Whenever Uttar Pradesh and/or Bihar go to polls, the media is agog with the term ‘identity politics’. The shrill campaign coverage of mainstream media paints identity politics as being inimical to egalitarian society and destructive to the supposed holy-cow of Indian democracy. A well-known Gandhian has recently written in a National English newspaper that the “U” in Uttar Pradesh stands for ungovernable mainly because it is ridden with the scourge of identity politics. He longs for the glorious past of Uttar Pradesh in an eerie similarity to the ‘Make America great again’ slogan that we are all too familiar with now. Thus he equates the rise of bahujan leaders of Uttar Pradesh with regression of the prospects of the state.
This narrative needs to be dissected to comprehend the ire of such Gandhians and other media pundits. First, how about a counter-narrative? Today, in 2017, almost 70 years after the birth of a nation called India, but more importantly, more than three thousand years after Vedic ‘civilization’ spread over this land, Uttar Pradesh is the only state in the Union of India where a freestanding dalit political party stands a chance at the hustings to rule the state. And Uttar Pradesh is only one of 2 states (the other being Bihar) where OBCs have taken center-stage in ruling unopposed for the past 2 decades. Leaders from the bottom of the Vedic step-ladder such as Mayawathi (dalit), Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav (all OBCs) became forces to reckon with only as a result of assertion of their backward identity. It is only because they raised their banners in the name of their oppressed background that even the National parties today are forced to sing OBC and dalit tune. While it is easy for self-proclaimed political pundits to brush off bahujan parties with the deprecating label of ‘identity politics’, millions of people from all over India that hail from these sections can vouch for the dignity that a Lalu Prasad, a Mayawathi or a Kanshi Ram brought to them by standing up to oppression and bringing them in to the mainstream of political discourse. There is no means to measure the confidence that these leaders and parties instill in the bahujans across the country. In fact, it is a travesty that other states have not seen such an upsurge in bahujan assertion. To put things in historical context, not too long ago, the castes that they represent were banished to menial jobs that savarna hindus would abhor to even dream of, never had the right to own land or even stand next to a savarna but today have risen to rule themselves and the savarnas too.
So since when Dalits were allowed to worship Tulsi?
I come from Punjab of Brahmin India and remember my father telling me that Brahmins never liked that Dalits grow Tulsi plant at their homes, let alone worship. Why? Because it is believed Tulsi plant has some medicinal powers and Brahmins never wanted that Dalits take benefit of that. We always had that plant at our home.
I remember father telling me stories of how lower castes were beaten for just having Tulsi plant at home. I don’t know the situation of rest of the India but I can say with some certainty that Brahmins used to say Tulsi plant is ‘Brahmini’ (female Brahmin) and it should not be at Dalit homes and Brahmins of Punjab usually used to organise ‘marriage of Tulsi plant’. I believe our older generation can shed more light on this.
I also remember someone asking my father that you have Tulsi plant at home when you are organising its marriage? My father have the sense of humour and said I will let it die alone!
In 2 decades or so from Tulsi plant being ‘Brahmini’, it has become a topic of Tulsi Poojan Diwas and Brahmins of India are asking Dalit-Bahujans to worship it. All this makes many things, even more, clearer to me that how Brahmins installed 33 crore Brahmin devi-devtas and how to Brahmins change so that they can fool Dalit-Bahujans. From Good Governance Day to Tulsi Poojan Diwas, anything and everything to fool us!
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or Majority People’s Party is one of the only five prominent national political parties of India, which is the largest democracy in the world.
Brief Introduction :
The ideology of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is “Social Transformation and Economic Emancipation” of the “Bahujan Samaj “, which comprises of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Religious Minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists and account for over 85 percent of the country’s total population.
The people belonging to all these classes have been the victims of the “Manuwadi” system in the country for thousands of years, under which they have been vanquished, trampled upon and forced to languish in all spheres of life. In other words, these people were deprived even of all those human rights, which had been secured for the upper caste Hindus under the age-old “Manuwadi Social System“.
Among the great persons (Mahapurush) belonging to “Bahujan Samaj”, who fought courageously and with commitment against the brutal and oppressive Manuwadi system, for providing a level playing field to the downtrodden to help move forward in their lives with “self-respect” and at par with the upper castes Hindus, especially Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar’s socio-political campaign later proved to be very effective in this direction.
Though the contributions of leaders of the downtrodden communities like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, Narayana Guru and Periyar E. V. Ramaswami have been immense in the fight against the obnoxious Manuwadi system, but the struggle of Baba Saheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who was born in Scheduled Caste community, and that of Manyawar Kanshi Ram Ji later proved to be greatly effective and pregnant with far-reaching consequences.
We have received many letters asking us the meaning of the word Dalit. The same question is also being put to us at meetings. What gives us great pleasure and pride is this word has become popular all over India and abroad in such a short time giving expression to the anger of the Untouchables. And gathering so much of charisma.
We are also happy to note that not only the militant Dalits but even some Hindu press have stopped using the hated word, Harijan, a Gandhian humbug, and switched on to Dalit. This awareness of their identity is itself a big step forward in the Dalit liberation struggle. The word Dalit symbolises the mood of this explosive commodity and connotes and denotes their protest. Hence the switch- over to this new word is itself a great improvement indicating a big leap in the search for their roots. Only three years back people barring those in the Hindi belt did not even know this word. It was not in their vocabulary. But as soon as they came to know this word and discovered its intrinsic value, its magic, its melody, they readily adopted it. Literally embraced it. “National” newspapers like the Times of India are using this word even in headlines. Even the Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated language daily of Kerala, has started using this word heeding our appeal. We call upon all our Dalit and other persecuted minority comrades to use only this word and persuade others to popularise it. If the English and language dailies start using the word, Dalit, in headlines it will soon catch up. Therefore, Dalits and their co-sufferers must go to newspaper offices and meet journalists and prevail upon them to use Dalit instead of Harijan or SC/STs. We will suggest the Oxford, Webster, Cambridge and other dictionaries to include it.
This episode tells the story of Shantuben from Hajipar village. Shantuben’s family is the only Dalit family in entire village. Shantuben’s struggle and fight against the system expose the caste based discrimination in Indian administration system.
This is in response to an article by Adv. Md. Karim (DV.June 1- 15, 97). It was a great misfortune that Dr. Ambedkar and Br. Jinnah could not work together, Adv. Karim says. He says Azad was a stooge. He says the anti Muslim activities are a symptoms and not a disease. He says Muslims are not a minority. He believes that population of Muslims could be more than presumed 15 percent. He also quotes authorities to show that Islam is an egalitarian religion. All this need not refuted and any Bahujan can agree with all these points. He avers that Muslim masses in India are in a need of allies to fight the existing system under the guidance of Islam He advises his Muslim brothers to help the Dalits in all spheres, and keep good contacts for future interaction. This is quite correct. But the main point is, what kind of unity is sought for. He says:
“The future of India lies in the unity of Dalits and Muslims – not under the banner of this party or that because no party is aiming at providing an alternative to the existing social, political and economic setup but under the invigorating and revolutionary message of Islam …”
Why no political party is thought to be neccesary? Is it an invitation for the Bahujans to adopt Islam? Is it a proletising work? If it is, well and good; nothing wrong in that; only that perhaps DV is not a forum for it.
Our experience of mixing religion with politics is always counter productive. The combination does neither promote the religion nor the politics. The political meetings of RPI used to start with Buddhist prayers, the non Buddhists in the party, gradually, faded away. The religious sermons to Budhists used to end with request for support to RPI work, the non-RPI Buddhists stopped coming. I feel the two must not be combined, the religion and politics. I hope Adv. Karim does not wish to propagate religion from political platform.
What is the spirit of Islam
Do the Muslims consider Dalits as non-hindus? I think, it is the first neccesity that they must make a distinction between “Hindus” and Dalits. Dalit leaders have time and again declared that. Leaders of all Dalit parties, of all shades and colours. But Muslim leaders do not think about this. I think this is the main hurdle. Continue reading →
Today in Dalit History we celebrate the strength and resilience of a Dalit woman, Radhika Vemula. Born of Dalit parents, she was adopted by a Shudra couple when she was still a baby. Throughout her life, she experienced several confusing realities; as an adopted child in a non-Dalit home, as a spouse in a turbulent and inter-caste relationship and in her struggle to raise her three children with little support.
She managed the economics of her household with tailoring, embroidery, construction and domestic work. There were dire times for the family when it was difficult to pull together three square meals a day. Radhika and the children all worked wage labour jobs on the side but she still encouraged them to come back after their work and read too. She was a mother determined to educate her children and sent all of them to college.
Being bright children, they were all admitted into good schools. When both her sons were in college, she made the decision to further her own education. She began a Bachelors of Arts degree through a distance-learning programme offered by Sri Venkateshwara University. So while her children were students furthering themselves, she was too!
The family was proud of their exremely intelligent older son Rohith Vemula on his admission into University of Hyderabad (uoH). They also finally experienced some financial breathing room when Rohith began receiving a monthly scholarship at his PhD programme. Radhika and the family were deeply shocked when they discovered that UoH, in association with right-wing Hindu political forces, had institutionally murdered their son and brother.
In the hard days that followed, Radhika’s deep sense of grief has been seen to be matched only by her incredible resilience and commitment to obtaining justice for her son. Rohith’s death, had thrown her right in the eye of a storm. She has been protesting outside in the same location at UoH that Rohith had when he had been unfairly expelled by the administration. She has unflinchingly experienced police brutality along with the other student protestors. She bravely calls out Minister Smriti Irani as one of her son’s murderers and refused Prime Minister Narendra Modis’s fabricated sympathy. She stands tall, leading her other two children and all the other students fighting for justice at UoH. In a towering act of revolution, on the significant occassion of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, she renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. She affirms that she did so in order to honour the memory of her son and to escape the root of their oppression.
In the face of the agonizing loss of her son, the defamation of their family, the breaches of her privacy, the continuous harassment she faces – there is one thing that is clear. Radhika Vemula is never a victim. She is a warrior obliterating every injustice on her path. We mourn with her and we honour the fierceness of a Dalit mother. Power to her struggle. Jaibhim!