The Uselessness Of My Activism

Activism is not sharing newslinks, quotable quotes in wallpapers or snippets of wisdom in FB. Activism, I believe, is a constant engagement with certain issues of societal relevance, and elevating your concern for wellbeing of the larger, but more importantly, less privileged sections of the societies/groups including yours. It might include informing yourself with details by reading and discussing, sharing your thoughts by writing and discussing and giving voice to what you believe in by standing up for it, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. This “constant engagement” take a toll on your otherwise personal time and space as well as your professional progress. So it might be wise to judge the usefulness of such activity.

Recently we were protesting a case of Dalit atrocity. As the protest march ended at a police barricade which we didnt even try break, we were doubtful if our tiny gathering of 100 odd people will break the stoic silence of the government or the indifference of the administration. As a fellow protester was uncertain if these benign protests could change anything, I wondered if a more passionate protest involving arrest or detention would actually do anything more. We have done the latter too, at another time for another issue without much success.

The previous night in JNU campus, the effectiveness of any sort of protest were thoroughly discredited. These budding intellectuals, very few in numbers, young and passionate, viewed non-violent protests and reliance on state as an enervating posture which forced more and more atrocities on Dalits. If your only shield is cracked, further strike are inevitable. Violence is the only answer, was a point of view. Not violence, but deterrence through physical, communal strength or even arms was necessary and sufficient, was another.

I didn’t agree. A lot of us didn’t, not because we were opposed to violence by principle or bound by a moral. Although we swore on Ambedkar to look for constitutional means, we also know “decolonisation is a violent process”(Fanon). I did not agree because, the “grammar of anarchy” simply fails to put the goal in sight. In an increasing Orwellian state, achieving a honorable and atrocity-free living for Dalits through arms and revolution was somehow not working out in my head. Counter-attacks on the caste-hindus in Bihar by the MCC, neven stopped Dalit atrocity. Easy arms in black neighbourhoods, didn’t stop race-related crimes in USA. I am not a avowed non-violence supporter, nor I believe violence is even off the table as long atrocities continue, but I dont see it as a strategic alternative.

What else is then the point of my involvement? I doubt if any of my protest have ever led to or accelerated success. Nor have I ever converted anyone with discussion. I have won arguments, but winning argument is not winning heart. Like Yogendra Sikand, none I have shared, discussed with have changed, appreciated the concerns and taken up the issue leaving the chief aspect of my activism i.e. “information is knowledge”, “Truth itself is the catalyst for revolution”, in utter suspect for its usefulness. That does not mean though, I will leave activism. The usefulness of my activism, so far, is finding out to what does not move the people, administration, government here. May be one day, knowing this, will help us end our struggle, “by any means necessary” like Malcolm X said.

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Backstory of Statues

It is rather insipid, the incessant attack on Statues and Memorials, the newspapers telling us how many hundreds of crores are spent, as if the money is stashed away in the infamous “swiss banks”; how the CM’s pet projects never end, as if bridges and roads come up overnight in India-they rather go down; how the workers are paid minimum wage, as if there is a concept of ethical-structure/buildings in India; how some labourers died, thats serious i agree. The chattering class didnt just object the grand statues in lucknow because of the expenses, but also to the proliferation of blue jacket and glasses clad, constitution carrying Ambedkar statues all over India. This can mislead you, as to what are they really opposed to. I have tried to answer it in the light of BSP’s political strategy in this new blog Round Table.

But Chidambaram’s criticism was repugnant. To Chidambaram, I have this to say,

“Since no one will do it for a dalit, we got to blow our own trumpets. Since dalits don’t want to go to temples, we want to create our own pilgrim centers. Since this country hasn’t produced many wealthy dalit businessman and industrialists, we will use govt. money.”

And I am making a list of shamefuls in Indian politics.

Shourie, IE and Guha

Ramachandra Guha (historian) wrote the following about Arun Shourie in The Hindu 2001. (Before that it is important to know that, First, Guha is  a caste-hindu, same as Shourie which he stressed in the same article and Second, Dalit activists had threatened to blacken Shourie’s face )

He brings to his job the lack of scruple, the narrow-mindedness, the disregard of truth, and the intense hatred with which Stalinism has imbued him. He remains sectarian. He is an inverted Stalinist. He continues to see the world in black and white, but now the colours are differently distributed … The ex- communist … is haunted by a vague sense that he has betrayed either his former ideals or the ideals of bourgeois society … He then tries to suppress the guilt and uncertainty, or to camouflage it by a show of extraordinary certitude and frantic aggressiveness. He insists that the world should recognise his uneasy conscience as the clearest conscience of all. He may no longer be concerned with any cause except one – self- justification.

The same article was published in Indian Express. But without the above paragraph. Arun shourie is  a former  editor of Indian Express and a regular contributor. In fact, many paragraphs and sentences which were critical of Arun Shouri and his book on Dr. Ambedkar were dropped, for example,

In his book, Worshipping False Gods, Arun Shourie has made much of this. Shourie takes all of 600 pages to make two points: (i) that Ambedkar was a political opponent of both Gandhi and the Congress, and generally preferred the British to either; (ii) that Ambedkar cannot be called the “Father of the Constitution” as that implies sole authorship, whereas several other people, such as K. M. Munshi and B. N. Rau, also contributed significantly to the wording of the document. Reading Worshipping False Gods, one might likewise conclude that it has been mistakenly advertised as being the work of one hand. Entire chapters are based entirely on one or other volume of the Transfer of Power, the collection of official papers put out some years ago by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. The editor of that series, Nicholas Mansergh, might with reason claim co-authorship of Shourie’s book. In a just world he would be granted a share of the royalties too.

and a very important one,

Shourie’s attacks on Dalits and their hero follow in quick succession the books he has published attacking Communists, Christians and Muslims. Truth be told, the only category of Indians he has not attacked – and going by his present political persuasion will not attack – are high-caste Hindus. Oddly enough, this bilious polemicist and baiter of the minorities was once an anti-religious leftist who excoriated Hinduism. To see Shourie’s career in its totality is to recall these words of Issac Deutscher, on the communist turned anti-communist.

Interestingly Guha published his column in Indian Express in 1997, the same year Arun Shouri’s Worshipping False Gods was published. The Hindu published the same article, but the longer version, in 2001, which incidentally I read first and think is the original. It seems Indian Express eviscerated all the paragraphs/sentences which were unhealthy for Shouri or his book. of the following quoted section, the second sentence is missing in Indian Express version.

He even insinuates that Ambedkar “pushed Gandhi to the edge of death” by not interfering with the Mahatma’s decision to fast in captivity. Of the same fast other historians have written, in my view more plausibly, that by threatening to die Gandhi blackmailed Ambedkar into signing a pact with him.

So Indian Express readers, if you thought u were better than TOI/Mumbai Mirror readers, think again. Or may be gather more evidence. By the way, have you noticed Pratap Bhanu Mehta has a regular op-ed column in Indian Express these days? I think he started just after he published his resignation letter from the National Knowledge Commission.

Are You An Ambedkarite ?

How often do I face this question, “Are you an ambedkarite?”! How often you do?

I have always answered affirmatively. So must have you all, if you are dalit. I know most of my readers are. But dalit is also a heatedly contested identity. But that’s for another time/person. We do say we are ambedkarites at first (emphasis added), at least I do, because I want to fit in, to belong to those of my communities, to the groups. Belongingness plays an important role is our identity formation, interpersonal relationship, our world-view. It also once drove me to Oriya groups, informal Runners’ league, unsatisfied-frustrated-researchers, single & stalkers etc. Continue reading