Posts Tagged ‘Caste’

The caste of corruption (Shekhar Gupta)

In Perspective on December 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm

From: Indian Express

National Interest: The caste of corruption

by Shekhar Gupta

Posted: Sat Dec 24 2011, 01:50 hrs

Is there a caste or communal link to corruption and crime? Or, are your chances of being involved (and getting caught) in corruption cases higher as you go down the caste ladder? Nobody in his right mind would say yes to either of these. But let’s examine some facts.

Why is there a preponderance of this underclass among those charged with corruption, or even targeted in media sting operations? Here is a roll call: A. Raja and Mayawati (Dalit), Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren (tribal), Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav (OBC), are all caught in corruption or disproportionate assets cases. Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashok Argal and Mahavir Singh Bhagora, caught in the cash-for-votes sting, are all SC/ST; among the BSP MPs in the cash-for-queries sting, Narendra Kushwaha and Raja Ram Pal (who is now in the Congress) are OBC, and Lalchandra Kol a Dalit. Of course, there are also some illustrious upper-caste representatives in the net: Sukh Ram, Jayalalithaa, Suresh Kalmadi. But there are far fewer of them. Could it be that the upper crust tends to be “cleaner” as a rule, or could it be that the system is loaded against those in the lower half of the social pyramid? The Sachar Committee report on the condition of Muslims also tells us that the only place where our Muslims have numbers disproportionately high in comparison to their population is jails. So, face the question once again: do Muslims tend to be more criminal than Hindus, or is the system loaded against them?

For another example, look at the BJP. Two of its senior leaders were caught on camera accepting cash. One, Dilip Singh Judeo, caught taking Rs 9 lakh, was a mere MP, but of a high caste, and was happily rehabilitated in the party, fielded in the election, and is now back in Parliament. The other, Bangaru Laxman, caught taking just Rs 1 lakh, was ranked much higher in the party; he was, in fact, the president, but much lower on the caste pyramid, a Dalit. He has been banished and isolated and is fighting the charges in that Tehelka sting case by himself. I am sorry to use this expression, but the party treated him as an utter outcast even as it continued to defend Judeo. What is the difference between the two except caste? You want to take this argument to the judiciary? It has been loosely insinuated by many prominent people, including by some notable members of Team Anna, that a large number of our former chief justices have been corrupt. But who is the only one targeted by name (however unsubstantiated the charges)? It is Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, currently chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and, more importantly, India’s first Dalit chief justice.

These questions are inconvenient, but can never be brushed aside in a diverse democracy. These have become even more important now as the political class has responded to Team Anna’s Lokpal campaign by bringing in 50 per cent reservation for lower castes and minorities. You can say this is a cynical political ploy to counter what is, after all, an upper-class, upper-caste, urban movement so far. But facts are facts and there is no hiding from them. The system is much too prejudiced, much too loaded against the underclass. Reservations may not be the perfect solution. But how else do you ensure equity? How do you convince this vast majority of Indians below the very top of the social pyramid that this new all-powerful institution will be fair to them? Or, you can flip this very same question in the context of Team Anna. Why has this vast majority of socially and economically vulnerable Indians been so distant from their movement? Why are the leaders who represent them, from Lalu to Mulayam to Mayawati, so strongly critical of the institution of Lokpal? Because the minorities, the weaker sections, are always afraid of mass movements, particularly when these are led by the dominant upper classes. In these movements they see the threat of majoritarian excesses. And that is exactly the apprehension that the political class, particularly the UPA, has now gotten hold of.

The upper caste, creamy layer of our society is the most prejudiced, and yet the most dominant minority in any democracy in the world. That is why even the person representing Mayawati on otherwise brilliant funny-man Cyrus Broacha’s show on CNN-IBN always has a blackened face (Dalits are supposed to be dark-skinned, no?).

An interesting new turn has meanwhile taken place in the discourse over the Lokpal bill. Whenever asked to comment on the UPA’s ploy of reservations, members of Team Anna simply say they are happy to leave that entirely to the government. Leave something entirely to the government? When was the last time you heard Team Anna say that?

They are doing so because the caste card, howsoever cynical, has thrown them entirely off-balance. They are now paying for having built such an unrepresentative upper-crust leadership, deluded perhaps by the belief that this battle was theirs to win on Twitter, Facebook and television channels where their interlocutors were trumpeters or fellow travellers. They forgot that the battle for power and ideas is fought in a democracy’s parliament and within its institutions. They started to believe their own mythology of being apolitical. They did not realise that politics, in a democracy as diverse as ours, needs two essential pre-requisites: ideology and inclusiveness. Abhorrence of corruption is a universal virtue but not an ideology.

If there was an underlying ideological impulse to this movement, it was anti-politicianism, underlined by that slogan from the early, heady days — Mera Neta Chor Hai.

It was probably because of that philosophical abhorrence of politics, and the give-and-take, the unending deal-making it involves, that Anna did not set up a truly diverse and representative “Team” to begin with. They had the wisdom and the sincerity, they thought, and Indians, cutting across barriers of caste and religion, would be smart enough to see it. Representative inclusiveness, they probably believed, was part of our cynical electoral politics though that did not stop them from having a Dalit and a Muslim girl help Anna break his fast, making it the first time that a child was described as “Dalit” on a public stage in a mass rally.

Leaders of Team Anna now rightly say that theirs indeed is a political movement. But even if they assert that it is above electoral politics, they have erred gravely in not learning from the political class and building a representative leadership. It could have come from both their abhorrence and ignorance of politics, from a lack of respect for the political class, and an inability to appreciate that you need politics to create a sense of fairness, balance and empowerment in such a diverse society. That is the difference between Anna on the one hand, and Gandhi and JP on the other. Both of the latter made inclusive politics the vehicle of their revolutions. Team Anna, instead, tried to circumvent politics, and now finds itself right in the thick of it.


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)

Hazare, Indian State and Civil Society

In Perspective on September 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

From: HardNews, August 31 2011

‘End justifies the means’ is a Brahmanical fallacy that must be discarded for the sake of logic itself. Fanaticism of all kinds needs to be shunned at all cost or else democracy may be endangered.

by Umakant

43 years, eight Lokpal Bills under seven Prime Minister and no consensus tells us a lot about the level of consciousness in our society on the need to fight corruption of several kinds. The current Lokpal Bill is the ninth attempt and quite interestingly three other versions have surfaced. Framing up a piece of legislation is the prime responsibility of the Government of the day and the Parliament. It is perhaps for the first time that social activists and other civil society leaders have presented their version of the Draft Bill and have been insisting that it should be accepted or else there could be serious consequences. There are several questions that need to be raised or perhaps clarified. Hazare has ended his ‘epic fast’ after high voltage political drama that was enacted by the UPA Government and the Bhartiya Janata Party in which other Members of Parliament belonging to different Political Parties also became co-partners in a consensus making exercise, but the ‘tamasha’ may continue in near future as Hazare himself said it is a half won battle!

Kisan Baburao Hazare​ alias Anna Hazare​’s fast and the Caste Hindu’s cacophonic support for him, which was fully backed up by the Corporate Sector (at least some if not all) is symptomatic of the malaise that afflict Indian society and polity. The excuse may be the need to fight for ending corruption, but the subtext and perhaps the hidden agenda seems to be much larger than what actually meets the eye. Calling politicians and the Government as traitors who have looted the country and instigating people not to tolerate the Government also tantamount to asking people to revolt and change the system perhaps through direct action and not through participation in the political process itself could be termed as quick fix solution to myriad problems that has been bestowed upon the country.

The quick fix solution has a potency to turn into full blown lawlessness and fascist in the longer run if situations do not improve as per the desired expectations. Let no one remain under an illusion that it is a non-political agitation that Hazare and his team have started. The politics of intolerance and hardening of stance to force the government of the day to accept their demand, euphoria, self glorification and mass frenzy that was created through a well crafted media manipulation which in itself is a dangerous sign that should force all the right thinking people to remain alert or else the country could slide into anarchy like situation. Self righteous, puritanical and at best a demagogue, that is how the Hazare phenomenon could be explained.

A society bereft of icons always looks into its past for an inspirational leader. Projecting Hazare as a “Second Gandhi” and his epic fast as “Second Freedom Struggle” fits into a kind of political game that disenchanted social elites like to play. Lampooning politicians and holding them responsible for the country’s ills is an escapist and passing the buck kind of arguments that is happily flaunted by the elites/caste Hindus of this country. Likening the Government of the day to ‘Baanjh’ (an infertile woman) who cannot understand labour pain of a pregnant woman, in the same way this Government also cannot understand the pain of the poor people, crosses all the limits of indecency that is not expected from a messiah. Branding all politicians as ‘Anpadh’ (illiterate) and ‘Ganwaar’ (rustic) by a Bollywood actor and slanderous slogans by the maddening crowd assembled at Ramlila ground were regular feature in the theatre of the absurd on play mode since August 16, 2011.

‘End justifies the means’ is a Brahmanical fallacy that must be discarded for the sake of logic itself. Fanaticism of all kinds needs to be shunned at all cost or else democracy may be endangered.

There was a tactical shift in the form of tokenism from the first round of agitation in April 2011 at Jantar Mantar to Ramlila ground in August 2011. The life size photograph of Bharat Mata (Mother India) was replaced by M.K.Gandhi’s huge photograph that formed the background at the stage on which Hazare continued with his fast at Ramlila ground. This tactical move was perhaps necessitated to make this agitation more broad-based and invite less criticism from those quarters who would otherwise feel uncomfortable with Mother India kind of communalist propaganda. Another notable change in the second phase of agitation was non-presence of RSS leaders like Ram Madhav at the protest venue, who was a regular visitor at Jantar Mantar agitation site.

This was also a part of strategic and tactical move by Hazare and his team to show that anti corruption agitation has nothing to do with communal organisations like RSS and is also not controlled by them. Hazare feels so much angry at being linked to RSS that he reacts by asking those people to be sent to mental asylum who dares to question him on this count. But the scene at Ramlila ground had its own story to tell. The day would usually start with singing of Bhajans, chanting of Gayatri Mantras, blowing of conch, performing yajna and pooja, all of which symbolises the stranglehold of Brahmanical religious practices. The tactical shift in the form of another tokenism was also visible on the day Hazare ended his fat at Ramlila ground on August 28, 2011. To stave off mounting criticism of being anti- Dalit and anti- Constitution, he mentioned Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the need for working well within the parameters set up by the Constitution.

The mishandling by the current UPA Government of the agitation started by Hazare and his team also demonstrated its arrogance as well as its callousness. Faced with embarrassing situation it tried to rope in Maratha caste leaders from Maharashtra to convince Hazare to get ready for negotiation with the Government. A model turned spiritual godman, Uday Singh Deshmukh aka Bhaiyyu Maharaj, who is alleged to have links with powerful Maratha politicians, education and builders mafia and also has received letter of appreciation from right wing politicians like Narendra Modi​, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Raj Thakre and others, offered his services to meet Hazare and broker peace between the two sides. And finally it was also Vilas Rao Deshmukh, the Union Minister and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, a Maratha by caste, had to be engaged to establish Government’s direct contact with Hazare, another Maratha by caste, and not through his deputies like Arvind Kejriwal​ or Kiran Bedi. Subsequent crisis resolution initiatives by the Government reflected its non-sincerity. This was clearly an example of abject surrender of a Government caught in a helpless situation.

It is quite disconcerting to note that in the debate on the need to fight corruption no mention is made about the caste system. Is caste system not the most corrupt institution? Has Kisan Baburao Hazare attacked caste system and termed it as the most corrupt system? It is no wonder then that Youth for Equality, Manuwadi Krantikari Morcha, Khap Panchayats and other groups and individuals with similar kinds of anti-reservation and anti Dalit attitudes have been enthusiastically participating in large numbers in protests organised under the banner of India against Corruption. There are questions that warrant answers on the issue of people’s mobilisation itself. Is majority always right? Even if we accept the fact that Hazare has managed to ignite the passion of a large chunk of India’s population, could we accept it at its face value? Do numbers always grant legitimacy? Playing with people’s sentiments may prove to be quite dangerous in the longer run if not checked at the earliest.

It also needs to be asked after all who are the stakeholders in this agitation for bringing strong Lokpal like institution to address corruption related issues. Do Dalits or for that matter OBCs, Women and even Minorities along with other disadvantaged sections of Indian society qualify to be a stakeholder in this process? Institutionalised impunity and lack of accountability have become a hallmark of our political and criminal justice administration system over the years. Instead of an all powerful and overriding Lokpal body, which could be prone to become a threat in the future for our body politic, we must force our Government at the Centre and also in the States in a peaceful, rational and democratic manner, to develop functional and effective institutions and service delivery mechanisms with adequate checks and balances. It must be acknowledged that laws do not operate in isolation, they certainly operate in a socio-cultural and religious milieu which is quite iniquitous and reactionary. It is a sad reality that corporate corruption which runs into billions of rupees is not on their agenda. It is astounding that voices asking for strong policy measures against corporate corruption still remain on the fringe. Is it not true that political democracy would always remain meaningless without moral, social and economic democracy? What more could we say now? “India is indeed incredible, but only in its paradoxes”!

The writer is an independent researcher and human rights advocate based in New Delhi.

%d bloggers like this: