Sep 042008

Nita has a good post here that looks at Mayawati and Obama, there is an interesting discussion that is also taking place. I began putting my two bits in and it just got so long that i decided to blog about it (thanks Nita, it has been a long time since i posted anything that i thought too much about :)

When we look at Obama, we need to look at him beyond his colour and see him for what he is – the child of two post graduate students, who has seen the world – not as immigrant labor or an army brat — but as part of the academic intelligentsia. His father was from Kenya – and the elite there, foreign education is not for the truly down trodden. His mother was an anthropologist and development worker. That is his background — and his value systems have possibly been shaped by that. If the US was not such a colour conscious country – they would look beyond the colour and see him as another one of the ‘upper class’ elite. If he was typically African American – he wouldn’t have got this far :) . If he was typically white working class – he wouldn’t have got this far either :)

Contrast that with Mayawati. She is the second generation to gain from reservations. Her father was a government clerk. Her origins have more in common with the mainstay of the BJP vote bank. She was the protege to Kanshi Ram – possibly one of the most charismatic leaders of India post independence. In a way she is also part of the political elite. which is why she has got this far ….. the question is whether she will go further. Will she become Prime Minister ?

For me, caste and gender are not the only defining factor here. You possibly also need to look at region. She is a UP leader. If you want to be more charitable – she is a North Indian leader. Talk to the electorate in Maharashtra (even the ‘dalit vote bank’)- and she doesn’t have too many takers, talk to them in TN – they possibly would not even have heard of her. Talk to the in West Bengal – and she possibly does not even feature in the top 20. The problem with Mayawati is not that she is woman or Dalit or autocratic or corrupt. She faces the same problem that Sharad Pawar and MGR had, that Mulayam and Lallu have — they are regional heroes. Unless Mayawati positions her party and herself beyond where there are now — she will not be the PM. It has nothing to do with being either Dalit or Woman.

The Dalits in India are as diverse as any other community – in terms of language, culture, rituals, gods, heroes and even voting patterns. Pan Dalit identity is as difficult as a Pan Hindu or a Pan Muslim or a Pan Christian or even a Pan Indian identity. Unless Mayawati or anyone else overcomes their regional & caste persona and project a national persona – it is going to be difficult to be even a pan Indian Dalit leader . And, i am not sure that she should be positioning her self that way. If she has to succeed then she has to be a pan Indian leader and the BSP has to be a pan Indian party.

It is difficult in India to have an Obama or even a Clinton or a McCain. Our system is different. Our nation is different. We may follow the same broad principals – but our cultural variations make it impossible to project the one ……

btw – when all commentators talk about where is our Obama, he happened 70 years ago … despite the variations in culture, and the complete stranglehold of caste ……he was called Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar…..:)

May 012008

[tag]Dr.B.R.Ambedkar[/tag] in the Annihilation of Caste, 1935

The effect of caste on the ethics of the Hindus is simply deplorable. Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible. A Hindu's public is his caste. His responsibility is only to his caste. His loyalty is restricted only to his caste. Virtue has become caste-ridden and morality has become, caste-bound. There is no sympathy to the deserving. There is no appreciation of the meritorious. There is no charity to the needy. Suffering as such calls for no response. There is charity but it begins with the caste and ends with the caste. There is sympathy but not for men of other caste. 

The Indian Express, today :

In a chilling reminder of caste divisions that still run deep in rural Uttar Pradesh, an upper caste youth, pursuing a masters in social studies, has been arrested by the Mathura police for allegedly hurling a six-year-old Dalit girl into a pit of burning waste after she “trespassed into a Thakur area of Tarauli village. The child, Kamlesh, who sustained 50 per cent burns on Tuesday evening, is being treated at the Swarn Jayanti Samudaik Hospital in Mathura. Sunny Thakur, who is said to be in his early 20s and is the son of Ashok Thakur, has been charged under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder) and under the SC/ST Act. He has been put behind bars.

Mar 072008

On the eve of [tag]Maha Shivratri[/tag] a great victory was won. Devotees, backed by the state and other institutions, ensured that the right to pray the way you want to, in the language that you understand, in the manner that you choose , was upheld

In the face of a growing demand for their dismissal as the priests of Lord Nataraj temple in Chidambaram, who assaulted non-Brahmin devotees for wanting to sing [tag]Tamil hymns[/tag] inside the temple, the [tag]Brahmin priests[/tag] ~ Dikshits ~ today agreed to allow worship in Tamil.
The Dikshits, who control the administration of the temple, relented after political parties, Leftist and Tamil nationalist groups threatened to agitate and make demands for a government takeover of the temple administration.
The Dikshits, who assaulted some devotees led by non-Brahmin priest Arumugasamy Odhuvar heading a Saivaite Mutt when they had come to sing Tamil hymns composed by revered saints of Hindu renaissance on Sunday, seemed much mellow today and welcomed volunteers of a few Leftist organisations who entered the temple for the same purpose.

And, this is 2008. Devotees still face the kind of threat that [tag]Tulsidas[/tag] faced when he rewrote the [tag]Ramayan[/tag] in Brij Bhasa and Jyaneshwar translated the [tag]Bhagwad Gita[/tag] into Marathi … thereby making them accessible to all. People of all types arent' allowed to enter places of worship. some prevent women. others prevent 'other' castes – whatever they maybe. Which is why last night's reading was so much more poignant.

This is Dr.[tag]Ambedkar[/tag] on the role of social status in our society.

That economic power is the only kind of power no student of human society can accept. That the social status of an individual by itself often becomes a source of power and authority is made clear by the sway which the Mahatmos have held over the common man. Why do millionaires in India obey penniless Sadhus and Fakirs ? Why do millions of paupers in India sell their trifling trinkets which constitute their only wealth and go to Benares and Mecca ? That, religion is the source of power is illustrated by the history of India where the priest holds a sway over the common man often greater than the magistrate and where everything, even such things as strikes and elections, so easily take a religious turn and can so easily be given a religious twist.

Take the case of the Plebians of Rome as a further illustration of the power of religion over man. It throws great light on this point. The Plebs had fought for a share in the supreme executive under the Roman Republic and had secured the appointment of a Plebian Consul elected by a separate electorate constituted by the Commitia Centuriata, which was an assembly of Piebians. They wanted a Consul of their own because they felt that the Patrician Consuls used to discriminate against the Plebians in carrying on the administration. They had apparently obtained a great gain because under the Republican Constitution of Rome one Consul had the power of vetoing an act of the other Consul.

But did they in fact gain anything ? The answer to this question must be in the negative. The Plebians never could get a Plebian Consul who could be said to be a strong man and who could act independently of the Patrician Consul. In the ordinary course of things the Plebians should have got a strong Plebian Consul in view of the fact that his election was to be by a separate electorate of Plebians. The question is why did they fail in getting a strong Plebian to officiate as their Consul?

The answer to this question reveals the dominion which religion exercises over the minds of men. It was an accepted creed of the whole Roman populus that no official could enter upon the duties of his office unless the Oracle of Delphi declared that he was acceptable to the Goddess. The priests who were in charge of the temple of the Goddess of Delphi were all Patricians. Whenever therefore the Plebians elected a Consul who was known to be a strong party man opposed to the Patricians or " communal " to use the term that is current in India, the Oracle invariably declared that he was not acceptable to the Goddess. This is how the Plebians were cheated out of their rights.

But what is worthy of note is that the Plebians permitted themselves to be thus cheated because they too like the Patricians, held firmly the belief that the approval of the Goddess was a condition precedent to the taking charge by an official of his duties and that election by the people was not enough. If the Plebians had contended that election was enough and that the approval by the Goddess was not necessary they would have derived the fullest benefit from the political right which they had obtained. But they did not. They agreed to elect another, less suitable to themselves but more suitable to the Goddess which in fact meant more amenable to the Patricians. Rather than give up religion, the Plebians give up material gain for which they had fought so hard. Does this not show that religion can be a source of power as great as money if not greater ?

The fallacy of the Socialists lies in supposing that because in the present stage of European Society property as a source of power is predominant, that the same is true of India or that the same was true of Europe in the past. Religion, social status and property are all sources of power and authority, which one man has, to control the liberty of another. One is predominant at one stage; the other is predominant at another stage. That is the only difference. If liberty is the ideal, if liberty means the destruction of the dominion which one man holds over another then obviously it cannot be insisted upon that economic reform must be the one kind of reform worthy of pursuit. If the source of power and dominion is at any given time or in any given society social and religious then social reform and religious reform must be accepted as the necessary sort of reform.

 When the religious right in circa 2008 stands up and says 'this reform is against our religious traditions, ' what they are doing is following an age old tradition of dogma. They have opposed every major social reform movement – whether it was ending caste discrimination, or rights for women, or rights for various types of minorities not sanctioned by their dogma (religious, sexual, left handers, race … what ever) . It is no different now, than it was 80 years ago… except that it is citizens pushing for our rights … where are the leaders ? 

Mar 052008

I am currently re readingDr.Babasaheb Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste - It is a thin little well thumbed, book – actually a speech that is published in a book form. It

This is a book that every Indian ought to read…I read this almost a lifetime ago as part of what ever i was doing at that time. Read it fast, converted into data, precised it and forgot about it. This time around, I am going to savour it… and while doing so am going to post excerpts

As i read through it – some 20 years after I first read it – i keep nodding my head in agreement. Smiling at the humour. chuckling, when things don't seem too much different now than they were almost 70 years ago (two opposing factions. One threatened to burn the other's pandal if they held a political rally)…cringing when things don't seem too much more different now than when they were then (discrimination). And of course his wry comments…

The path of social reform like the path to heaven at any rate in India, is strewn with many difficulties. Social reform in India has few friends and many critics. The critics fall into two distinct classes. One class consists of political reformers and the other of the socialists.

I can't seem to find any copies in bookshops. But, it is online here and here 

It gives an insight into what ailed us, and what continues to ail us … caste …and more importantly deep rooted programming on caste lines. 

Nov 262007

[tag]Narendra Modi[/tag] has done it again…….This is his latest gem:

In a recent book written by him and published by the state information department Modi says, “Scavenging must have been a spiritual experience for the Valmiki caste”.

The book titled Karmayog is yet to hit the stands.

In the book, he goes on to say, “At some point in time somebody must have got enlightenment in scavenging. They must have thought that it is their duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods.”

As Atrocity News rightly asks — is this the BJP stand.

And, my answer to that question is that it is possibly the [tag]Sangh Parivaar’s[/tag] collective stand. And, this is the kind of stand that one would take if one was brainwashed with the [tag]Manusmriti[/tag] from childhood and internalise it to a point of no return.

[tag]Dalits[/tag] were considered to be beyond the pale of Arya society, which was made up of the 4 varnas (chaturvarna) or castes. The Brahmins – teachers / Administrators/ Priests – were at the top of the pile, followed by the Kshatriyas – the warriors, the Vaishyas – the Merchant Class – and the Shudra’s – the serving class. The Dalits were not part of the Chaturvarna system. They were beyond that……The Dalits were called Chandalas or Dasyus’ – terms that were very much in vogue, until Gandhi dubbed the community as [tag]Harijan[/tag].

And this is what the Manusmriti - the set of Laws that the Sangh Parivar is committed to — has to say about the Dasyu’s :

  • Manu has declared that the flesh (of an animal) killed by dogs is pure, likewise (that) of a (beast) slain by carnivorous (animals) or by men of low caste (Dasyu), such as Kandalas. (manu chapter 5, 131)
  • Nor one wholly dependent, nor one of bad fame, nor a Dasyu, nor one who follows forbidden occupations, nor an aged (man), nor an infant, nor one (man alone), nor a man of the lowest castes, nor one deficient in organs of sense, – on who can bear witness (Manu chapter 8,66)

This on who can beget what on whom – and I shan’t even go in to the sexist aspect of Manu Smriti in this post…. This From Manusmriti chapter 10,

  • A Dasyu begets on an Ayogava (woman) a Sairandhra, who is skilled in adorning and attending (his master), who, (though) not a slave, lives like a slave, (or) subsists by snaring (animals).
  • A Vaideha produces (with the same) a sweet-voiced Maitreyaka, who, ringing a bell at the appearance of dawn, continually. praises (great) men.
  • A Nishada begets (on the same) a Margava (or) Dasa, who subsists by working as a boatman, (and) whom the inhabitants of Aryavarta call a Kaivarta.
  • Those three base-born ones are severally begot on Ayogava women, who wear the clothes of the dead, are wicked, and eat reprehensible food.
  • From a Nishada springs (by a woman of the Vaideha caste) a Karavara, who works in leather; and from a Vaidehaka (by women of the Karavara and Nishada castes), an Andhra and a Meda, who dwell outside the village.
  • From a Kandala by a Vaideha woman is born a Pandusopaka, who deals in cane; from a Nishada (by the same) an Ahindika.
  • But from a Kandala by a Pukkasa woman is born the sinful Sopaka, who lives by the occupations of his sire, and is ever despised by good men.
  • A Nishada woman bears to a Kandala a son (called) Antyavasayin, employed in burial-grounds, and despised even by those excluded (from the Aryan community).
  • These races, (which originate) in a confusion (of the castes and) have been described according to their fathers and mothers, may be known by their occupations, whether they conceal or openly show themselves.
  • All those tribes in this world, which are excluded from (the community of) those born from the mouth, the arms, the thighs, and the feet (of Brahman), are called Dasyus, whether they speak the language of the Mlekkhas (barbarians) or that of the Aryans.
  • Those who have been mentioned as the base-born (offspring, apasada) of Aryans, or as produced in consequence of a violation (of the law, apadhvamsaga), shall subsist by occupations reprehended by the twice-born.
  • To Sutas (belongs) the management of horses and of chariots; to Ambashthas, the art of healing; to Vaidehakas, the service of women; to Magadhas, trade;
    Killing fish to Nishadas; carpenters’ work to the Ayogava; to Medas, Andhras, Kunkus, and Madgus, the slaughter of wild animals;
  • To Kshattris, Ugras, and Pukkasas, catching and killing (animals) living in holes; to Dhigvanas, working in leather; to Venas, playing drums.Near well-known trees and burial-grounds, on mountains and in groves, let these (tribes) dwell, known (by certain marks), and subsisting by their peculiar occupations.
  • But the dwellings of Kandalas and Svapakas shall be outside the village, they must be made Apapatras, and their wealth (shall be) dogs and donkeys.Their dress (shall be) the garments of the dead, (they shall eat) their food from broken dishes, black iron (shall be) their ornaments, and they must always wander from place to place.
  • A man who fulfils a religious duty, shall not seek intercourse with them; their transactions (shall be) among themselves, and their marriages with their equals.
    Their food shall be given to them by others (than an Aryan giver) in a broken dish; at night they shall not walk about in villages and in towns.
  • By day they may go about for the purpose of their work, distinguished by marks at the king’s command, and they shall carry out the corpses (of persons) who have no relatives; that is a settled rule.
  • By the king’s order they shall always execute the criminals, in accordance with the law, and they shall take for themselves the clothes, the beds, and the ornaments of (such) criminals.

Given Modi & his ilk’s support of the agenda of the [tag]Manusmriti[/tag] – it is hardly surprising that he has made a statement like that. And, i would not at all be surprised if he actually believed that to be true.

Maybe, given the amount of blood on his hands, and adharma that he has committed he should take up scavenging to attain spiritual bliss…..