Why the Dalits of Maharashtra were so angry?


In the month of 50th Death Anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar the nation is witnessing a sudden and sporadic militant protests of Dalits in Maharashtra. Firstly, they demonstrated their deep anger against the heinous killing of a Dalit Family in Khairlangi village, and, recently, on last Thursday the Dalits of Maharashtra again come out on the streets to protest against the felonious act of desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue which took place at Kanpur. On both the events, the protests were spontaneous, unorganized and without any concrete political intervention. And on both the occasions, it has invoked divergent responses by Media, Intellectuals and the State. The need of the hour is to take a deep look into the churning of Dalit Movement in India , instead of focusing on mere sporadic events. Responding over the recent protest, the Maharashtra government portrayed the protest as a Naxalite design, thus enabling itself to use coercive force against Dalit Activits and social groups. Secondly, the media wanted to project both the protests as a deliberate political game in which the opposition only wanted to fuel this fire to capitalize the Dalit votes in forth coming elections. Further criticizing the people’s uproar, Media labeled them as lumpen elements whose only desire is to destruct the state property. Some observers criticized the Dalit political leadership of Maharashtra (especially Republican Party of India), arguing that it is their failure which is responsible for the decline of the Dalit movement and for such a degraded and chaotic situation in the state. Another aspect which is coming in picture is about the caste conflict among the high and low castes, arguing that Maharashtra is no different from any other state and caste atrocities and discrimination against Dalits has also become a norm here.

In all these observations there is no response to why then even in such adverse socio-political conditions and against a casteist and coercive State, Dalits throughout Maharashtra came out openly on streets and protested in such large numbers. Cases of rape, murder, discrimination and violation of human rights against Dalits are rampant and have become a norm in India. Why then such kinds of protests or demonstrations do not happen in other parts of the country where the political consciousness and Dalit leadership is comparatively better than Maharashtra? Why did only the Dalits in Maharashtra agitate with such fury and not in Uttar Pradesh or in Madhya Pradesh where the Dalit population is comparatively higher than that of Maharashtra? (The Dalit Population in Maharashtra is mere 10.2% compare to 24% in Uttar Pradesh) What is the difference between the Dalits of Maharashtra and the Dalits in the rest of the country? In Maharashtra the Dalits represent a robust socio-cultural identity and a relatively dignified social position which creates strong communitarian bond. They represent an uncompromising socio-political ideology and a social consciousness to build an ideal society because of which they are in the forefront of struggle against every kind of adversity against them.
The assertion of Dalits in every part of the country has to meet the castiest Brahmanical onslaught. The upper caste, even after fifty-six years of modern democracy, in India has failed to accept the fact that the Dalits are humans. Their mind is not ready to accept that the people who till yesterday were untouchables and their slaves, today are sharing corridors of power, are coming forward into the field of education and progressing equally with them. They see it as the breakdown of their age old caste superiority, rich tradition and attack over the Brahmanical social values. The only way to stop the progress of Dalits is perpetuating caste violence and naked atrocities against them. Considering them to be poor and in minority, they believe that the Dalits will never rise to avenge themselves and will desist to compare themselves with the upper castes. In the light of such observations, Maharashtra is no exception. The political, social, cultural and economic progress of the Dalits has witnessed a reactionary attack by the upper castes here as well. But here, against every act of injustice on caste lines, the Dalit masses react with a heroic militancy and show a strong and committed zeal to ensure justice against caste oppressions.

Firstly, in Maharashtra, the Dalits’ Conversion to Buddhism has created a unique psychological and cultural space for them on which an independent assertion of their moral and historic identity is under construction. Here the Dalits have produced a vibrant and cohesive social atmosphere by adopting Buddhist moral values, symbols and socio-cultural practices in their day-to-day life against unscientific and obscurantist Hindu rituals. Buddhist identity is not only helpful in creating an alternative culture but it has also provided a sense of moral community committed to the ethos of liberty, equality and fraternity. The recent celebration of Golden Jubilee of Buddhist conversion witnessed an assembly of more than fifteen lakh people at Nagpur in a single day. In all such gatherings, Dalits took initiatives voluntarily in organizing the events and has consciously rejected any politicization of their cultural symbols even by Dalit parties. Independently the Dalit masses have established an alternative social and culture ethos over the doctrine of Navayana Buddhism which is responsible for a proud and spirited identity among them.

Secondly, the socio-political ideology of Dalit Movement in Maharashtra is based on the teachings Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, which negates Brahmanical domination and proposes a revolutionary transformation of social order. The Dalits social, cultural and political groups are numerously scattered and there is no possibility of their unification on one platform but it has hardly affected over the commitment of the Dalit masses to the philosophical doctrine of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. They do not need any political patron to represent or to protect them. Here the Dalits without any political interest and plan are relentlessly fighting for their rights, dignity and self-respect and never allowed them to fall prey to the violent political designs of extremists (Naxalites), even at the heights of provocations. Their matured sensitivity and strong belief in constitutional set up gives them strength and courage to fight uncompromisingly against Brahmanical forces. Dalits here have also till date rejected the “Mission” of some professional politicians of the country, as these leaders are so much engulfed in the matrix of number games that the moral responsibility of political activism to fight Brahmanical casteism has died in favor of pragmatism and half hearted console to the victims of caste atrocities. The Dalits of course do not have any faith in the upper caste elite led political parties which, incident after incident of atrocities have only shown seer insensitivity towards the victims and always tried to protect the culprits. This autonomous and independent political assertion of the Maharashtra’s Dalits is significant because of their militant and non compromising attitude. This passionate zeal provides them an impetus to recognize their role not as an arbitrator in the field of power but as the vanguards of Ambedkarite mission.

Thirdly, in Maharashtra, Ambedkar and later Dalit Panther Movement have established certain basic principles, values and ideals which negate the narrow power centric opportunistic electoral arithmetic of popular caste politics and give a revolutionary élan for the total emancipation from every kind of social, economic, cultural and political oppressions. They understood that the goal of Dalit emancipation cannot be achieved with a narrow perspective of political maneuverings, but an organic total transformation of the society can be achieved only through relentless and militant struggles of the people to annihilate the caste system. The Dalit masses even in all the adverse conditions have candidly maintained their autonomous and independent position and upheld the ideological doctrines of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar to achieve their revolutionary goals.

Even in other parts of the country where because of strong identity politics, some Dalit political parties have played a significant role in developing the political consciousness of Dalit masses, they lack such cohesive and vibrant social churning which is evident among Dalits of Maharashtra. We believe that in Maharashtra, the main concern is not gaining political power but the idea of social revolution has dominant over the psyche of Dalit masses.

Under these concerns, the Dalits of Maharashtra has given a revolutionary elan arguing that achieving a vibrant social revolution through consistent struggle of people is inevitable to materialize the ideal goal of political revolution. The recent street protests in Maharashtra therefore should be seen under the larger perspective of growing Dalit consciousness, self-respect and commitment to revolutionary ideals and not only as a reaction to one or another incident of caste atrocities.

Harish S. Wankhede
Lecturer, Political Science
Ramlal Anand College (E), Delhi University, New Delhi


crtsy: http://dalitperspectivejnu.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2006-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2007-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=12


What does Ambedkar Statue or portrait Represent ?



The Meaning of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Photograph
(we have circulated this pamphlete after an incident of caste atrocity in the campus)

“Untouchability is the greatest sin against the humankind”, and “Provide 27 percent Reservation to OBCs” are the new mantras which are in vogue in JNU. The campus is fully colored with the slogans of ‘revolution’ and social ‘justice’. JNU provides every new comer with an optimist picture of Caste-less, Class-less, ‘secular’ atmosphere in which s/he is free to explore her/his potentials for a better future. If you believe in these slogans and think that JNU is indeed a sensitive campus for social justice then LET US ASSURE THAT YOU ARE LIVING IN A FOOL’S PARADISE. To cut the story short, yesterday the campus witnessed yet another incident of Brahmanical casteism. The recent incident in the Periyar hostel, where the Dalit student was discriminated and penalized by the Warden for pasting Dr. Ambedkar’s photo on the common wall of the room is another burning example of the prevailing casteism in the campus.

After the above mentioned incident, we have noticed several ritualistic criticisms by political organizations and by the students Union with an argument that such kind of incidents will not be tolerated in the campus. “Dalit hiton ka hanan hua to Khun bahega sadko pe” etc. etc. We would like to pin point one thing here; Jawaharlal Nehru University is not a separate plateau or island. It represents the social, religious and cultural values of India. Here, in the most shameful way the degraded values of casteism are not only practiced but also the worst and rotten orthodox manuvadi brhamanical traditions are valorized and celebrated. Therefore such tokenism on Dalit issue is of no use as you are unable to understand the deeper sensitivity and bond involved in the Dalits’ relationship with the portrait of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The insensitive role of the progressive and Left political organizations over this issues represents a narrow middle class artificiality without taking in cognizance the way in which Ambedkar’s portrait have spread historically in the consciosness of the Dalits, and the meanings and stakes involved for the people who mobilise around it.
Babasaheb’s statue or portrait stands as a major feature of the Dalit movement in India today.

The conjecture is that the imposition of icons through statues in public places has enormously contributed in developing a sense of pride and dignity among the Dalits through which they are projecting their ideas of alternative state, nation, culture and political ideology. These statues and public and private display of Ambedkar’s photos represents the renewed aspirations of the Dalits towards inclusive democracy and greater equality. The iconisation of Ambedkar in public is the most assertive gesture of growing democratic consciousness of Dalits in India. The portrait or the statue of Babasaheb is the living symbol of human values and of a struggle towards establishing liberty, equality and fraternity in society. Ambedkar’s photograph represents the struggle against casteism for its total annihilation and therefore the manuvadi mind is unable to digest such a heroic representation which thrashes their casteist bravado and false pride of superiority. Last year after the desecration of B.R. Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur massive violence was triggered in Maharashtra the next day, with angry Dalits torching two trains, buses and other public properties. Besides three people being killed by state’s bullets, more than 100 were injured in police firing and more than 3000 people were arrested in various parts of the state. On 4th December when the Dalit political parties decided to organize a massive demonstration in front of State Assembly at Nagpur, all major Dalit leaders were arrested and thousands of Dalit activists are arrested under pre-emptive measures.

Dalit movements throughout the country uphold the philosophical doctrine of Babasaheb Ambedkar and fight the Brahmanical forces by keeping our full faith in the cherished democratic constitutional setup. We fight for our rights, dignity and self-respect without falling prey to the violent-rowdy means of protest even at the heights of provocations. Our matured sensitivity gives us strength and courage to fight uncompromisingly against Brahmanical forces. In JNU we also respect the peaceful and democratic means to fight for our rights and dignity. But the casteist goons should also understand that our sincere democratic mode of protest should not be understood as our cowardice, or that we don’t know how to Kill the Satan. We are committed to the principles of democracy and peaceful co-existence which does not allow us to adopt violent means to show us our anger. We warn the casteist goons to desist from their vicious agenda, the time has changed, every mind of Dalit youth is not ready to supplement to the doctrine of democracy and peace. In future, every culprit of caste atrocity will have to face the anger and resentment which is burning in the hearts from more than 2000 years. We are discriminated not because they are powerful or in a majority, the simple reason is that we are not unified. We are not seeing the victim as our brother or sister but see him or her as a political instrument. We have failed to develop a moral and fraternal community amongst us which can fight tooth and nail against any act of atrocity or discrimination against our own people. Also we have failed to understand that to fight against Brahmanism is the foremost duty and responsibility of every educated Dalit. We therefore, appeal to the progressive section of this campus especially to the scattered Dalits to understand the gravity of the situation. This is high time that we follow the slogan given by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: “Educate, Unite, Agitate”, and raise our voice against the continuous attacks on Dalit students rights in JNU.


Crtsy: http://dalitperspectivejnu.blogspot.com/2008/12/meaning-of-babasaheb-ambedkars.html

Dr BR Ambedkar image on currency notes

NGO demands Dr BR Ambedkar image on currency notes

As the country paid rich tributes to Dr BR Ambedkar on his 54th death anniversary on Monday, a little-known organisation in Mumbai has suggested that the Government considers carrying the Indian Constitution architect’s picture on currency notes.

At Chaityabhoomi, Ambedkar’s memorial, the tens of thousands of his followers, who thronged the shrine, saw large banners promoting the cause. Ironically, the demand has no been put forth by any Dalit group. Muslim volunteers of an NGO have come up with the demand.

“Ambedkar was not only the leader of the downtrodden but was also the architect of modern India. And what better way to honour his contribution than to give him an esteemed place on the Indian currency,” said Saira Patel, general secretary of Mumbaikar Asanghatith Gharelu Kamgar Union, a non-governmental organisation working with Dalits and Muslims in Andheri.

Ambedkar Currency Note imagery

Patel added that they have sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. “We will approach Dalit leaders for support and are considering a tie-up with mobile phone companies to initiate a public voting campaign through SMS,” she said.

She added that unlike in the West, where several leaders are featured on currency notes, in India we only have Mahatma Gandhi’s picture.

“Gandhiji is no doubt the most recognised face of the Indian freedom struggle. But we think that Dr Ambedkar also deserves to be on the Indian currency,” Patel said.

Mohammad Patel, another member of the group said, “We are not saying that Gandhi’s pictures should be taken off the notes.

However, Dr Ambedkar’s pictures can appear on at least some denominations.”

Though the demand for Dr Ambedkar’s to feature on currency notes has been made by a Muslim group, there is support aplenty from Dalit organisations.

Rajendra Gavai, national general secretary of the Republican Party of India said, “Dr Ambedkar is the architect of the country’s constitution. We will support the demand.”