Between Temples and Toilets

This is the 21st century, and India still does not know how to clean up its own shit.

Unwittingly Narendra Modi parroted Jairam Ramesh. He would have to do that a lot more, because the more you are required to speak the more you’d be required to repeat, sometimes your own self, sometimes others. Pitting public sanitation ahead of (not against) temples results from an embarrassing fact, that almost half of the villages in India defecate in open spaces. That sounds like a horrible thing, only if we didn’t believe that a minimum of 53% people (i.e in delhi) live in slums without toilets. Think about mumbai, percentage population of slum dwellers can be easily 70-80%. In such case, toilets sounds pretty progressive, a development issue.

Where it does not sound progressive is, what kind of toilets?

Gujrat, along with Uttar Pradesh (where Mayawati ruled), are incidentally few states where a particular type of toilets are probably worst kind of “non-violent” human cruelty. The dry latrines are simply enclosed places where the ‘caste-hindu’ shit. Next day, someone needs to clean it up, put it in a basket and take it to the open space. This toilets are a thousand times worse than open-defecation. Navsarjan Trust, a foundation started by veteran activist Martin Macwan, has been fighting it out since 1992, when “manual Scavenging” as the work is known, was banned in Gujrat. Till 2013, Gujrat govt. refused to carry out the survey even, forget about punishment of the employer, rehabilitation of the worker in this inhumane trade. Not surprisingly because, for Modi as was for his compatriot Mohandas Gandhi, cleaning toilets is the spiritual duty of the dalits. The biggest defaulter of humanity is the central government run railway. It uses a form of toilets which are open-defecation in reality, like the dry latrines. Because Mr. Modi and Mr. Ramesh, the definition of “open defecation” is not based on whether you are in the open space while you defecate, but whether your feces is left in the open.

In a radical new theory, supported by emperical data, Dean Spear of Princeton university has argued that shunted growth of Indian children are because of open-defecation. In his theory, “Faeces contain germs that, when released into the environment, make their way onto children’s fingers and feet, into their food and water, and wherever flies take them. Exposure to these germs not only gives children diarrhoea, but over the long term, also can cause changes in the tissues of their intestines that prevent the absorption and use of nutrients in food, even when the child does not seem sick”.

Can you guess what about the Dalits?

Between the making of secular and pro-development masks, the dalits are left in the lurch.


Sangma, Congress and the Presidential Election

Congress was such entrenched in the rural constituency that, it almost seemed like one of the most pernicious social evils. People would search for “hath chhap” in gram-panchayat polls, Indira Gandhi was household moniker of village tomboys, anyone in white kadi would be a congressia, Congress flags easily went up on Independence Days as a matter of confusion and congress was the sarkari party without doubt. But congress was also hierarchical, so much so that it resembled the “most pernicious social evil”, if you know what I mean. People spent their lifetime in congress and never went anywhere, except for the district party office that they visited almost everyday. If and when one in those unlucky millions somehow sidestepped the tentacles of the family members of the erstwhile representatives and got the “ticket”, as they called the permission to file nomination as a party candidate as if Parliament/Assembly were theatres and they would be spectators watching the puppet show that the high command unfolded if they won, they were senile, impotent by that time but unable to die or abdicate something they longed so long. Delete “if they win” from your memory, because almost always congress candidates won. Or may be don’t delete so soon, because it was the congress which won always, as for the candidates winning was figurative. Younger people kept looking for breakthrough. They were active politicians in colleges having employed every trick of trade in student body elections, able administrators as evident from the despairing state of college canteens, libraries and classrooms and ambitious enough to garner good fortune (from their college funds and other means) and a fleet of well-fed, well-oiled musclemen. Some of them even bravely demonstrated their qualification to the “High command”. Breakthrough was not in the offing, in a party that operated, should I say like the one most intractable social evils!

After a while, the RSS had started recruiting thousands of Pracharaks and few more times more Shiskaks(teachers) for their “Susumandirs and Vidyamandirs”. A wave of “sanskritisation” of the “innocent” tribals had been quietly taking place through the “banavasi kalyana sangha” and “Ekalavya Siksha Kendra”. Shitloads of money was poured both by the Corporation Hindutva and their local Franchise (the businnessmen and the priestliers:-if we are not calling the spade a spade in this post instead call them Poachers). The young leaders from college student bodies, whose families still voted on the “hath chhap” no matter what name it had on ballot with it, were ready to bet their leadership, dynamism, their community’s constituencies for a break- the ticket. The Sangh Parivar provided them the “ticket” and paid them well as well.

It is not a nightmare. It was a winning combination that weaned congress from the most assured constituencies. In western Orissa, including the mineral rich, extremely poor KBK region, congress was all over this lush green belt of hunger death till the early 80s, during which time the Poachers rolled in. Orissa, like most part of India, was always ripe for them. It was one of the first states to prohibit beef consumption by outlawing cow-slaughter aiming particularly at Christian population of the tribals who were unusually educated and high-achievers. The young dalit student leaders, the saffornised non-christian tribals became their foot-soldiers. As a result, Congress ceded Orissa.

The whole spectacle is replayed over the presidential election. Congress never encouraged leadership. It imposed leadership, it imposed leaders- who were party cadres ground into years of submission. It broke and/or bought leaders into submission, to impose its unflinching authority, much like one of the most despicable social evils.

P. A. Sangma probably did a grave blunder in assessing the outcome of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin controversy and congress may be justified in not supporting him for ‘revenge’. But the way, Sangma, a tribal leader, is forced to emerge a candidate of the NDA and hence the communal Hindutva who are the nemesis of the dalits, tribals and minority retells of the tortuous path to power and position for dalit-tribals leaders that strips them off any power or position of doing anything worthwhile or even remaining authentic to their roots. Tomorrow, i.e after 5 years congress would appoint (newspapers tell you nominate or elect) a tribal leader as President of India. We will owe it to Sangma, as much congress will want us to acknowledge its party president for it.

Changing Tune of The Indian Express

Often politicians are equivocal. They change/reverse their statement as and when it suits them. And it is the media who tell us that. Here is how one of the national newspapers does the same.

March 12, 2007: Indian express editorial

Her Dalit-ness has given her politics much of its special grit and therefore it will be that much more difficult for her to transcend identity politics. At the same time, this large mandate would arguably never have come about if she had remained imprisoned in the Dalit corner in the first place. Mayawati’s social engineering was a much bolder experiment than anything that the pre-election Nitish Kumar tried out in Bihar. [link]

March 10, 2012: Indian Express Editorial

When Mayawati was voted to power in 2007, her mandate came riding not on the back of the innovative “social engineering” attributed to the BSP chief, but on the widely shared revulsion against a regime that had failed to honour that basic promise a government makes to the people — to ensure the safety and security of all. [link]

Indian Express could be forgiven for reviewing their analysis in five years. After all, the winning combination they dubbed social engineering was not winning anymore. But they are so predictably adamant about the timelessness of their views, that when Maywati was voted to power in 2007, Indian Express reproduced one of their editorials from 1997 and titled it “A moment in Maywati’s evolution” [link]. Mayawati had formed a coalition govt. with the BJP 1997 despite strong ideolgical differences and in 2007 she made a deeper coalition at the grassroot level among castes to get the mandate. I have no idea what kind of importance this piece of writing carried even for the day in 1997 or 2007 not to mention in the legendary political life of Mayawati.

Mr. Punia, We Need You: To Help NOT Hinder

Reiterating his contention that the funds of the Special component Plan (SCP) meant exclusively for the welfare of the SC, are being diverted by the UP government for other purposes, Punia told The Sunday Express: “The construction of four medical colleges in Jalaun, Kannauj, Azamgarh and Saharanpour has been financed from the funds of the SCP. UP government in support of its unauthorised act says that 70 per cent of the seats in four colleges will be reserved for SC students, but the Medical Council of India has refused to grant approval to all the four colleges.”[link]

I read that and the first thing that came to my mind was, would not I, if I were Mr. Punia (or in his position) take the matter to the Medical Council of India, demanding why wouldn’t they grant approval to these colleges? There may be a thousand of reasons for the Medical Council of India, which openly instigated anti-reservation fest in several campuses, to refuse, with even some reasonable ones, but wouldn’t it be amazing to see the Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes advance the case of four medical colleges with 70% reservation for SCs, and along the way, reserve reverence of a legion of medical professionals of the future.

But no, this intelligent and highly-educated dalit would be nit-picking at the behest of his bosses and leave it to Ms. Mayawati to finally get the approval and don the badge of honor, which may take time.

Our dreams can wait, not their duel.

Who Is Your Enemy?

One of my friends, a know naxal-sympathiser, someone who was under constant surveillance because of that, had said, the Indian govt. was going to emulate Srilankan civil war. In fact, he had cited various reports to suggest that, Indian govt. provided moral and material backing in the elimination of LTTE keenly monitoring national/international opinions. It turned out, Srilanka did get away with it. So can India!

I never tried enthusiastically to verify that, but following the green-hunt build up, at least the first part of the claim seemed prescient. He thought, it would be easier for Indian govt. since like the LTTE, the naxalites are primarily imagined in the middle-class as bloodthirsty psychopaths killing people at every opportunity they get, killing is projected as their primary objective, and unlike the LTTE, they neither have international support base, nor international mediators. It is all internal affair.

When P. Chidambaram said, “Prabhakaran was not our enemy”, my friend would have added, they (helped) kill(ed) him anyway. Like the when CRPF says, “we are not your enemies” (innocent) people still get killed in Kashmir. Politicians say, Naxals are not terrorists and still Army and Airforce is called upon (or at least considered to) take part in green-hunt.

“You don’t have to be my enemy for me to kill you”, that seems like the pathological state of our society. When a daughter or a sister gets killed for defying orthodoxy, how threatening enemy she turns overnight? When a Dalit, living on the edge of the village is lynched, burned (add what all u have heard/read/witnessed/experienced), does she first become enemy? And the victims of anti-muslim, anti-christian, anti-sikh pogroms? Were they enemies? If so, what did they threaten to annihilate?

This situation fills my head with the image of a kid with a toy gun, utterly bored in absence of a playmate who he can caste as enemy and shoot, shoots at his mother who calls him to come inside. The Indian mentality is not to concede any of the power, territory or influence they have over others- even if they were their own compatriots, countrymen or family members. Anyone who breaks free of their grip, is tormented and killed. They don’t need an enemy.

In fact, they don’t have one. All they have is their insanity.

Refuting PBM

If the progressives are criticizing the state (lets say for “operational excesses”), the conservatives are not going to be quite. They are not going to defend the state either, they will also criticize. For doing enough. It is like a fine balance, if progressive put some weight, the conservatives must jump on to add some too, to their side. The state, however, is far away from balanced.

So, it is not surprising that, at the same time Arundhati Roy- “the most hated writer of the middle-class” as the news-stars put it- refuted Indian democracy as “oligracy” (and a fake democracy), somone from the other end of the spectrum had to come and do the same. For opposite reason. This time, it was Pratap Bhanu Mehta denouncing Indian democracy as “quotacracy. (Thanks yayavar for the article).

Because of lack of time (and excess of energy), I will just counter only his first and defining argument ( of the deference between quotacracy and democracy). He says,

“A democracy values choice. Voters are free to elect whoever they wish. In a quotocracy, voters by turn are obliged to vote for someone with particular ascriptive characteristics.”

This argument sees democracy as a market place where voters may go and pick their choicest items (representatives). He hides the fact that, most people in india are ”lacking choice“, (apparent from their hatred towards politics/politicians), with or without quota. We dont hear a voter from unreserved constituency saying ”omg, our MLA candidates are so good, I can’t decide“. What quota does is beyond PBM’s thinking box. It generates the choice, the diversity from his PBM wants to pick. Like a WAG in a mall, he complains, but fails to see democracy as a dynamic continuum of the society, and society  as a a heterogenous mass, where available choice incorporate the ascriptive characteristics of ell members.

Whose choice is he speaking of anyway!