Karthik Navayan, young lawyer, human rights activist, Dalit writer and poet, shares his insights on how Dalitbahujans can work towards attaining political power in an interview with Telugu News channel TV 1.
Interviewer: Karthik Navayan, who tried to raise Dalitbahujans consciousness through his poetry and writing, is now with us. We'll discuss what needs to be done to achieve political/state power for the Dalitbahujans with him. Karthik garu, you've written many articles, essays etc on this subject. What was the inspiration for your writing?
Karthik: Ours is the largest democracy in the world. The SCs, STs, BCs and the minorities together constitute 85% of the country's population while the upper castes are around 15%. When we come to our state, we have not seen a BC Chief Minister until now. When we look at the nation as a whole, we haven't seen a BC Prime Minister until now. Look at our misfortune: when Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister, he was brought down within a short time. The lack of opportunities for the SC/ST/BC leadership in the executive and administrative structure of the country... The failure to gain their trust through utilizing their energies and talents-- I think this is the cause of the continued existence of poverty, deprivation, injustice and corruption in this country.
The political representatives who were elected in reserved constituencies are not thinking to pay back to the community, Political Reservations are there.. as representatives of your community they're forgetting that today. For example, let's take Dara Sambaiah...in the Assembly; he raised questions about the Special Component Plan... The Congress didn't give him a ticket in the next elections! What's happening? If anyone from the SCs raises questions for the community... they are not getting any political opportunity.. a second time!
Until now, after 30 years of the Special Component Plan coming into existence, when there are 68 departments in the Central Government, only 13 are showing the funds allocated under the Special Component Plan; the remaining 45 departments seem to be unaware of the SCP! To raise questions about this in Parliament, there is no representative! That's our misfortune.
Interviewer: If someone raised those questions. Next time, in the elections, he might be...
Karthik: Yes, he might not be given a chance again. So, what should happen is that the Dalitbahujans should be able to come to Parliament on their own strength. Efforts should be made in that direction. Let me talk more on this. If, in the last 30 years, the SCP funds were allocated, proportionate to the population (of the SCs and STs), from the 6th Five Year Plan to the 11th Five Year Plan.. 12th Five Year Plan shall begin soon in 2012... In these 6 Five Year Plans, 4,50,000 crore rupees of funds, which should have gone to the SCs. was misused. Chandrababu garu used SCP funds for the Janmabhoomi programme; Y.S.Rajasekhar Reddy used the SCP funds to pay for the D.A., arrears of the State Government employees... The Horticulture department is using the SCP funds to maintain the Public Gardens in Hyderabad. Some other department is using them to clean the Hussein Sagar in the city. Where does the money come from? The Special Component Plan! They built the Begumpet flyover with the SCP funds... What are all these? The state of the SC/ST hostels is so inhuman! In the Kacheguda Hostel (in Hyderabad)...When there are 600 students, there are only 6 bathrooms! Can you live as a human being there? If a hundred people queue in front of one bathroom. How can they live?! Shouldn't ...at least, human living conditions be created there? In these kind of conditions, when lakhs of crores of funds are being misused, in the name of 'development' or 'Jalayagnam'..Or'... How tragic, how unjust it is that the Dalits don't have a representative to speak on their behalf about these conditions? Is democracy only to remain on constitution, on paper? Shouldn't we talk about practice too? Should no one question this?
Karthik: Until there is upper caste rule.. the question of improvement in the lives of the SC/STs doesn't even arise! Our problems, we believe, can only be solved by us, not anyone else...Ambedkar said those words. The SC/ST/BCs...Who are suffering from exploitation and oppression in this country...their problems are such that...they can't be solved by someone coming from outside... They won't even even understand those problems. They can't solve them...Therefore...Political power is the Master Key by which you can open each and every lock...
Interviewer: Now. Among the people, in the marginalized, backward sections-- what kind of struggle, agitation do we need to (undertake)? To bring about change and awareness?
Karthik: It's not agitation...what we need is education. In our text books, there is no mention of Phule..Or about Savitribai Phule, the first women teacher of India...About Ambedkar, they say 'He wrote the Constitution...He was from an 'untouchable' community..' About Gandhi, they say 'he was from the Vaishya community'.. Except parroting those platitudes, they say little else. The Columbia University, one of the foremost institutions of education in the world, had decided to institute a Chair in the name of Ambedkar, in his honour...on last 14th April... the Ambedkar Chair for Constitutional Justice. When one of the most renowned universities in the world institutes a chair in the name of one of the best thinkers from India...in this country, we don't find a text relating to Ambedkar in any of our text books!! And about Phule... Who emerged from the majority...of BCs in the country...
Interviewer: Permanent solution. Can you talk a little about..permanent solution?
Karthik: Permanent solution.. When you talk about 'permanent solution'. What I say is, there is no way to instantly assume state power. There is no '30 days to Political Power' (kind of solution)...
Interviewer: Like '30 days to learn English'...
Karthik: Yes. There are no such short-cuts. What I say is, why Ambedkar proposed reservations was: because if a man gets a job, he gets food, clothes and shelter. Then he'll think: what's next? That means he gets the time or leisure to think. Now the majority of Dalits lack food and shelter. Immediate needs.. If you talk about state power with them, how will they absorb that? To first achieve the fulfillment of those basic needs, reservations were brought in. Now those who benefited from reservations. Those who got jobs and political office...they're not looking back towards the community. After their bellies are filled, they forget about the community...
Recently at a meeting, someone said....'When we hold a meeting, we only abuse each other'. But, talking about the existing conditions is not abuse. Now, even when there are 100 representatives in Parilament.....in Haryana...a mob raided a police station and killed the 4 Dalits inside! In police station! Their (the Dalits') crime was that they killed a cow! The RSSwallahs killed them.. But none of these 100 Schedueld castes members of parliament raised a question about this issue in the house, then what is the use of having 100 Scheduled Caste MPs in the Parliament?
Interviewer: Those who benefited from reservations, achieved high positions. if they're forgetting their community, even their village, how can you bring awareness among the rest in these conditions..?
Karthik: They're already forgetting that. Only some are sincerely thinking about the community. But they are not open. Some might have love for Ambedkar..But they keep his picture in the bedroom, not in the drawing room. Say, if a parent pays a visit. Because that father wears a dhoti, banian..rumaal..They introduce him to outsiders as a servant, not father.. There are some instances like that. But now some things are turning slightly positive..IAS officers are getting together and asking: what is our responsibility towards our community?
Interviewer: Now some consciousness is emerging...
Karthik: Yes. Because they face problems too.. Even IAS officers face problems. Even MLAs face problems. Even their problems can't be solved by the upper castes. Their problems have to be solved by themselves, however long that might take.. And their problems can't be solved without developing links with the community. Because the Dalit problem is not an individual's problem alone. it is common to all. Untouchabilty is common to all. Reservations are common to all. So if their problems are to be solved they can't look towards some outsider, they've to come back to the community.. To develop, in economic terms, Kanshi Ram garu resigned from his job. And conducted an experiment. In Uttar Pradesh, he traveled on bicycle, on foot..
Interviewer: So you think sacrifice is necessary?
Interviewer: For SC/ST/BCs...To complain about injustices done to them, they can't go to police stations. Even if they do go with complaints, harassment from the police or outsiders is increasing. How will these conditions improve, in your view?
Karthik: The political system... or even administration or the Judiciary. Take any system. Nothing is an exception to the mainstream society. Take any field, section of society. We have caste in mainstream society, and also exploitation, Untouchabilty, injustice. In the political system too, we have oppression, injustice, exploitation and even Untouchabilty. Take the justice system. Even in the justice system, even now feudal relations continue to exist. Any poor advocate. Any poor person who studies law to practise...It's better not to even touch those issues. When we talk about delivery of justice. The best example is Satyam Babu.. When his trial was on, there was another case being tried, running parallel to it... The Satyam Raju (Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers) case... We don't know what ailment Satyam Raju suffers from, but he's living in NIMS (premier super-specialties hospital in Hyderabad) itself all through the trial. But Satyam Babu developed Guillain Barre Syndrome while in jail during trial and lost his legs. He was brought on foot to the court when he was arrested, and in a wheelchair when judgment on him was passed after the trial!
Interviewer: Why do you think such a situation has arisen, whether in the justice system or political system or...? In the larger issue of social justice for the marginalized, backward sections?
Karthik: In this case (in Satyam Babu- Ayesha Meera case)..Muslim organizations, women's organizations and people's organizations came onto the streets in Vijayawada conducting dharnas and Rasta rokos. Why was public opinion not taken into consideration in this case? The people were all shouting in unison 'save Satyam Babu', that he's not Ayesha's murderer..
Interviewer: In the political system or the justice system or the society at large, how can change be brought about? What is possible through agitations?
Karthik: Ambedkar, in the end...to establish a culture of high values, he guided us towards the Buddha's path, the path of the first philosopher in the world to espouse the ideals of peace, a revolutionary. What's in Buddhism? Buddhism was the first philosophy to envisage and establish a society without private property. Before communism... The Buddha says, if your mind is pure, free from negative thoughts towards others. Happiness will chase you! Happiness itself will chase you! What exists in this country is a culture that derives pleasure from oppressing others....'They can't be touched. They can't be heard. They can't be seen... They shouldn't come into the village. They shouldn't come to the temple. They shouldn't come to the school. They shouldn't come to the well.. .'... All these norms are violence! They're violence! Mental violence. This has to be challenged. That's why, to change our caste society into a humane society, Ambedkar offered the Buddha's philosophy as a path. This is the solution. That's a caste-less society...
That has to be accepted by not just the Dalits, but everyone. Only then will you realize the true meaning of life, of a fuller life. Therefore, there should be efforts towards change on the cultural front also. Only political power is not enough... It's necessary to work towards establishing higher values in society at large too... Because, if the same stooges who now supposedly represent Dalits come to power, they'll be no different from the others! Therefore, both these things should happen together, simultaneously—the political revolution and the Cultural Revolution. For this, we need a leadership that represents integrity and sacrifice. I am not saying those qualities don't exist in our current leadership...they're hampered by, what I'd call, 'bargaining capacity' and disunity in the community.
Interviewer: When you talk of unity, the caste organizations and leaders... How do you think they function—are they fighting for their own personal benefits or for the just demands of the community?
Karthik: Now, 500 organizations have registered themselves with the Social welfare department. Why? (Laughs)... Because the corporation doles out 15 lakhs rupees for observing the event of Ambedkar birth anniversary, they're competing for that! The situation is so pathetic that they fight with each other for that! 'This year, the Madigas were given the fund, so next year the Malas have to get it'..And so on. Is that a Chief Minister's post? Or a minister's post? What can you do with that? Can't you conduct Ambedkar Jayanti on your own? You don't have money? There are Tatas among Dalits now. There are people who have been earning over 50,000 rupees a month for 20-30 years now..
Interviewer: Under these circumstances, do you think it's possible for the majority—SC/ST/BCs and minorities—to progress towards political power?
Karthik: How will we achieve political power? A.P., has to become U.P., There is no alternative. For that, will they strengthen the existing BSP unit in the state? Or will a new BSP emerge in the State? No matter how it happens, what I am saying is: we need a similar spirit of sacrifice, similar strategy, similar methodology... Without a BSP-like consciousness, and a BSP-like working culture, political power for the Dalitbahujans would be a dream! An illusion!
If you say, you'll remain within the Congress or Telugu Desam and achieve political power for the Dalitbahujans, you're talking nonsense! Those parties can't ignore the dominant castes' interests to do something for the Dalits. Don't even think about that.
Those who are in those parties can stay there, but for those who are outside, looking for a political solution: Kanshi Ram, Ambedkar, Buddha, Mahatma Phule..That's the only line. There's no other line. Only if they work on that line, can they achieve their own liberation, and also the liberation of the community. And eliminate poverty, exploitation etc., from this nation.
Karthik Navayan blogs here.
Interview translated By: Kuffir Nalgundwar.