Chandamama Morality

Chandrabhan Prasad does an uncool somersault towards the end of his column. Just when you felt Mayawati deserved a place not just among the great social revolutionaries, but also in Madame Tussads wax museums, he flips like a trickster.

So why this chaste beating and all-round condemnation on Maya´s monuments? While two-facedness of the mainstream society is rather well known, the question remains, who advised Mayawati to put up her own statues? Maya in stones has robbed the living Maya off the moral mandate the UP society her accorded on her. What a monumental mistake.

It is easier to label Chandrabhan Prasad a saffron stooge, or S. Anand a caste-hindu after all (criticism to Anand in next post to keep this one short). I often do that. But nobody would waste one’s hard-earned credibility appearing overly credulous supporter of Mayawati/BSP, at least no one whose commercial viability depends on it. That strange self-righteousness is also reflected by people who consider themselves thoughtful participants of Dalit movements and extend moral support to BSP. So, instead of asking, “How can we extend (moral) support to (immoral/ridiculous/immodest) act of installing her own statues” we- the people of Chandamama morality – should ask, “is this really such a ridiculous/immoral/immodest thing?”

  • In every ceremony of laying a foundation stone or inauguration, the invited guest, almost always a caste-hindu, unveils a plaque that bears his/her own name- in bold, gold and most important letters.
  • There are at least two departments in IIT, Bombay, which were set up with the help of two alumni –caste hindus of course, which bears their own name. The students who pass out will bear their name throughout their lives, even when these two benevolent alumi cease to contribute both to their lives and to the departments. There must be thousands of such examples.
  • Many of the celebrities run foundations of some sorts of their own name.
  • There are numerous legends, stories, purans, where the gods themselves order the kings/queens/common people to build their statues and temples, in dreams or through the Brahmins.

I could go on. No one ever questioned these large scale self-promotion. Was it because the magnified proximal utility of the projects, where they stood a chance – however minuscule, – to be benefited, makes the immodesty invisible? What is wrong, if Mayawati wants to be remembered, for creating those monuments, not to mention the credibility to Indian democracy she brought, not in letters carved in stones but in statues. To me this uneasiness is very Brahminical, a moral set up by them, exemplified by them, which no one is allowed to break. We Dalit must let it go. It’s time to quit Chandamama.

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7 thoughts on “Chandamama Morality

  1. Beleive me, we Indias are so far better than Americans. We have Barney Frank in US who is like Mayawati. We have Nanci Pelosi who is like Laloo Yadav. But India has hope but America does not and I am glad for it.

  2. >>To me this uneasiness is very Brahminical.

    imitation is not? setting standards by theirs is not brahminical? each one of your bulleted points is what they and all of history does (Carnegie, BG & M foundation, every big name leaves behind these stone acts) to be remembered is a must. there is nothing immoral about it. context is something else.

    if dalits have to break tradition, it is by radical acts and not superficial imitative ones, superficial in the way these acts are be countered (you did it so i did it), it would be nice if you would back up support by probing the underlying mechanisms of social mobilization, are these buildings creating a new class of dalit architects, contractors, designers, suppliers, i read that Mayavati is reserving a big percentage of tenders for dalits, which is TOTALLY radical, how is this connected to the ongoing moral-immoral building acts?

    countering rhetoric from within and outside the dalit community is also radical and I am looking forward to read your next post 🙂

    • Anu,

      I can’t guess if you meant ‘there was nothing immoral about all the examples in the bullets, but installing your own statue is immoral and/or improper” cause here I address the concern of those people (basically dalits) who feel uneasy/demoralised about mayawati’s statues. Otherwise they are very comfortable and even proud of those statues (please see the responses to Ranjit’s post in Round Table.) I know your stand and totally respect that. In fact, it came to me as a surprise that all the dalit women (only 3 of you) who commented seemed not very pleased with Mayawati – when so much has to be done. But i am kind of proud of that. People, like Bejamin Kalia, I respect highly for what they are doing for the community through Ambedkar Scholarship. My worry was, they are looking at Mayawati’s unveiling her own statues in isolation. If you see it juxtaposed to the examples I have given, it is just a spoonful of sugar (/salt/chilli) extra. Since they are already comfortable with the “cost to the exchequer”, the only issue they need to address is “who decides how much modest Mayawati ( we) need(s) to be?”

      “imitating (brahmins)” is a loaded word. Any such accusation makes me queasy. Imitating will be “we constricting ourselves within the boundaries that they prescribe and practice?”. My argument was never “you did it so i did it” and “two wrong dont make it right” counter-argument doesn’t apply, cause, i think, there is a difference between getting even and putting your foot down.

      this guardian story tells one of the sculptures is from ‘backward caste’, which could be a pure coincidence. But I tell you how the tender allocation is going to work. One dalit, working as a proxy for Hindu, will outbid others for petty favors from the Hidnu. End of story. All such economic policies needs enormous confidence building measures to be effective, which by themselves have no economic value. I consider “statues plus memorials” one such step, but I admit, such measures have to be decentralized.

  3. To be remembered is not immoral -universal statement, not with the respect the ones you quoted and what I added. We have children in the hope of leaving behind a bit of us in memory (simplest form). How do we achieve a larger way of leaving behind imprints? We have a number of ways to do so -being an architect of the nations constitution was one way that no Indian -present or future is ever going to forget, we aspire because of it. I recall reading somewhere, that the only bust of a visionary, of the many who passed out the Ivy league Columbia University campus is Ambedkar’s. I find this statement from the then UN Sec., as an immortal tribute to one man’s contribution

    “Ambedkar personified many of the qualities of spirit, mind and heart which animate the ideals and work of the United Nations. He was a fervent believer, and example, of the innate right of human beings to aspirations and the means to their fulfillment.”

    These words to me symbolize our history, a dalit history, of universal significance, for now and forever. So does the story of Udadevi and so many others.

    About the tenders: so glad to read your incisive view, for who benefitted from those structures, who grew richer? as with any structures that the dalit built with his hands; the Chidambaram gopuram, the vidhan soudha, or any glass fronted silicon valley building, THEY benefitted, we provided labor. But it is such an opportunity to create an entrepreneur class of dalits….!

    About women being less than pleased. What can I say? 🙂

    • there is no contest to what you say here. And its very true about creating entrepreneurs.

      (but I am hoping to problematize invoking Amberkar to pillory Mayawati. In fact, not just Anand, this is so common, it needs to be examined closely.)

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