Posts Tagged ‘Adivasis’

This is why Team Anna makes me nervous (Bhanwar Megwanshi)

In Perspective on September 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

From: Tehelka.com

This is why Team Anna makes me nervous

[by Bhanwar Megwanshi]

Anna Hazare’s core group appears to be instinctively anti-democracy, anti-constitution, anti-parliament and possibly anti-minorities

IN THE name of a crusade against corruption, a number of supporters of the caste system, who are also vociferously opposed to reservations for the historically oppressed castes, have got together to stir up a massive agitation against India’s democratic system, insisting that democracy must bow before their dictates. In effect, what they are demanding is that the government must do as it is ordered to by them, and that if it does not do so, they will engineer mass protests, which will make it difficult for a government to survive. These casteist forces, who claim to be protesting against corruption, are being projected by a pliant media as supposedly being the voice of the people of India, but nothing could be further from the truth. In this regard, it is heartening that crores of Dalits, Adivasis and other oppressed people have chosen to clearly stay away from this movement. They have also begun to come out on the streets to protect democracy and the Indian Constitution from the threats posed to both by this casteist movement. They firmly refuse to accept the superpower Jan Lokpal that Team Anna wants to impose on the country.

The Anna Hazare movement shows every sign of being dangerously opposed to democracy, as the defiant rhetoric of the members of Team Anna indicates. They have been issuing repeated challenges to the Constitution, parliament and democracy. A caste-class analysis of this movement is necessary at this juncture to clarify its true nature. It cannot be that the whole country is stupefied into such blind adoration of Anna Hazare that we forget this fundamental task. It is also crucial for us to note that much of the support that Hazare is receiving is actually an expression of a general disgust with widespread corruption rather than an expression of support for a Lokpal of the sort that Team Anna has proposed.

Some might accuse me of seeking to divide the movement at a time when it has garnered popular support by raising the question of the participation or otherwise in it of Dalits, Adivasis, obcs and religious minorities. Such Hazare supporters are bound to raise questions about my understanding of their movement. They might even accuse people, who point out the casteist nature of their movement, of being supportive of corruption simply because we do not support them.

My simple response to them is: Who has given the right to Team Anna and its backers among the middle-class urban Savarna Hindus across India to brand every voice that opposes them as a collaborator of corruption or as lacking in merit? Is it that they still view the world through instrument of the Brahminical texts, according to which Shudras have no rights to study, speak, and even to know, understand and ask, their only task being to slave for others?

The slogans raised by pro-Hazare demonstrators indicate that the Hazare-led movement is distinctly anti-Dalit. It is against the Mandal Commission and the caste census. It is against democracy. Banners of various caste associations were seen fluttering at the Ramlila ground, including of the Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha. Volunteers of this outfit had brought their posters with them, which call for an end to reservations at the same time as they demand the Jan Lokpal. RK Bharadwaj, fervent supporter of Hazare and a key leader of the Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha, declares, ‘Reservations are the root of all corruption. The real revolution will come when the merit-based social system of Manu Maharaj will be reinstated.’

It’s possible that one of the aims of the movement is to create a supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated by Team Anna, to be used to trap and persecute officials, employees and leaders belonging to the minority communities

The casteist thrust of Hazare’s movement can also be gauged from his stance on the caste question. This devotee of Gandhi is a supporter of the Varna system. He has declared that in every village there must be at least one suthar (carpenter), one kumhar (potter), one sunar (goldsmith) and one chamar (leather-worker). But Babasaheb Ambedkar had told Dalits to give up their demeaning ancestral professions, even if this meant that they had to starve to death, and advised them to leave the villages, dens of caste discrimination, and settle in cities instead. As a votary of Gandhi, Hazare seems to regard village life as ideal. His village of Ralegaon Siddhi is a case in point. For many years, elections have not taken place to the gram panchayat on the grounds that the gram pradhan should be elected unopposed. Can this be in accordance with the norms and ideals of democracy? Using this logic, might it not be possible that someone might demand that a dictator, a Narendra Modi or a Varun Gandhi, or a Raj Thackeray, be declared to be the prime minister unopposed?

It is absolutely necessary at this juncture to point out that Hazare is being used by anti-reservation and anti-Constitution forces. The man behind this entire affair, Arvind Kejriwal, has never been known to be a supporter of Dalits or an admirer of Ambedkar. He did not even hesitate to declare that no reservation can be made for Dalits in the drafting committee for the Lokpal on the grounds that for formulating laws one needs specialisation. When Dalits protested against this, he threw the ball into the government’s court, saying that the government could appoint a Dalit. What sort of contempt for Dalits does this reveal?

Kejriwal remains silent on a key Dalit demand – reservations for Dalits in the private sector. Moreover, he is said to be opposed to reservations in government services. Kejriwal’s close relationship with the vociferously anti-reservation Youth For Equality, a key actor in the Hazare-led movement, is well known. No Dalit or Adivasi has been promoted to leadership positions in his own organisation, Parivartan, and in India Against Corruption, which is solidly backing the Hazare campaign. Not a single person from the Dalit, Adivasi, obc or religious minority communities has been incorporated into the core team of the so-called anti-corruption movement. But, of course, people from these communities have been granted the opportunity of service to the movement as volunteers at the venue of Hazare’s demonstration in New Delhi – to clean up the rubbish, carry loads, spray water and so on. After all, such manual tasks were assigned precisely to these people in Manusmriti itself, and so it is barely surprising that the same Shudras should be doing the same work here, too. From all this, the implications for Dalits and other oppressed castes if Hazare and Kejriwal’s Jan Lokpal comes into effect are clear.

This much is, then, obvious: that Hazare’s so-called anti-corruption movement is distinctly casteist, supportive of the Varna system and opposed to Dalits. It is thus possible that it might soon transform into an anti-reservation movement. It is not far-fetched to suspect that certain forces propelling the movement seek to scrap democracy through the institution of the Jan Lokpal, as devised by Team Anna, because genuine democracy is a menacing threat to the ruling class and caste elites. It is also possible that one of the aims of the movement is to create a supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated by Team Anna, which can be used to trap and persecute officials, employees and leaders belonging to the Dalit, Adivasi and religious minority communities.

DALITS ARE increasingly seeing through the gameplan of the Kejriwal-Hazare team and are beginning to stridently oppose it. In Hazare’s state, Maharashtra, Dalit groups are demonstrating against this anti-Constitution movement. Days ago, a massive demonstration of Dalits and people from other marginalised communities was organised in New Delhi in order to save the Constitution from the threat posed by this movement. Activists of some Dalit groups are also on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar to support the Constitution and to condemn those who are challenging it. But the so-called mainstream media has not provided them coverage. It has shamelessly suppressed the voices of Dalits who are protesting against those who are bent on subverting democracy because it wants the whole country to go the Hazare way. Why? Because the movement indicates the revival and assertion of Manuvad, and this is what those who control most of the media ardently desire.

What sort of anti-corruption people’s movement is it when, under its guise, crowds of unruly people come out into the streets? When leaders of the movement are instigating people to gherao the houses of mps? Is this a banana republic? Can law and order be surrendered at the feet of Hazare? Why did the media add fuel by providing 24-hour running commentary on this whole affair? Why is the corporate sector funding India Against Corruption? Why are a seemingly unlikely set of companions, ngos and funding agencies, on the one hand, and so-called sadhus, babas and religious institutions, all excitedly bent on turning Hazare into a messiah? Why has Team Anna left out rampant corruption in the media, in ngos, in corporate houses, and in religious bodies like mutts, temples, waqf boards and churches, from the purview of their proposed Lokpal?

Hazare’s hunger fast is not a novel development as far as Dalits are concerned. Many decades ago, MK Gandhi went on a hunger fast – to protest against the demand of Dalits, led by Ambedkar, for separate Dalit electorates. By going on that fast, Gandhi betrayed the Dalits. And today, in the name of the so-called second freedom struggle, and under the guise of fighting against corruption, Hazare goes on a fast, making demands that would lead to the subversion of the Constitution, with dangerous consequences for the Dalits and other oppressed peoples.

Today, Team Anna and the movement that it is spearheading have emerged, despite their populist face, as a potent challenge to democracy. They insist that the country must run according to their dictates. Is the intention of some forces supporting the movement to create chaos and lawlessness? If that happens, Dalits, Adivasis and the religious minorities would be hit most. Is this, then, as many conscious Dalits fear, part of a larger Manuvadi conspiracy to destroy democracy, which the dominant caste-class combine regards as the biggest threat to their hegemony, which is today being increasingly challenged by the historically oppressed peoples of this country?

That is why Dalits and Adivasis, the most heavily-burdened victims of corruption, have chosen to stay away from this movement. They have realised the threat to democracy, as well as to reservations, that this movement poses and are refusing to get fooled by its rhetoric against corruption. They have said a loud No to the unconstitutional Lokpal as envisioned by Team Anna and the lawless movement that, ostensibly in the name of curbing corruption, is backing this demand. They are aware that in the name of this Jan Lokpal an alternative constitutional structure is being imposed, which would prove a monster as far as they are concerned, not hesitating to brutally repress their voice of dissent, their quest for liberation, their dream of equality and freedom.

Translated from Hindi by Yoginder Sikand
Bhanwar Megwanshi is also associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)


Why Dalits are not enthusiastic about Anna Hazare's movement (Bhanwar Megwanshi)

In Perspective on August 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm

From: rediff.com

Why Dalits are not enthusiastic about Anna Hazare’s movement

August 24, 2011 11:00 IST

Babasaheb Ambedkar was the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, and so Dalits have an emotional attachment to the Constitution. If a movement sets itself above the Constitution and challenges democracy, a key pillar of the Constitution, Dalits will refuse to support it, says Bhanwar Megwanshi

Anna Hazare’s ‘anti-corruption’ movement has received considerable support across the country. The ‘mainstream’ media is awash with stories about Anna and his fast. It is as if there is nothing else happening in India that is worth reporting on.

But, at the same time as the media is busy projecting Anna and his movement, a vast section of India’s population — the country’s Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities, who are at the bottom of India’s social pyramid and who suffer the most at the hands of the corrupt system that Anna and his supporters are supposedly denouncing — have maintained a studied distance from this movement.

Not a single well-known and respected Dalit or Adivasi intellectual, social activist or public leader has come out in support of the movement. Nor, too, have ordinary Dalits and Adivasis.

Likewise, workers and peasants are hardly involved in the movement. Yet, despite this, the movement and the men leading it claim to represent the entire country!

India Against Corruption, the outfit behind Anna’s movement, claims that it is the voice of the 120 crore people of India. But, when the tens of crores of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities have evinced little interest in the movement, how can such erroneous claims be made on their behalf and on behalf of this movement, too?

One of the reasons that Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities feel ignored by the movement is precisely this sort of behaviour on the part of the men behind this movement, self-proclaimed ‘people’s leaders’ who are projecting themselves as the messiahs of the masses.

To understand why the oppressed castes have shown little or no interest in what is being projected by the media as independent India’s supposedly largest mass movement, the movement needs to be analysed from a caste perspective. It is striking to note that when Anna went on a fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the banners that his supporters put up depicted a whole range of icons, from Bharat Mata to Gandhi, Shivaji and Lakshmi Bai. But Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, the true liberators of the oppressed castes, were conspicuous by their absence.

At the venue of the fast, slogans like ‘Scrap Reservations, End Corruption!’ rent the air. Dalits who visited the venue came back thoroughly disheartened on being confronted with the fact that the movement was distinctly opposed to reservations for the oppressed castes.

But that was not all. When the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal was formed and five members from ‘civil society’ were nominated for this purpose, not a single one of them was found to be from among the Dalits, Adivasis or religious minorities! Moreover, not one of them was a woman! When Dalit leaders from across the country raised their voice against this, Arvind Kejriwal, the man who heads India Against Corruption, replied that one needs specialists in order to devise laws.

Is it the case, Dalits demand to know, that more than 60 years ago, a Dalit, in the form of Babasaheb Ambedkar, was available to take up the task of presiding over the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution, but that today not a single Dalit can be found who is thought ‘capable’ enough to sit on a panel to draft a single law? True to form, here, too, questions are raised as to the supposed merit or capabilities of Dalits.

When Dalits protested against this insinuation, Kejriwal simply replied that the government could appoint a Dalit. In other words, reservations may be followed in the rapidly-shrinking government sector but certainly not in the burgeoning private sector, nor in the so-called ‘civil society’ that falsely claims to represent the whole of Indian society. Is it at all surprising, then, that Dalits and other oppressed castes consider this ‘anti-corruption movement’ to be a cover for an ‘anti-reservation movement’ and, hence, have distanced themselves from it?

Can Anna’s team, that presides over a movement that is reportedly funded by certain corporate houses, tell us what the movement’s stand is on reservations for the oppressed castes in the private sector? What is the condition of Dalits in Anna’s own so-called model-village of Ralegan Siddhi? Is Anna himself a supporter of the varna system in the name of ‘gram swaraj’? What message is being sent out to the millions of Dalits and other oppressed communities through slogans such as ‘Anna is India!’, ‘Those who are not with Anna are thieves!’ and ‘Reservations are the Root of Corruption!’?

Dalit, Adivasi and religious minorities are curious to know why Anna Hazare and his followers did not care to go on a fast when heinous atrocities were committed against their people. Why not when Dalits were brutally massacred in Hazare’s own state of Maharashtra, in the remote village of Khairlanji, which set off mass protests by Dalits across Maharashtra and beyond? Why not when, under the guise of Salwa Judum, the government was seeking to crush Adivasis protesting against oppression by branding them as Naxalites?

Might this indicate that Anna and his team have no interest at all in the injustice and oppression that millions of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities have to suffer on a daily basis? By praising Narendra Modi [ Images ], who permitted the brutal murder of several thousand innocent Muslims, Anna has clearly shown that communalism and fascism, too, are not issues that he is interested in struggling against. Anna did not sit on a fast to protest against the suicides of tens of thousands of impoverished peasants in his own Maharashtra.

Given all this, is it surprising that Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities are, by and large, simply not interested in joining his movement?

The oppressed castes are wary of Anna’s team and its demands for another reason. The Lokpal that Anna’s team is demanding will be so powerful that it will possess all sorts of powers — to hear complaints, to investigate allegations, to arrest, tap phones, snoop in on emails and SMSes and even to impose punishment. This enormously powerful body will be even superior to the country’s legislature, executive and judiciary. The Constitution speaks of the separation of powers of these three wings of governance, but the Lokpal that Anna’s team is demanding would clearly subvert this structure by imposing itself, in an unconstitutional manner, over and above the three wings.

While from a village-level patwari to the prime minister, everyone would be answerable to the Lokpal, the Lokpal itself would be answerable to no one at all. This clearly indicates that under the guise of Anna’s ‘anti-corruption movement’, an uncontrollable mob is seeking to set aside the Constitution of this country and Constitutional provisions and do away with democracy.

Babasaheb Ambedkar was the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, and so Dalits have an emotional attachment to the Constitution. If a movement sets itself above the Constitution and challenges democracy, a key pillar of the Constitution, Dalits will refuse to support it.

That is why Dalits and other oppressed caste groups remain indifferent to Anna Hazare’s movement. And, because of this, the movement, despite claiming to speak for the whole of India, is nothing of the sort. Rather, it may be considered the voice of just a section of the English-speaking middle-class Savarna Hindu minority.

Bhanwar Megwanshi is a noted social activist from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. He edits the Hindi monthly Diamond India, a journal that deals with social issues at the grassroots. He is associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor-Kisan Shakti Sangathan, and can be contacted on Bhanwar Megwanshi

%d bloggers like this: