[In yet another instance of Brahmincal state violence against Dalit Bahujan assertion, the office of Forward Press was attacked by the police on October 9. On the same evening, the ABVP and local goons disrupted and attacked the Mahishasur Festival organised at JNU. Round Table India compiles here information on the two related events: a press release issued by Forward Press yesterday, a note posted on social media by its Consulting Editor Pramod Ranjan, which includes an article by Premkumar Mani questioning the Brahminical celebration of death; in the end is a short account of the Hindutva goons' attack on Mahishasur festival at JNU. Please note: all these were translated from Hindi, so we apologize in advance for any inadvertent discrepancies.]
Press Note from Forward Press
We condemn the ransacking of our office by the the special branch of Delhi police, Vasant Kunj Police Station, and the unlawful arrest of four of our colleagues. The October Special issue- Bahujan Sramana Tradition- brought out by Forward Press carries various essays by renowned writers and intellectuals from different universities. The issue has attempted a Bajuhan reading of the story of 'Mahishasur and Durga' through the medium of pictures and essays [Please read the full issue here]. Nothing published in the issue is objectionable as per the Constitution of India. There is an entire history of Bahujan readings of texts as done by Phule, Periyar and Dr. Amebdakar. While condemning this attack on the Freedom of Expression, we also want to state that this raid was clearly carried out on the orders of the Brahminical forces within BJP. The existence of Forward Press as a voice of Dalits/Backward classes and Tribals has been bothering them for a long time now. Forward Press has been at the receiving end of a lot of such attacks by these forces in the past years. These attacks have made us morally and ethically stronger. We are hopeful that we shall be able to successfully face this assault too.
Update posted by Pramod Ranjan
I have had to return to Facebook in a dire situation. The police raided the office of Forward Press this morning and our October 2014 special issue on 'Bahujan-Sramana tradition' was seized. Our office driver Prakash and marketing executive Hashim Hussain were also taken away illegally. I have had to go underground. The police are aware of my whereabouts. The police is positioned to arrest me at all the gates of this hideout. Perhaps they also want to arrest Jitendra Yadav so that the Mahishasura Festival to be held at JNU this evening can be stalled. We haven't yet received any copy of a FIR. But it is obvious that this enquiry is a result of the stand that Forward Press has taken in relation to Mahishasura. In this context I would like to put forward my side of the story in the words of Premkumar Mani. This comment of his is quoted from the book - Mahishasura. This book was also to be released tonight at the Mahishasura festival at JNU. I would request you to form your own opinion on the matter. We expect moral support from you.
Why this celebration of death?
~ Premkumar Mani
When Asuras are a tribe, to defeat them or to kill their hero- how can it become a festival to celebrate? What sort of a psyche does that symbolize? If someone made a festival of the massacre in Gujarat or the massacres of Dalits in Bihar, or say, a celebration of the death of Bhumihars- how would that feel? Agreed that the hero of Asuras, Mahishasura, was killed by Durga and the Asuras were defeated but why does this have to be celebrated each year? You are actually insulting people through this festival.
There is no intention to hurt anyone behind the idea to celebrate the martyrdom day of Mahishasura. In fact, we are trying to reflect through this on why did we lose? In history our hero was killed through deceit, and/but we are still being deceived. Actually, by learning from our past we want to uplift ourselves in our present. There is no intention to hurt anyone because of this festival. All our symbols are being erased. We only found out through these sources that Ekalavya was a better archer than Arjuna. So then why are awards only being issued in the name of Arjuna and not in the name of Ekalavya? Our heroes were pushed away in history. Our symbols are being insulted. We want to question the tradition that cut the thumbs and heads of our heroes. Their insult is our insult. Any society, thought, country is not merely a piece of cloth.
There is talk of saving the river Ganga. But that does not mean that one destroys Narmada, Gandak and other rivers? If there is life next to Ganga then Narmada, Gandak and other rivers also have people living on their banks. To keep Ganga clean does not mean one has to make Narmada dirty. We consider a Pokhar to be as important as Ganga. If the cow is holy then it does not mean that one kills the buffalo. The buffalo is as important and valuable as the cow. Though, actually, the buffalo has a more crucial role in Indian society. Due to geographical reasons, more families depend on the buffalo. If the cow can be worshiped, then why is not the more valuable buffalo being worshiped too? A lion killed a buffalo and that is being celebrated as a festival. Does anyone drink lion's milk? The lion has to be kept away in the forest else it would lead to destruction. What kind of a symbol is that? What are you doing in the name of symbols?
If your religious sentiments are being hurt by the celebration of this festival, then so be it. To satisfy your religiosity/dharma we are not pushing shudras into untouchability nor women into sati. We would protest against such a petty religion. Killing a Brahmin is punishable but killing a Dalit leads to salvation- what sort of a dharma is that? This could be your dharma it certainly is not ours. We see life similarly in a cow and a pig. We want our dharma to expand. We want to take it from the cow to the buffalo. We want that even the pigs of a musahar should not die. We are more ethical/dharmic than you.
If your religion is keen on considering some of the lower castes as untouchable then to satisfy your dharma are we supposed to accept that? In the constituent assembly most landlords were saying that abolishing zamindari would cause their deaths. So does that mean that zamindari should be allowed to continue? Actually, your vested interest is colliding with our interests. And that is subsuming even our basic interests. Your and our interests have always been different, we are just trying to establish some harmony there
The worship of Durga and our defeat is for you the celebration of your tradition and culture. But since your tradition has found happiness in sati, the varna system, untouchability, karmakanda etc., do we let ourselves be oppressed as a result? There is a major flaw in your religiosity.
Mahish means buffalo. Asura is a tribe. From the word Asura must have come ahur and then ahir. When the word hindu can originate from Sindhu why can't Asura become ahur? Why is your knowledge of linguistics failing here? We just want to know what happened to our history? Why are we so miserable?
The current PM gifts the Gita to everyone. Gita believes in the varna system. We also have Buddhacharita and tripitakas. We are talking of an equal society. You are doing the politics of domination and inequality in the name of religion whereas our struggle is for equality.
Note fron JNU
Rahul Pandey says:
The Mahishasur festival was held earlier this evening at JNU. The ABVP later started its attack in the JNU campus. The maddened violence was animal like and it was clearly to take revenge for the student elections which they lost and to reassert the hegemony of brahminism.
A student who was present at the incident said that there was a programme to celebrate Mahishasur festival at the Kaveri hostel. When the ABVP installed the idol of Durga during Durga puja, no one protested but now when Dalits are celebrating the martyrdom of their hero Mahishasur, then the ABVP workers together with local goons started attacking and destroying. The pictures are herewith attached.
Text translated by Akshay Pathak and Gaurav Somwanshi.
[Pictures courtesy: News 85 and Rahul Pandey]