Thursday, December 30, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Fwd: Relevance of Mahad's Historical Struggle

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Vidya Bhushan Rawat <>
Date: Sat, Dec 25, 2010 at 8:08 AM
Subject: Relevance of Mahad's Historical Struggle

Relevance of Mahad's historical struggle

Manusmriti need to be burnt not in its physicality alone but also from
our hearts and minds

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Two sisters from scavenging community were burnt to death by an upper
caste mob in Moradabad district of Uttar-Pradesh for an alleged murder
committed by their brother who is still at large. The family requested
the police to protect them yet nothing happened. Contrary to what the
girl's distraught mother is saying, the Uttar-Pradesh police already
suggested that the girls committed suicide because of the regular
humiliation by their neighbors regarding their brothers.

Uttar-Pradesh, people say, is the laboratory of the Dalit-Bahujan
politics. Unfortunately, Brahmanism still remains as powerful in the
state as ever though its functionality and strategies have changed
drastically. The Dalit- Bahujan concept has taken a beating here and
to the best now the new agendas of different caste identities have
emerged in the state. Tragically, this assertion movement has some
where drifted from what Baba Saheb Ambedkar charted for all the
oppressed of the country, a new vision under Buddha's liberating path.
Uttar-Pradesh has seen empowered Dalit Bahujan politics but unlike
Maharastra the efforts for a counter culture here have not worked
well. In the absence of a counter culture, the Dalit Bahujan
leaderships of different communities are targeting each other and in
the end reinforcing brahmanical beliefs of supremacy and purity. As
long as caste remains, Brahmanism will work to the benefits of the
powerful and maintain hegemonies of a few.

It is therefore necessary to revisit the historic path of Baba Saheb
Ambedkar in Mahad where he fought the rights of the people denied
human dignity and access the natural resources. Water is a natural
resource and none has right to control it and Ambedkar's fight for
water right for the Dalits is an example of how people's movement can
bring social change as he was not just breaking the brahmanical
hegemony over water but also pointing that without equality of women
and their effective participation no movement would succeed. He, along
with thousands of his followers, predominantly women, burnt
Manusmriti, the law book of the Hindus. It was not just symbolic but a
strong rejection of racist Hindu social order which denied human being
equality, liberty and fraternity. It was just not a political issue as
he made an important statement in burning Manusmriti, which means that
the rejection of old order based on racial prejudices of cultural
supremacy must essentially be part of any movement meant for social
justice. Hence, December 25th must be celebrated as a human rights day
of the oppressed all over the world. We can not leave this symbolic
day to the pages of history only but take it further to demolish
Machiavellian politics of highest kind where people are marginalized
through divine sanctions and subjugated further in the name of Gods
and the books supposedly written by them. No book was bigger than
human liberty and freedom and therefore they need to be questioned and
formulated according to modern concept of rights for all.

For every student of social sciences and human rights in India must
read and understand this historical event of December 25th, 1927, as
this will give them ideas to learn and understand what Ambedkar stood
for and what he revolted. That was the time, when  Baba Saheb
challenged the religious superiority of Manu Smriti and termed it a
law book of injustice and burnt it with his supporters, it was a big
event for millions of people were fooled to believe in a book which
can not be changed yet which was responsible for their miseries and
sorrows. A person like Ambedkar would not believe in tokenism as he
countered each of these laws with his thought provoking critical
analysis, yet it was important for him to do something symbolic which
sends a positive message among the community.

This is Ambedkar's century and his forthright views are now a
challenge for all hegemonies. Today, the movement for social justice
can not imagine anything leaving Ambedkar from the centrality of it.
Yet, very unfortunately, many new things are coming up projecting
Ambedkar as a person from a particular community, who married to a non
Dalit woman and most shockingly, they alleged, he embrace Buddhism
under pressure of Hindus.  This is the outcome of the growing caste
identities being used for individual leaders and their fancies to
achieve 'political power'. There is nothing wrong in attaining
political power but how will it sustain without a common cause and
common rejection of the Varnashram dharma. How can we challenge
Brahmanism without a counter-culture, which is more humane,
progressive and ideologically stronger and better than an order based
on prejudices and stereotypes? As Dalit Bahujan movement further split
into the caste and sub-castes identities hitting at each other, the
power of Ambedkar's cultural vision become more than relevant for all
of us.  Ambedkar as a challenger of hegemony, a free thinker and an
iconoclast would answer to all the irrelevant manipulations of his
formulations and ideological constructs being constructed by these
prophets of religions who find it unacceptable as why he embraced
Buddhism. Problem with these thinking is that all of them denigrate
Ambedkar's great moral courage and hence it is essential to understand
Ambedkar in true spirit of his philosophy of life and mission.

Yes, those who feel Ambedkar embraced Buddhism out of fear and
pressure from Sangh Parivar do not really appreciate his commitment
and strength. A man who could walk out of an audience with Pope John
Paul just because the latter could not respond to his questions
properly must have been having the courage of conviction. One must
understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar clearly mentioned that Hindu
Fundamentalists are the biggest threat and Hindu Rashtra would be a
colossal tragedy for India. He talked against political Islam and its
threat. It would be very difficult to find a man of Ambedkar's vision
and courage who single handedly brought change in the lives of
millions of people in India.

Ambedkar is the name of Freedom, liberty and enlightened individual.
And he is aspiration and hope of millions of people denied rights and
yet by dint of their hard work, they have challenge the brahmanical
superstructure. He was a man of great pragmatism yet never ever
compromised on his principles. His pragmatism never ever reflected in
politics of opportunism which is very much part of today's politics
and politicians. His thrust on individual is a landmark from any
standard as even European society and Americans had not discovered
that individualism that Ambedkar aspired for. For him individual was
supreme and those who denigrate individual can not really build a
healthy society? Our societies deny individual the basic liberty and
that is why it can not be called a society.

Today, on December 25th, we must have the courage to be as courageous
as Baba Saheb Ambedkar was to his thoughts and action, his creations,
his thoughts, of his convictions and commitments. His fight for the
fundamental right of access to natural resources, added by rejection
of the racist brahmanical order should be part of our college
curriculum. Those who believe in egalitarian society must understand
the meaning of Ambedkar and his fight for social justice. Today, in
the world where our governments and societies are hurting the
individual liberty the most, when our political parties are
compromising with religious fundamentalists, when our Khap panchayats
are deciding what we should do and what should we think, Ambedkar's
ideas remains a beacon of hope. Ambedkar is the hope for all the
oppressed. The women in India need to understand that Dr Ambedkar's
struggle for them was supreme. This day when we celebrate the
Christmas as big day, it is a big day for millions of people all over
the world for their dignity and human right. His ideas need to
globalised and propagated internationally so that more and more people
understand the enormity of his struggle and modernity of his ideas
which changed our world. Let president Obama read Dr Ambedkar and his
writings and he will understand the cruelty of Indian village system
as well as how a giant like Ambedkar could bring hopes in the lives of
million without using any violent methods but simply advocating
through a counter culture to oppression and subjugation. The politics
of identity is great but as Ambedkar himself said about his own ' I
was born as Hindu which was not in my hand but I will not die as a
Hindu'. It clearly indicates that he was out to create new identity
and harp on it. The sacrifice of Baba Saheb Ambedkar was for all of us
to live in an enlightened society. We can not have our vision by
reasserting our identities created under the brahmanical construct. A
new dawn need to be created which means a cultural change is
prerequisite for making final assault on Brahmanism and Ambedkar has
shown us the path. It is time we chose that identity charted by him
and get out of this big brahmanical game of hurting each other. We all
may have minor contradiction but we need to understand the bigger
contradiction of our life is with the order created by Manu. Baba
Saheb chose to hit at that bigger contradiction in Mahad and it is
time we need to follow that again and again. We may burn Manu Smriti
in public but let us throw it away in the rubbish bin of history and
pledge to work for a humanist society as envisaged by Baba Saheb
Ambedkar. When we shed our internal prejudices then the mother of the
scavenging community girls who were brutally burnt Moradabad would not
feel isolated with in the Dalit Bahujan politics and we will not raise
an issue when there is a good political crop to harvest. That time
every individual is important for us as Baba Saheb time and again
maintained.  It is tragic that like the Hindus we also prejudge things
and confine ourselves in the realm of identity politics. Baba Saheb's
message was meant for all of us and we must come in solidarity of all
who need us. It is here that Balmikis of Moradabad need our support.
Even if, as some people assume that the brothers of these girls who
were burnt, were criminals, that does not mean that the girls and
their family should have paid the price for the crime they never
committed. Blaming people on their birth identity and on the crime of
some one else is brahanical and need to be challenged at all level
including our personal and ideological discourse. The biggest defeat
of Manu Smriti would be the social-cultural unity of victims of that
order created by it, but in the absence of a concrete programme of
action and because of conspicuous silence on matter such as these
killings create further rifts in the people and make them fall in the
hands of those who are actually the biggest offenders of our dignity
and human rights. Unity will never happen with big jargons and
rhetoric but is only possible with expression of solidarity and
participating and being part of every struggle for human dignity and
human rights. And message from Mahad is that intellectuals who write
must ensure at least some time of their life to be participants of a
social movement and struggle for change. How did Baba Saheb Ambedkar
found time to write so many things and yet be part of all the major
struggles. His writings and work had the conviction strongly inbuilt
that unless we become part of social movements for change and unless
we shed these brahmanical prejudices and values in our personality, we
will always be carrying Manu in our heart and mind. Ambedkar did not
have the patience to hear Pope that it will take so many centuries for
elimination of caste system and walked out of him. Ambedkar has done
his work, it is time for us to pledge that we will not sit ideally
unless this notorious system is demolished and the best way to do so
would be by taking further his path and creating an enlightened and
equitable society, if not among all, at least among our own selves.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Visit my blog at

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