Friday, September 2, 2011

[ZESTCaste] This is why Team Anna makes me nervous

Posted on 01 September 2011

This is why Team Anna makes me nervous

Anna Hazare's core group appears to be instinctively anti-democracy,
anti-constitution, anti-parliament and possibly anti-minorities

IN THE name of a crusade against corruption, a number of supporters of
the caste system, who are also vociferously opposed to reservations
for the historically oppressed castes, have got together to stir up a
massive agitation against India's democratic system, insisting that
democracy must bow before their dictates. In effect, what they are
demanding is that the government must do as it is ordered to by them,
and that if it does not do so, they will engineer mass protests, which
will make it difficult for a government to survive. These casteist
forces, who claim to be protesting against corruption, are being
projected by a pliant media as supposedly being the voice of the
people of India, but nothing could be further from the truth. In this
regard, it is heartening that crores of Dalits, Adivasis and other
oppressed people have chosen to clearly stay away from this movement.
They have also begun to come out on the streets to protect democracy
and the Indian Constitution from the threats posed to both by this
casteist movement. They firmly refuse to accept the superpower Jan
Lokpal that Team Anna wants to impose on the country.

The Anna Hazare movement shows every sign of being dangerously opposed
to democracy, as the defiant rhetoric of the members of Team Anna
indicates. They have been issuing repeated challenges to the
Constitution, parliament and democracy. A caste-class analysis of this
movement is necessary at this juncture to clarify its true nature. It
cannot be that the whole country is stupefied into such blind
adoration of Anna Hazare that we forget this fundamental task. It is
also crucial for us to note that much of the support that Hazare is
receiving is actually an expression of a general disgust with
widespread corruption rather than an expression of support for a
Lokpal of the sort that Team Anna has proposed.

Some might accuse me of seeking to divide the movement at a time when
it has garnered popular support by raising the question of the
participation or otherwise in it of Dalits, Adivasis, obcs and
religious minorities. Such Hazare supporters are bound to raise
questions about my understanding of their movement. They might even
accuse people, who point out the casteist nature of their movement, of
being supportive of corruption simply because we do not support them.

My simple response to them is: Who has given the right to Team Anna
and its backers among the middle-class urban Savarna Hindus across
India to brand every voice that opposes them as a collaborator of
corruption or as lacking in merit? Is it that they still view the
world through instrument of the Brahminical texts, according to which
Shudras have no rights to study, speak, and even to know, understand
and ask, their only task being to slave for others?

The slogans raised by pro-Hazare demonstrators indicate that the
Hazare-led movement is distinctly anti-Dalit. It is against the Mandal
Commission and the caste census. It is against democracy. Banners of
various caste associations were seen fluttering at the Ramlila ground,
including of the Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha. Volunteers of this
outfit had brought their posters with them, which call for an end to
reservations at the same time as they demand the Jan Lokpal. RK
Bharadwaj, fervent supporter of Hazare and a key leader of the
Krantikari Manuvadi Morchha, declares, 'Reservations are the root of
all corruption. The real revolution will come when the merit-based
social system of Manu Maharaj will be reinstated.'

It's possible that one of the aims of the movement is to create a
supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated by Team Anna,
to be used to trap and persecute officials, employees and leaders
belonging to the minority communities

The casteist thrust of Hazare's movement can also be gauged from his
stance on the caste question. This devotee of Gandhi is a supporter of
the Varna system. He has declared that in every village there must be
at least one suthar (carpenter), one kumhar (potter), one sunar
(goldsmith) and one chamar (leather-worker). But Babasaheb Ambedkar
had told Dalits to give up their demeaning ancestral professions, even
if this meant that they had to starve to death, and advised them to
leave the villages, dens of caste discrimination, and settle in cities
instead. As a votary of Gandhi, Hazare seems to regard village life as
ideal. His village of Ralegaon Siddhi is a case in point. For many
years, elections have not taken place to the gram panchayat on the
grounds that the gram pradhan should be elected unopposed. Can this be
in accordance with the norms and ideals of democracy? Using this
logic, might it not be possible that someone might demand that a
dictator, a Narendra Modi or a Varun Gandhi, or a Raj Thackeray, be
declared to be the prime minister unopposed?

It is absolutely necessary at this juncture to point out that Hazare
is being used by anti-reservation and anti-Constitution forces. The
man behind this entire affair, Arvind Kejriwal, has never been known
to be a supporter of Dalits or an admirer of Ambedkar. He did not even
hesitate to declare that no reservation can be made for Dalits in the
drafting committee for the Lokpal on the grounds that for formulating
laws one needs specialisation. When Dalits protested against this, he
threw the ball into the government's court, saying that the government
could appoint a Dalit. What sort of contempt for Dalits does this

Kejriwal remains silent on a key Dalit demand – reservations for
Dalits in the private sector. Moreover, he is said to be opposed to
reservations in government services. Kejriwal's close relationship
with the vociferously anti-reservation Youth For Equality, a key actor
in the Hazare-led movement, is well known. No Dalit or Adivasi has
been promoted to leadership positions in his own organisation,
Parivartan, and in India Against Corruption, which is solidly backing
the Hazare campaign. Not a single person from the Dalit, Adivasi, obc
or religious minority communities has been incorporated into the core
team of the so-called anti-corruption movement. But, of course, people
from these communities have been granted the opportunity of service to
the movement as volunteers at the venue of Hazare's demonstration in
New Delhi – to clean up the rubbish, carry loads, spray water and so
on. After all, such manual tasks were assigned precisely to these
people in Manusmriti itself, and so it is barely surprising that the
same Shudras should be doing the same work here, too. From all this,
the implications for Dalits and other oppressed castes if Hazare and
Kejriwal's Jan Lokpal comes into effect are clear.

This much is, then, obvious: that Hazare's so-called anti-corruption
movement is distinctly casteist, supportive of the Varna system and
opposed to Dalits. It is thus possible that it might soon transform
into an anti-reservation movement. It is not far-fetched to suspect
that certain forces propelling the movement seek to scrap democracy
through the institution of the Jan Lokpal, as devised by Team Anna,
because genuine democracy is a menacing threat to the ruling class and
caste elites. It is also possible that one of the aims of the movement
is to create a supergovernment in the form of the Lokpal as formulated
by Team Anna, which can be used to trap and persecute officials,
employees and leaders belonging to the Dalit, Adivasi and religious
minority communities.

DALITS ARE increasingly seeing through the gameplan of the
Kejriwal-Hazare team and are beginning to stridently oppose it. In
Hazare's state, Maharashtra, Dalit groups are demonstrating against
this anti-Constitution movement. Days ago, a massive demonstration of
Dalits and people from other marginalised communities was organised in
New Delhi in order to save the Constitution from the threat posed by
this movement. Activists of some Dalit groups are also on hunger
strike at Jantar Mantar to support the Constitution and to condemn
those who are challenging it. But the so-called mainstream media has
not provided them coverage. It has shamelessly suppressed the voices
of Dalits who are protesting against those who are bent on subverting
democracy because it wants the whole country to go the Hazare way.
Why? Because the movement indicates the revival and assertion of
Manuvad, and this is what those who control most of the media ardently

What sort of anti-corruption people's movement is it when, under its
guise, crowds of unruly people come out into the streets? When leaders
of the movement are instigating people to gherao the houses of mps? Is
this a banana republic? Can law and order be surrendered at the feet
of Hazare? Why did the media add fuel by providing 24-hour running
commentary on this whole affair? Why is the corporate sector funding
India Against Corruption? Why are a seemingly unlikely set of
companions, ngos and funding agencies, on the one hand, and so-called
sadhus, babas and religious institutions, all excitedly bent on
turning Hazare into a messiah? Why has Team Anna left out rampant
corruption in the media, in ngos, in corporate houses, and in
religious bodies like mutts, temples, waqf boards and churches, from
the purview of their proposed Lokpal?

Hazare's hunger fast is not a novel development as far as Dalits are
concerned. Many decades ago, MK Gandhi went on a hunger fast – to
protest against the demand of Dalits, led by Ambedkar, for separate
Dalit electorates. By going on that fast, Gandhi betrayed the Dalits.
And today, in the name of the so-called second freedom struggle, and
under the guise of fighting against corruption, Hazare goes on a fast,
making demands that would lead to the subversion of the Constitution,
with dangerous consequences for the Dalits and other oppressed

Today, Team Anna and the movement that it is spearheading have
emerged, despite their populist face, as a potent challenge to
democracy. They insist that the country must run according to their
dictates. Is the intention of some forces supporting the movement to
create chaos and lawlessness? If that happens, Dalits, Adivasis and
the religious minorities would be hit most. Is this, then, as many
conscious Dalits fear, part of a larger Manuvadi conspiracy to destroy
democracy, which the dominant caste-class combine regards as the
biggest threat to their hegemony, which is today being increasingly
challenged by the historically oppressed peoples of this country?

That is why Dalits and Adivasis, the most heavily-burdened victims of
corruption, have chosen to stay away from this movement. They have
realised the threat to democracy, as well as to reservations, that
this movement poses and are refusing to get fooled by its rhetoric
against corruption. They have said a loud No to the unconstitutional
Lokpal as envisioned by Team Anna and the lawless movement that,
ostensibly in the name of curbing corruption, is backing this demand.
They are aware that in the name of this Jan Lokpal an alternative
constitutional structure is being imposed, which would prove a monster
as far as they are concerned, not hesitating to brutally repress their
voice of dissent, their quest for liberation, their dream of equality
and freedom.

Translated from Hindi by Yoginder Sikand
Bhanwar Megwanshi is also associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor
Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)


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