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.


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.

Presbyopia of The Hindu

If you thought the videos that “The Hindu” lately circulating in social medias and TVs(!) were tasty, I want to add some sweet lime juice to your taste. I know its never sweet.

When the march began, “The Hindu” printed a colorful picture captioned “Thousands of landless poor, Dalits and Adivasis gather at Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, on Tuesday before the long march to New Delhi” in the 3rd Oct issue.

When they get closer walking for 3 days, the eggheads in The Hindu’s editorial office re-adjust their glasses and peer into the pictures they get of the people and what they find?

That there are no dalits. And thats how they caption the photo, “Tribals and landless farmers seen at Morena in Madhya Pradesh on Friday during their “Jan Satyagraha” march from Gwalior to New Delhi demanding land rights.”

Don’t blame “The Hindu”. You know Dalits are the tricksters, they might have set the landless and tribal people on road and quitely left the scene. Or may be they were the only people, who heard the Rural development Minister. He famously said “go home..blah blah”.

Besides, if you can are nitpicking, like I do, why it is have to be “landless farmers, dalits and tribals”? About 80% of the people in such rallies are usually dalits and adivasis, because ladless farmer as a cateogry is primarily composed of dalits and adivasis. But the newspaper, which claims to teach english and morality to the whole nation (barring its own reader, who it claims are already moral and educated.) has not thought of a way to appreciate the fact.


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.

Caste through Democracy part-II

Even the staunchest supporters of reservation flinch at the question of rich SC/ST students hogging the quota.The following discussion, on a request from fellow blogger Yayavar , assumes we have a similar understanding of the reservation policy which I have outlined previously. So I ‘ll build up on that, and in case we differ, we need to resolve that before we get into the nitty-gritty like this one.

The first question I would ask is, does it-with the rich SC/ST getting in through quota-meet the objective of the reservation policy- a mechanism which ensures adequate representation from all sections of the society in a democracy?

To understand that, we must field the question if a rich SC/ST can be a representative of  her community? In a country, where a poor and a rich grow up in two entirely different worlds with even different water to drink, different air to breath, not to mention the schools they attend, the languages they speak, the dreams they have, some specific set of experiences which leave a sore feeling to say the least, somehow permeate this barrier of wealth. Untouchability is one of them which at it’s urbane usage e.g. denying housing, attempting to downplay achievement, restricting association just to name a few, may not be as unbearable and terrifying as routine caste-atrocities, but it does make a Dalit/Adivasi imagine and realize the scale of oppression their lesser privileged brethren from rural areas undergo. This sense of handicap and loss can be even more in urban and highly affluent neighborhoods where dalits are much less in number and lack a sense of communal belongingness. There can be many more arguments to support, that a Dalit/Adivasi- no matter what her economic standing is, is a better representative of the her community, than anyone else. Because this feeling of discrimination, the sense of minority can only be comprehended fully with life experience.

So filing representation for Dalit/Adivasis with more affluent among them does not flout the objective of reservation.

The question remains: is it fair?

Should we be asking this question when there are thousands of backlogs in govt. Jobs reserved for SC/ST and when hundreds seats in colleges/universities are transferred to ‘general category’ every year? Here, the basic requirement of representation is disregarded. The question of fairness is required to be addressed, when there is such intense competition within the reservation category that a section of urban, affluent Dalits/Adivasis always seem to knock their country brothers/sisters down. In that case, introducing another level of positive discrimination to provide higher access to the rural and poor Dalits/Adivasis would be welcome, but not an income celling which will bar many eligible candidates, and flout the objective of this constitutional mechanism. Similarly, Dalit/Adivasi are not a homogenous society in terms of societal standing. Several among us have advanced socially, economically and there are many of us who are still living in the pre-independence life circumstances and hardly connect with our socially, economically well-off brothers. These difference are less on individual achievement and more on the basis of caste/sub-caste and regions. A welcome step would be to give due preference to such disparities within Dalit/Adivasis with, as I said, “positive discrimination” and with a firm commitment to the policy and percentage of reservation/representation.

However, the question of rich SC/ST, a term reserved for Dalits/Adivasis who are really middle/upper-middle class, is rarely asked in concern with the lack of access of dalits of lesser privileges to reservation, but more so vis-a-vis that of a meritorious general category fellow who happens to be poorer than the rich Dalit. She deserves equal opportunity as other general category fellows, and there must be mechanism to ensure that, but She can never represent the Dalit/Adivasi hence there should not be a comparison. The policy of transferring reserved seats/jobs to general category candidates thus is anti-constitutional and abominable.

Caste through Democracy part-I

We must begin with an education of democracy. Without assuming democracy can be of just one form and can be summed up only thus, let’s define it as a process where all citizens participate in decision making and are influenced, equally. Because, most large democracies are representative democracies following an aggregation of choices/voices/votes, representation is crucial to uphold equality. It is just a form of governance to begin with, it does not do away with preexisting social groupings and social hierarchies. So it seeks to dismantle the later, at least in the functioning of the democracy.

The best way to appreciate it for educated people is to imagine the democracy as a set comprising of different types of elements in many different subsets. If there were no bias on how the elements are distributed inside the set, whatever be the proportion of different types in the set, that would be found in all the different subsets. Ideally! Like atoms of different noble gases in a closed system (having many open systems inside).This ideal situation is a democratic society free of any structural discrimination (the bias), and the different subsets represent public spheres like educational institutions, judiciary, government, scientific establishment and so on. This bias or structural discrimination does not have to be informed or conscious and negative always, it can just be the reinforcement of inherited privileges over generations. All these are what democracy aims to counter by striving to a) achieve adequate representation b) providing equal opportunities. Although, in popular discourse, both are used interchangeably, etymologically I think, they call for equality at different levels.

If we project the data of representation caste-wise, lets say, in govt. jobs, educational institutions and private sectors, into the above mentioned sets in a venn diagram, the ratio would be in favor of caste-hindus beyond reasonable acceptance in those subsets which can be definitely called power-centers and towards SC/ST and OBC in subsets of negligible importance. So it tells us then, in those power-centers which are basically democratic institutions, the voices of these ill-represented castes/social groups are least heard/considered to fit the way we would like it in democracy. That is why there is constitutional provision is to make adequate representation. This has be to be along caste/social groups because, although economic disparity can be displayed on that venn diagram just as well, adequate representation on economic well-being (or lack of it) doesn’t change that disparity as the newly represented, drawn from lesser economic standing, can be now no longer be classified as before owing to the economic privileges that come with it. Caste/religion, however is static.

A mechanism to ensure that objective is to enable people of those under-represented caste/social groups to participate different areas of democracy. Unless there is some rigidity in the mechanism in terms of its commitment to certain ratios, the unevenness that was the origin of this redressal will make it ineffective. Since democracy’s utopia is ‘there would not be any requirement for such redressal, that there would be no bias’, it  ensures the objective( of equal representation) is met through this mechanism, universally implemented wherever the representation is improportional. We have called it reservation.

The way reservation is perceived by people needs a “didactic inversion” like above, especially because most of us are introduced to reservation in the context of admission to colleges or employment when our personal interests are at stake and which leaves us feeling deprived either for ourselves or for our friends and family. This psyche- I dare say, becomes a fixture in analyzing issues which have ramifications not just at population level but also from and to countless generations. Instead an understanding on reservation must being with the education of democracy and unless our conceptualizations of democracy are widely unlike, we could not have much disagreement on the requirement and the mode of this mechanism-reservation.

Reservation, thus understood, is not a mechanism to uplift the poor, but certainly it can be fine tuned to bring representation from even the least represented groups within the under-represented groups. It is also not a mechanism to target the deserving, since it is not the individuals but the community/group/caste which requires it or not.

update: thanks Geetanjali for pointing out some typo.