन्त उन्होनें घोषणा की कि अराजकता और गुडागर्दी नहीं चलेगी, कानून का राज्य चलेगा। इसको सिद्ध करने के लिये उन्होंने सबसे पहले जो राजनेता अपने साथ बहुत सारे शस्त्रधारियों को लेकर चलते थे, उन पर प्रतिबंध लगाया और एलान किया कि कोई भी नेता सार्वजनिक स्थल पर तीन हथियार से ज्यादा में दिखे तो उनके खिलाफ कार्यवाही की जायेगी। यही नहीं अपनी पार्टी के एम. पी. रमाकान्त यादव जो आजमगढ़ से हैं, एक गरीब मुसिलम के मकान पर जमीन कबजाने के चक्कर में जबरदस्ती बुलडोजर चलवाया इसकी खबर जब बहन जी को लगी उन्होंने रमाकान्त यादव को अपने मुख्यमंत्री आवास पर मिलने के लिये बुलाया और वहीं से उनको गिरफ्तार करवाया। यह संदेश देने की कोशिशकी कि सत्ताधारी दल के हों या विपक्षी पाटी के हों, कानून सबके लिये समान है। अपनी ही सरकार के खाधमंत्री और विधायक आनन्द सेन को एक महिला के अपहरण केस में बर्खास्त कर जेल भिजवाया और अभी तक 26 प्रभावशाली नेता एवं मंत्रियों को पार्टी के बाहर का रास्ता दिखा चुकी हैं। पिछली सरकार में हुयी 17,868 पुलिस जवानों की भर्ती में हुयी धांधली के चलते भर्ती प्रक्रिया को निरस्त किया और 25 आई .पी.एस. अधिकारियों को भी सस्पेन्ड किया।
This photograph was taken by Salman Usmani in Ganguali village in Unnao near Lucknow, in early January. On the left is Prabhat Pandey and on the right, Ram Khilawan. Pandey is a Brahmin and Khilawan a Dalit. They’re the BSP’s men in this village, responsible for urging Brahmins and Dalits to vote for the BSP candidate, also a Brahmin. The photo was taken when I asked them to pose together. This is all the ‘brotherhood’ they could show before the camera.
A prominent Dalit academic once told me that when a Dalit entered the seminar room, the rest of them should feel uncomfortable. Given the monumental oppression Dalits face, this should be the least consequence of Dalits getting a voice.
I am reminded of this when I think of Mayawati’s gigantic Dalit memorials that have changed Lucknow’s landscape.
This article by me has appeared (.pdf) in the Economic and Political Weekly.
On 14 April this year party general secretary Rahul Gandhi launched the Congress’ biggest campaign to revive itself since 1989. The date was carefully chosen, Ambedkar Jayanti, because he is trying to win over dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh (UP). In 1989 the Congress’ support base in UP was made up of a rainbow coalition of brahmins, Muslims and dalits. The Congress has to woo these communities again to regain power in UP.
The brahmin community took to the now ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in small numbers in the 2007 Vidhan Sabha election primarily because there was no strong brahmin leader after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Behari Vajpayee became politically inactive. Brahmins see in Rahul Gandhi a potential “brahmin” leader. The UP Congress president, legislative leader and Youth Congress president in the state are all from the brahmin community.
Muslim support is no longer enchained to the Samajwadi Party (SP) because their bete noire, the BJP, is powerless these days in both the centre and the state. As a result the Muslim vote is being fought for, as a three-way contest between BSP, SP and Congress. BSP head and Chief Minister Mayawati’s stratagem is to therefore change her party’s core support base constructed out of the “brahmin-dalit” alliance into a Muslim-dalit alliance.
The dalits, wooed away en masse by the Kanshi Ram-Mayawati duo of the BSP for years, would be the hardest to win back for the Congress. In fact, a year ago the very idea would have sounded ludicrous. But today, Mayawati’s angry reaction to the Congress’ bid to woo dalits is indication that the Congress may be winning over dalits. How is this happening? Continue reading Rahul Gandhi and the Dalit votebank in Uttar Pradesh→
The Congress Party will use the occassion of Ambedkar Jayanti tommorow to reach out to UP’s Dalits. Commenting on this, NDTV says, “Mayawati, who knows a thing or two about appropriating the Dalit legacy, is going on the offensive as well.”
Appropriating? Hello! You mean to say Rahul Gandhi is a Dalit and Mayawati a half-Italian, one-fourths Parsi and one-fourth Kashmiri Pandit, trying to pass off as an Allahbad Brahmin and collecting Dalit votes on the side?
I gather that the Uttar Pradesh police has become especially sensitive to crimes against Dalits after the Lok Sabha debacle of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party. I gather that the head of the state police is now flying dowin in his helicopter to areas that are reporting serious atrocity cases, routinely suspending his department’s employees in-charge of the area. I gather that Dalits going to the police station in UP’s villages are no longer being told, ‘Do a compromise. Why do you want to complicate matters? After all inter-caste harmony is needed to make Behenji Prime Minister!’ Continue reading Lathi, Charged→
The higher you fly, the harder you crash. Kumari Mayawati has just learnt this lesson, and is finally giving her ever-expanding fleet of air-crafts some rest. There was clear evidence before the results were out that Dalits were not going to the polling booths to vote; if they did they wouldn’t be able to press any button other than the elephant. Dalit activists in UP had been telling me this for some time now. There were rumours that the UP police has also informed the administration of this trend. Continue reading UP’s Dalits Remind Mayawati: Democracy is a Beautiful→
The BSP’s politics may trouble the popular conception of Indianness, among English speaking middle classes, who understand India as one whole, where the ‘Indian’ identity dominates and the rest, which reflect real India (inequality and conflicts) are hushed up. On the other hand, the BSP’s politics reiterates that India is a country of various minorities (castes, religions, regions) who may be victimised by fellow Indians in different contexts. Emphasising the BSP or Mayawati’s Dalitness ignores the complexity of caste society and associated politics. Kanshiram in the past and Mayawati now raise issues of caste not to sustain inequality but to challenge them. What Mayawati and BSP’s growth represents is the deepening of democracy in India. [Suryakant Waghmore]
There was this article in the Indian Express yesterday by Mihir Sharma which basically says liberals don’t have to feel guilty about not supporting Mayawati for PM because Mayawati and the BSP don’t have a “programme”. That desire for a new, revolutionary “programme” sounds Stalinist to me. But more than that, it is revealing about the picture of the good Indian liberal that the author has. The good Indian liberal seems to be completely unaware of the five letter word, Caste; s/he does not appreciate what untouchability means for millions, what the monopoly over the power structure by upper castes means for the ‘majority of the oppressed’ (Bahujan). This good liberal sounds like a foreign-educated babalog who is not very different from someone we have met before.
The Juhu Versova beach is divided into two sections, guarded by two stray dogs and the bare dirty arses of bhaiyyas who step off their kholis to shit straight into the sea. The other side of the invisible divide is reserved for the civil society which comes to walk, exercise and meditate in the morning. Including well off bhaiyyas like ourselves.
Returning from the beach when I accosted the panwalla by calling him bhaiyya, three bystanders gave me a sharp look. I figured they were marathi manoos. Leaving the shop I tried to inject some pathos by saying that it has become so dangerous to call anyone bhaiyya these days. They did smile, all of them. But I detected a gleam of satisfaction in their expression.
“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running and robbing the country. That’s our problem.”
– Howard Zinn, Failure to Quit
Three month old Babu who is affectionately called Yuvraj also is not in a position to read the changes in his mother’s face nor can comprehend why everyone in the family has suddenly started looking tense these days. For the kid the world remains the same, but for his family members it has rather changed a lot.
In his opening passage of the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx attributed to Hegel (somewhat mistakenly) the idea “that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice” and added sardonically that Hegel forgot to add: “First time as tragedy, second time as farce.” He went on to illustrate his comment thus: “Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.”
Marx’s point was simple but profound. The tradition of the dead generations, he claimed, weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living: “Just as they [revolutionaries, ‘men’] seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95.”
It has been over a year since Mayawati came to power in UP and I am absolutely sick of seeing news reports beginning with the comment, “In a state ruled by a Dalit chief minister, a Dalit youth was killed…” This hostility towards Mayawati is ironically couched in the language of ‘Dalit empowerment’, the phrase used so loosely its is completely devoid of meaning. Where were all these reporters and their editorialising and their concern for Dalits when Yadavs were running the state?
What has Mayaywati been doing for Dalits? That question will be answered again and again without talking to a single Dalit. But if you do go looking for something, you will find it. The redoubtable Nilanjana Bose reports: Continue reading Gomti Nagar to Bundelkhand→
In a refreshingly swift intervention in the affair concerning Roma’s arrest, the UP chief minister Mayawati has ordered the revocation of the cases under the National Security Act and she was released soon thereafter. Mayawati has also called for an explanation in this regard, from concerned police officers of Sonebhadra district. This is unimaginable in contemporary India, across the political spectrum from the Right to the Left. Rarely has such a prompt intervention been undertaken by those tempered in the logic of power and ‘institutions’. As a matter of fact, experience shows that, even in the best of cases, such complaints – even uproar – about the misuse of power, are routinely pushed through a mesh of bureaucratic ‘rules and regulations’ in a manner that leaves you wondering, in the end, whether there is really any desire on the part of the political leaders concerned to address the issue at hand.
Mayawati’s decision has been welcomed by Medha Patkar and other organizations and activists like Tahira Hasan of Tehrik-e-Niswan and Roop Rekha Verma of Sanjhi Duniya. It is worth remembering that while Medha Patkar has been supportive of struggle over land, elsewhere in the state, she has been quite forthright in welcoming this move. Jansatta reporter Ambarish Kumar, quotes Tahira Hasan and others to the effect that this step by Mayawati shows that she has decided not to go the Mulayam Singh way, for such a thing would have been unimaginable in his rule. Kumar also reports that CPI(ML) Liberation leaders have also welcomed this decision. This is important because, a large number of those killed or arrested by the police in these areas of UP, have actually been activists of the CPI(ML) Liberation and not ‘Maoists’ – who hardly have any presence in the region.
Anand Teltumbde is an eminent Dalit theoretician who is respected and influential. He is among the few intellectuals who is also self-critical; someone who does not necessarily believe in ‘closing ranks’. Compared to Dalit intellectuals who think criticizing Dalit politics and social movements will always necessarily be used for anti-Dalit politics, and that Dalit politics could do without self-critical exercises, he is perhaps an exception in coming up with trenchant criticisms of Dalit politics, movements and perspectives from time to time. Most times, both well-meaning, pro- but non-Dalit intellectuals and Dalit intellectuals think it is dangerous to even air legitimate criticism of anything Dalit. Thus Teltumbde is also a lonely Dalit intellectual. His position is unenviable. Almost everything Dalits do or think is either unfairly dismissed and criticized or not given sufficient credit by the media and the dominant progressive-liberal left. Intellectuals like Chandrabhan Prasad or Kancha Ilaiah focus exclusively on exposing the hypocrisy of so-called progressive intellectuals and highlighting the admirable features of Dalit life and politics. Reading Teltumbde is complementary and sometimes corrective to the work of both Ilaiah and Chandra Bhan Prasad. What is missing in the latters’ intellectual practice is that they don’t entertain any sustained self-critical perspective of Dalit politics and movements and lines of thought.
Please read this very important post on the CNN IBN website’s otherwise dull blog section. It has been written by Hindol Sengupta who covers fashion and suchlike for them. His point is that he can’t relate to Mayawati, and finds it ironic that the “backbone of the knowledge, entreneurial [sic] economy” should be a “non-vote bank”. He says that his class of people, his ‘type’ – People Like Us, to use a cliche – “rejoice every time Manmohan Singh takes stage” but alas, even he couldn’t win a Lok Sabha election from South Delhi.
The reason why I think it is an important post is that unlike most other PLUs, Sengupta makes no claim to ‘objectivity’. When Youth for Equality / United Students / other ‘anti-reservationists’ oppose reservations, and speak about Dalits/OBCs, they claim to be doing so with a claim to ‘objectivity’, that is, they do not admit that the viewpoint(s) they are putting forward are of a certain section of society that is influential in shaping public opinion despite being in a minority.
Sengupta admits not only his discomfiture with a democratically elected Mayawati but also that his discomfiture stems from his background, from who he is. He describes himself and his ilk as “middle-class, educated, metro-bred, Christian-education raised, young.” That would abbreviate into MEMCRY, but let’s just use the word ‘yuppie’.
It is quite extraordinary and laudatory for a yuppie to admit his distance from the political rise of the ‘low-class, neo-literate, village-bred, government school-raised, middle aged’. Such an admission is a rarity, and it is exactly what the ‘anti-anti-reservationists’ want the ‘anti-reservationists’ to admit. Continue reading Why Hindol Sengupta needn’t fear Mayawati→
In light of the twoposts 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→