Enforcing Impunity

The recent judgement of Laxmanpur Bathe Massacre, where the High court bench chaired by Sinha and Lal acquitted all the 26 accused, 16 of who were previously given death sentence, casts serious doubts on the role of judiciary (along with the involved investigating agencies) in delivering justice when it comes to Dalit atrocity. A massacre of 58 Dalits by a gang of men (Ranvir Sena) going unpunished after 16 long years is a travesty of justice which a democratic country should be ASHAMED of.

There is an important dimension to Dalit-atrocities that often a deeper involvement into the issue brings forth. The impunity an ordinary caste-hindu enjoys in doing anything illegal, uncivil against a Dalit. The same caste-hindu might never pick a quarrel with another caste-hindu but feels free to transgress a Dalit’s right whenever she feels uncomfortable. In small societies, such as villages there are social stigma (negative reinforcement) against bad behavior/criminality, but only if it is against the caste-hindus. Bad behavior/criminality against the Dalits are justified by tradition and religion. This “perceived impunity” that even a pre-teen caste-hindu is so conceived is not biological, THERE IS NO INNATE CASTEIST FACULTY, but inherited prejudice duly enriched myths, mythologies and religious scriptures and emboldened by the deeds of her fellow caste-hindus.

In the villages, where most of these Dalit-atrocities occur, there is NOTHING which breaks the “perceived impunity”.There are three important agencies which break the news to the stone-age caste-hindu villagers that, that is in fact no impunity.

First, is the school where probably the next best thing children can learn after alphabets and arithmetics is the principles of mutual-respect and co-existence.  In fact, these things children should learn along with or even before they learns the prescribed school education. The school years should enhance the rationale of these principles, which will let the pupils question their ‘inherited prejudice’ at least.

Second are the law-enforcement agencies, the police, the court, and many other govt. agencies. Ideally the guidebook for them is the constitution and the penal codes, which grant none of the ‘perceived impunity’. Any case of establishing and protecting the rights of a marginalized group would serve as an example for the hapless caste-hindu pree-teen who was otherwise going to turn out to be carrier of the disease- casteism.  A collusion of caste-hindu brotherhood and irrational religiosity help enforce the “perceived impunity”.  The court verdict like the Patna HC on Laxmanpur bathe, in the pretext of ‘lack of reliable evidence’ makes the perceived impunity real. It is not the final verdict yet, there is a Supreme Court, of course, but it does tell a crucial fact. The apex court thinks, the killers can not be punished.

With a Casteist Judiciary like that, the third, and probably the last way out of this abyss of ignorance (as you might have guessed the “percieved impunity is just plain ignorance or inability to accept the truth), for the poor caste-hindu is Newspapers.  Remember, how Indian express took up the cause of the two slain IAS officers, by covering the issue in front page, day after day? How The Hindu serialized publication of wiki-leaks? These newspapers very well consider themselves opinion makers, and they are to certain extent, in addition to their role as reporter of facts. None of these papers wrote up an editorial condemning the derelict judiciary or criticizing the court verdict. These National Toilet Papers (again to use VTR’s word) have criticized court rulings before, in all too subtle ways to extricate themselves from the law’s tentacles. More importantly, when Dalit parliamentarians forced the MHRD to admit changes in school textbook, because some cartoons were defamatory to Dr. Ambedkar, these were the paper who surfaced more than 89 editorials and open-editorials, a list of those are with me. None of them would say it, at least, it was wrong on the part of the court to justify Dalit killings, and letting the accused free, even when surviors are unequivocal on their identification and even without a directive to the police/CBI to bring the culprit to justice.

The impunity for caste based violence (forget discrimination!) is sanctified by Hindu religion, employed primarily to subjugate Dalits, to deny them them their dignity and individuality, is guranteed by the court and actively encouraged by education and media.

Update: “The Hindu”, our responsible newspaper deems it necessary to publish an editorial on “Persecution of Jwala”. Apparently, the female start badminton play not being allowed to play in Denmark by Badminton Association of India is quite more serious issue than massacres like Laxmanpur bathe.


Dualism of Life

“Western Buddhism” is just such a fetish: it enables you to fully participate in the frantic capitalist game while sustaining the percep­ tion that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless the whole spectacle is, since what really matters is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw . . . In a further specification, one should note that a fetish can function in two opposed ways: on the one hand its role may remain unconscious; on the other, one may think that the fetish is what really matters, as in the case of the Western Buddhist unaware that the “truth” of his existence lies in the very social relations he tends to dismiss as a mere game.

Slavoj Zizek in “First as a tragedy then as farce” (2009) pp 66

Does it not hold true for many of us, who, as shown by Dr. Ambedkar preach Buddhism, rise in the capitalist tide, empathize with maoists, support urbanisation/industrialisation and oppose displacement? In other words, may be it is our zeal to be everything Dr. Ambedkar could be in his whole life, “right now, right here”, that we are tossed into an incomprehensible duality.

Will Amitabh Bachchan turn down doctorate for rights of dalits?

by Nilratan Shende

Months of media coverage of the “racial attacks” on Indian students in Australia and it’s responses led to proactive rallying around widespread condemnation by constituents of the democratic institutions e.g. legislature, sections of bureaucracy, civil society organizations, joined by high profile celebrities.

The media and celebrities were lightening quick to highlight the issue, and were vocal against “racial” attacks. But nature of uniform vocal response over other forms of discrimination should establish their concern as genuine or hypocritical. The media and celebrities, who promptly protest racial discrimination, conveniently shy away from being proactive in preventing discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, language, religion and atrocities that stem out of inhuman practice of untouchability.

One would like to question, why are celebrities and media oversensitive to the racial discrimination? How do they manage to turn a blind eye to the conspicuous, heinous, brutal caste discrimination in India that seems to be increasing every year? Why does such a paradoxical stand on discrimination exist among celebrities and media fraternity?

One of such response was from legendary actor Mr Amitabh Bacchan who turned down doctoral decoration of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia in order to protest the racial attacks on the Indian students.

Does he maintain a uniform stand on the prevailing discriminatory practices? Isn’t it a response of a hypocrite who maintains duality to discriminatory forms? He is protesting against racial attacks but has he turned down or returned any honour or award conferred to him by the government of India in protest against caste discrimination and practice of untouchability? He is asserting his voice against racial attacks on Indians studying abroad but why does not he express his views when people of African heritage walking on the streets of Mumbai are humiliated with the “N” word or when Indian nationals from north-eastern states are abused with racial slurs? Will he stand up and express similar sentiments for the marginalized Dalits and Tribes?

Why does not Mr. Amitabh return all civil honors conferred to him by Government of India in protest against increasing atrocities of upper castes over Dalits? Amitabh Bacchan would really set a precedence if he showed similar kind of sensitivities to the plights of Dalits and tribes in India. Whether his stand on racism was genuine or a publicity stunt would be revealed over the actions he adopts in order to provide visibility to the issues of discrimination back home. Activists, civil society organizations dedicating their lives for the social movement may brand him as hypocrite if he fails to initiate similar protests in providing visibility to the exploited, oppressed Dalits and tribes. But it’s up to Amitabh Bachchan to decide whether he wishes to be contended with and lead a life of the reel hypocritical hero or the real advocate of justice and peace in the wake of increasing discriminatory practices against Dalits and Tribes stemming from caste system and practice of untouchability.

On one hand his consciousness does not allow him to accept the decoration offered by an Australian University but on the other hand it allows him to accept the honours, awards and doctoral degrees offered by Indian government and universities in the midst of practice of untouchability leading to gross violation of human dignity. Amitabh Bachchan is like one of the millions of other Indians who pretend to stand up and fight for discrimination.

The paradox of preferring racial discrimination to caste discrimination in their protests roots from upper caste consciousness which identifies with larger humanitarian issues. Their quest for equality and justice is prominent in case of discrimination of racial abuse against Indian citizens of higher class who are mostly higher caste as well. Isn’t this a fair enough indication that their pursuit for equality and justice is limited to their own classes and castes while conveniently ignoring the plight of the millions of vulnerable Dalits and Tribes in India against whom systematic violence is perpetrated for demanding social and economic equality, justice. The case of Dalit massacre of Khairlanji, its deliberately delayed airing and support for quelling Dalit demonstrations in the name of “law and order” would be one of the many glaring instances of the hypocritical quest for justice and equality of the electronic media and celebrities alike.

The Indian media who have been acting as a “watchdog” and “custodian of justice” in recent racial attacks need to introspect deeply to their purposeful oblivion of the crime against Dalits and Tribes. It does more harm than good as it only strengthens the dominant social structure while leaving the prevailing discrimination and injustice untouched.

Fourth pillar of modern democracy, the media, which has deliberately maintained partisan image of issues of the vulnerables, could do the world a good towards the larger goal of attaining discrimination free egalitarian society. This can only be achieved by abandoning prejudiced opinion, presenting victims’ approach and perspective from below and backing it with genuine actions for the larger interest of discrimination free egalitarian accommodative civilization.

(Nilratan Shende is a graduate student in Humanities and Social Sciences. )

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.

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.

Sharp Contrast

Indian express on a Dalit MP

Thirumavalavan is unlike the average Tamil politician.Even while addressing the lowest strata of society, this bachelor is always in black trousers with his shirt neatly tucked in.Besides his acerbic speeches, he writes extensively on caste issues and Lankan conflict. He maintains a blog that has links to his speeches hosted on YouTube. He has also acted in two movies, one incidentally as a Lankan militant.

It is called “subtle racism casteism of lowered expectations”.

Times of India on a Brahmin MP

The 36-year-old AICC secretary, who has also studied law, sailed through. “People told me to specify my community, Brahmin and all. But I never went on that approach. I advocated equal access to resources and maintained complete transparency. I think that worked,” says Meenakshi, who is part of Rahul’s core team.

Well, you know sweetie, just drop your caste name slyly enough on the front-page of a national newspaper and you wouldn’t have to  ‘specify’ it ever again. Besides, when did Brahmins ever have to specify their caste (isn’t it always all too apparent)? For them, always merit, transparency and all those self-righteous stuff works !!  Surprisingly, for others the same stuff don’t!!!

u pdate: some offending texts from original post are deleted.

A letter to The Indian Express

While Dalit movement is riding the high tide of political empowerment in UP ( or at least it seems so at the surface) there are islands archipelagos of Dalit villages/panchayats where democratic rights remain subdued.  That’s a fact. But newspapers use the term “Dalit” for every small and big political parties and political movements, whereas the term “Harijan” is used often for political disputes at village/panchayat level. Is it 1.) casteist insinuation, 2.) matter-of-fact reporting, 3.) recognisation fo the fact that “Dalit” is politically  and psychologically empowering term while  “Harijan” is a futile, powerless euphemism or 4.) an effort to impose the term once again?

Here is my letter to Indian Express. (I received no reponse)

I strongly protest use of the word “Harijan” in the news item dated Dec 15th, 2008.

At the outset I would like to congratulate reporter Mr. Kautilya Singh for bringing out yet another case of intimidation of Dalits by caste-Hindus and callousness of the administration in enforcing constitutional rights of the Dalits.  However, educated Dalits (the ones who read English newspapers like Indian Express) deplore the use of term “Harijan” for themselves and for members of their community. As a national newspaper, Indian express probably knows the comtempt and disquiet Dalit community nation wide associates with the term. I would like to remind you that CIC had sought to ban the words “Harijan” and “Girijan” in Lok Shabha for being “unconstitutional and deragotory”, which was reported in Indian Express itself.

If in a remote village Dalits are called by their occupational caste names or mere acchut (untouchable) that does not give a reporter the context or legitimacy to report with those extremely offensive words. Likewise, even though Dalits of Malasa are called “Harijans” by other villagers (or called themselves so), the Gram Pradhan seat is reserved for Sceduled Castes and hence SC was more appropriate word in such context, if “Dalit” must be avoided (I wonder why?).

In a time when the whole nation seeks to be socially sensitive and responsive to the minority and neglected communities, Mr. Kautilya Singh’s choice of word comes across as crass and offensive. It is unfortunate that either Indian Express does not have a policy on such emotive issue or it was ignored.

Dalit community would much appreciate such reportage, if it didnt come packed with derogatory words, for the news itself was despairing.