Thursday, January 12, 2012

[ZESTCaste] The myth of Dalit capitalism (Opinion)

The myth of Dalit capitalism
Akshay Deshmane | Thursday, January 12, 2012

Till recently, I did not know of a single movie, let alone
documentary, which could persuade a viewer to sit under the open sky
on an unusually wintry night for over three hours. On Monday night, I
was in an audience of about 200 for one such documentary, Jai Bheem
Comrade, by activist-filmmaker Anand Patwardhan.

It was with much curiosity and anticipation that I went for the first
Indian public screening of the much-awaited film, which comes almost
10 years after Patwardhan's previous one. That it was organised in a
way that was inviting and all-inclusive (screened in a chawl, no
tickets or VIP stands; windows of homes in the adjoining buildings
turned into improvised balcony seats and one could leave midway) only
added to the attraction.

Watching the movie was like journeying into the last 14 years in the
history of the Dalit community, only the bare outlines of which I knew
till now. While struggling to avoid getting overwhelmed, I couldn't
help but think about the latest catchphrase that has become
fashionable with sections of the media and intellectuals: Dalit
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It is said that in New India, Dalits have finally 'arrived', aided in
no small way by the market. Recently, the likes of Ratan Tata and Adi
Godrej openly supported the 'Dalit Capitalists'. Media coverage and
opinion celebrated the emergence of this 'new' section of Dalits and,
beholden to the logic of LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation,
Globalisation) economics, pundits praised the 'economic reforms' and
the state's reservation policies lavishly for 'creating
opportunities'. And Milind Kamble's opinion — that the community has
too many political leaders while it needs business leaders — was
almost presented as a success formula for the future. The contrast
couldn't be starker.

Those who have bought into the phenomenon and consider it as the
complete truth may want to check the results of the CII's internal
countrywide caste survey, which confirmed what we already knew: the
proportion of SC/STs in private sector jobs in the most industrialised
states of the country is extremely small compared to their general

Aren't these 'market fundamentalists' making the same mistake that
many erstwhile communists did: looking for a politico-economic
solution for the caste issue and ignoring its cultural aspect?

Perhaps, it is only to be expected. For, despite neo-liberalism being
increasingly challenged in the West, the Indian bourgeois intellectual
does not feel necessary to challenge what has become the conventional
economic wisdom in the last two decades, as the system is not pinching
him yet.

Charles Mackay puts it best in his 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions
and the Madness of Crowds' : "In reading the history of nations... we
find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object,
and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become
simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till
their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the
first...Men, it has well been said, think in herds; it will be seen
that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses
slowly, and one by one."


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