Continued from here.
Gandhi's attempt to abolish untouchability in the 1930s without ever questioning the varanshrama dharma is like todays fight against Hindutva without recognizing Brahmanism. Gandhi only created a token group of SC representatives, who were never given any chance to voice their issues, which later Saheb Kanshiram defined as the beginning of a "Chamcha Age".
And here's how Prof. Habib explains one of Gandhi's most successfully run Satyagrahas –
"In Civil-Disobedience Movement unprecedented number of peasants went to prison and lost their properties. Remember, going to prison in British rule was not the same as going to prison now; you lost your property, you lost everything, you couldn't get employment, yet over hundred thousand people went to jail in the Civil-Disobedience movement of 1930. Many lost their lands, properties, everything. They were mostly poor. Unlike the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1921, Civil-Disobedience movement was the movement largely of the poor and that was the new thing. Once the movement took this form it became increasingly difficult for British rule to continue."
The Congress Working Committee gave Gandhi the responsibility for orchestrating the first act of civil disobedience, and Gandhi decided to lead the Satyagraha on Salt tax acts, addressing its deeply symbolic role in the slavery of Indians.
British Salt Tax Acts (1835) prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet, forcing them to buy the vital mineral from the British. The British Govt. in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt also exerted a heavy salt tax. Gandhi said, "Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life". For Gandhi, resisting salt tax became one of the most relevant issues to "resonate all classes of citizens" in a country where majority of people had to meet their fortune to get a meal. The Statesman mocked Gandhi's choice saying, "It is difficult not to laugh, and we imagine that will be the mood of most thinking Indians." Seems both of them had fun.
But Prof. Habib, doesn't the Indian diet have caste embedded in it? Isn't it also a known fact that there were dietary restrictions for Dalits, also instructions on food approved by scriptures and caste Hindu society, Prof. Habib? For example, Dalits were ordered to eat in broken plates, or how the Jallad caste in Bengal was instructed to consume the flesh of dead dogs. In your 'Idea of India', you can see slavery in Salt Acts but not in dietary restrictions from barbaric Hindu scriptures and customs! Atrocities based on diet were quite a regular phenomenon during Gandhi's time, to which Gandhi paid no heed. There is also a phrase called "Shudranna/ Shudra Food", then how did Gandhi think that diet could become a unifying factor to "resonate all classes of citizens"?
Prof. Habib, don't you see that his stand of choosing a neutral element of diet like salt and leading a metaphoric movement to establish that colonial rule is the only evil to the "Nation", was actually a strategy to bypass any dialogues on caste society. Let me state two more cases related to the "Indian diet" from the same decade when Gandhi was leading the Civil Disobedience Movement and from the same region too.
"Another instance occurred in the village of Zanu in the Ahmedabad district of Gujarat. In November 1935 some untouchable women of well-to-do families started fetching water in metal pots. The Hindus looked upon the use of metal pots by untouchables as an affront to their dignity and assaulted the untouchable women for their impudence." -Annihilation of Caste: Dr B R Ambedkar.
"A most recent event is reported from the village Chakwara in Jaipur State. It seems from the reports that have appeared in the newspapers that an untouchable of Chakwara who had returned from a pilgrimage had arranged to give a dinner to his fellow untouchables of the village as an act of religious piety. The host desired to treat the guests to a sumptuous meal and the items served included ghee (butter) also. But while the assembly of untouchables was engaged in partaking of the food, the Hindus in their hundred, armed with lathis, rushed to the scene, despoiled the food and belaboured the untouchables who left the food they were served with and ran away for their lives. And why was this murderous assault committed on defenseless untouchables? The reason given is that the untouchable host was impudent enough to serve ghee and his untouchable guests were foolish enough to taste it. Ghee is undoubtedly a luxury for the rich. But no one would think that consumption of ghee was a mark of high social status. The Hindus of Chakwara thought otherwise and in righteous indignation avenged themselves for the wrong done to them by the untouchables, who insulted them by treating ghee as an item of their food which they ought to have known could not be theirs, consistently with the dignity of the Hindus. This means that an untouchable must not use ghee even if he can afford to buy it, since it is an act of arrogance towards the Hindus. This happened on or about the 1st of April 1936!" -Annihilation of Caste: Dr B R Ambedkar.
Among Dalits, some who could elevate themselves with a minimum luxury i.e. afford basic comforts of livelihood through their hard earned labour or economic prosperities, those who can't be categorized as Daridra Narayana anymore (where the patronizing oppressor and subject relationship doesn't apply), who could buy salt as well as ghee, afford to use metal pots to fetch water (though not allowed to use public wells), those who became self sufficient themselves, and needed no sympathizing godfather, where is their place in the of Swarajs and Satyagrahas, which are based on deeper intentions of subordination of Dalit, Bahujan, Minorities and Adivasis?
And Prof. Habib(s) keep weaving just another selective story to maintain a common (sacred) thread of national causes and interests, great heroes, sacrifices contributing to the "terrible Idea of India". And the participation of poor didn't make it difficult for British to continue ruling India. Both Gandhi and Nehru knew that the British govt. was facing economic troubles, both in their home country and in the colonies, and their participation in the Second World War worsened the crisis. The British found their way out of this trouble with new forms of economic exploitation of liberal capitalist free market, without freeing the colonies. One can see British Govt. approving independence to all other colonies, like Mandatory Palestine, Malay, Burma, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Rhodesia, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Jamaica etc., within 15 years following Indian independence.
Let us now look at what Prof Habib has to say about Jawaharlal Nehru, who completes the spirit of "national", accomplishes the making of a "secular republic" in the idea of India:
"With the poor coming to the movement, what do you offer them? What is to be their future? And here I submit JawaharLal Nehru is very, very important, for from late 1920s he urged that the National Movement should have precise goals for peasants, workers, women, etc., fully worked out. There are also others who were important; I am not saying that Gandhi and Nehru together make the Indian national movement, but they were in fact the two crucial persons."
"But in real life this was not sufficient, this was not going to draw the masses to national movement. Here then was the importance of Left and particularly of Jawaharlal Nehru. Right from 1928, he demanded not only independence, he also demanded that in independent India, peasant should get land, workers should get protection, women should get equal rights with men, and there should be total democracy with mass suffrage.
These demands were pushed in the Congress by Jawaharlal Nehru with the help of the Left and actually the Karachi resolution of 1931—which I strongly recommend all to read—it was emphasized that the state should pursue "neutrality" towards religions, women should have equal rights with men, peasants should get land and rent-relief, and the State should control the basic industries, indebtedness to moneylenders should be scaled down, etc., etc."
Prof. Habib sees endorsement of "Purna Swaraj" in Karachi Resolution (1931) as a majestic socialist move, the establishment of basic civil liberties of equality, freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and making of a future welfare state. Really?
Gandhivad and Nehruvad both have tried to make the caste system appear non violent, stainless and a matter of the past – all that by hiding its feudal brahminical claws under anti-colonial ideology, socialist progressiveness and democratic values. After independence, the legacy of their work created socio economic situations where the Upper Castes have been able to take up several socially important appreciative roles and positions, like bureaucrats, politicians, policy makers, trade unionists, public intellectuals, nationalist filmmakers, journalists etc. by their choice, stepping into the contemporary affairs of the world. Thus making them go beyond their rigid caste identities, though they remained strongly equipped with feudal hearts and Manuvadi minds.
In post 1947 India, first these upper castes jointly created a system infamously known as license-quota raj, where private enterprise and economic freedom was made dependent on the right social connections in politics & bureaucracy. So fruits of economic freedom policies reached all upper caste homes, but never showed up for Dalits. Instead of guaranteeing a functioning quality education system throughout the country, the Indian state concentrated on making elite "world class" higher education institutions for its new cosmopolitan upper castes, while keeping the Dalits out of it, by denying basic access to quality primary education.
"The caste system, with all its evils, which progressively increased, was infinitely better than slavery even for those lowest in the scale. Within each caste there was equality and a measure of freedom; each caste was occupational and applied itself to its own particular work. This led to a high degree of specialization and skill in handicrafts and craftsmanship." (Nehru: The Discovery of India).
Having such derogatory viewpoints towards caste-based labour, Nehru's policies on Industries, both in organized and unorganized sectors, ensured preservation of obligatory factors of caste labour. Socio economic conditions made Dalits practice their caste duty. This time, they didn't need a verse from Manusmriti on danda, the socialist democratic sovereign welfare state did it all with its new bureaucracy, planning commissions, policies, pariyojonas, schemes, new civil society etc. Gradually it turned Dalits into a living fossil subject in a museum of national pride, and a favored topic to quench upper caste cosmopolitan intellectuals' thirst.
As Kuffir says, "Nehruvad protected the big textile mills from foreign competition, while Indira extended this policy and nationalized the big mills when they were on the verge of closure. Gandhivad ran as an undercurrent through all the textile policies since independence, expressed through reservation of certain products for production in the hand loom sector and other sops." (Caste and the Sari: Kuffir).
The Indian State, in the name of building Temples of Modern India, has stolen lands and livelihood resources of Adivasis across the Indian mainland, massacred their habitations, appropriated their cultural domains through craft museums, vulgarized the representation of their identity and social practices, as it has historically done through ages of subordination. Nehru's Panchsheel, five pillars of Tribal development, has caused perilous pain to the indigenous people, making them landless daily wage labourers, servants of VIPs of state machinery. Brahminical Indian state has observed his dharma by grabbing and robbing lands and resources of the Adivasis by force and handing them over to the new Desi/ Videshi Baniya corporate class, by crushing Adivasi resistance with its infamous counter-insurgency operations and consoling them to sacrifice for "national" interest. In the name of National Integration, Sovereignty and Security, the State has imposed a bloody war on the citizens of Kashmir, Punjab and North East. Why did Nehru revive the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance (1942) of Churchill and Linlithgow in 1958, passed it in parliament as Armed Forces Special Power Act, sanctioning notorious powers to the army to torture and kill the Naga people, who wanted to have a complete separation from the Brahminical Indian state, have their autonomous state institutions? Thereafter, wherever there was a call for freedom from Brahminical Imperialism, AFSPA incarnated, turning people prisoners in their homeland, this parliament-sanctioned laws of Manu has transformed those states into concentration camps and torture cells. Call for Freedom in India is called insurgency, terrorism etc. and Unconditional Slavery is called patriotism, nationalism!
Prof Kancha Ilaiah puts the whole fact simply:
"After 1947, in the name of democracy, the brahmans, the baniyas and the neo-kshatriyas have come to power. Post-colonial development in its entirety has been systematically cornered by these forces. The brahmans have focused their attention on politico-bureaucratic power, the baniyas established their hegemony on capitalist markets and the neo-kshatriyas established their control over the agrarian economy. This modern triumvirate restructured the state and society to affirm and reproduce their hegemonic control."
Prof. Habib continues his address to the students saying,"I now turn to two things: Fight for Secular India and Fight for Prosperous India". Prof gives a detailed account of how partition led to communal violence, how Nehru saved Aligarh town and the university, how Gandhi, risking his life and fame, went on saving Muslims, started fasting until Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and other "fringe" elements stopped rioting, Gandhi going against his own govt., asking to pay Pakistan 55 Crores, claimed himself as both Indian and Pakistani etc.
Prof. Habib also very carefully demonizes the Muslim League, brings comparison with RSS and Hindu Mahashaba, and holds both of them responsible for partition. But Prof. Habib, wasn't the partition a plot of Upper caste Leaders of both Congress and Muslim League? Why Muslim League is only criticized in contrast to Congress and in commonality with RSS and Hindu Mahashaba? Why don't you break the spell of caste monolith of Indian Muslims?
You don't discuss the real reasons that led to the partition though you consider it as a stigma on the idea of India. The venomous repression of hierarchic caste society stays absolutely untouched throughout your lecture. Aren't you practicing new forms of untouchability Prof. Habib as upper caste muslims like you have always done? That's why you don't talk about how the League had betrayed it's large lower caste non-Muslim population in Pakistan (significantly in East Pakistan) and forced them to move out by making them secondary citizens, which had led to one of the largest exodus of refugees at that point of history and something that is still continuing. Also you don't find a scope to tell the stories of Dalits in West Pakistan, who were barred to cross the border, because Jinnah wanted them to stay as toilet cleaners, manual scavengers and agricultural slaves.
Rather you discuss about how "fight for prosperous India" began. Here is what you say:
"So, it has been such people who have made us a nation. Things didn't fall of themselves from the heavens. What happened after independence, I would not go into in great details but shortly one must remember –to a Muslim audience it may not sound very great, but for India, it was an immense thing that the Hindu Code was legislated in 1955-56. Hindu women had no right to inheritance, they have now. They had no equal rights except in very few matters. It represented a total overthrow of Dharma Shastra and not through a coup but through a general election. The Congress (and the Communist Party) went into that election saying that women should have equal rights with men. Jan Sangh and Ram Rajya Parishad stood up for the Dharmashastra, and surely need to be asked today, why did you oppose the Hindu Code in 1950s? Don't you think men and women should have equal rights? But they were totally rejected by the electorate—Jan Sangh, the precursor of the BJP as well as Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya Parishad. So, India became a democracy, it changed civil laws where men and women, at least 80 percent of population, were made equal though unfortunately unfavorable social customs, like dowry, continue".
Prof. Habib, by now, we can understand why in your making of "progressive India", Dalits and their leaders can have no active roles. You project everything that is achieved as progressive as a triumph of progressive Congress and Left over regressive Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya Parishad. But to what extent someone can be shameless, that he/she can discuss about Hindu Code Bills, without ever mentioning Dr. Ambedkar's contribution to it, and seeing everything as energy and effort of the Congress and the Communist Party.
Don't you know the history of Dr. Ambedkar's tireless efforts to get the proposed bill actualized? After being entrusted with the bill, Dr. Ambedkar modified and brought in a thoughtfully shaped Hindu Code, a right step towards Civil code. He also became its spokesperson, introducing several (four to be precise) changes to it.
"They were abolition of the doctrine of the rights by birth, right over property to woman, share to daughters from the parents' property and provisions for divorce. Also it insisted upon the consent of the wife to the adoption of a son by the husband. A daughter was permitted to be adopted. The provisions dealing with the Joint Family property included the abolition of the rule of pious obligation and the liability to pay primary debts which belong to the family".
Ambedkar himself spoke that the bill is "neither radical nor revolutionary", the bill "did not oppose orthodox practices" of Hindus. Nehru's cabinet unanimously passed it. But the same members of the cabinet, Sardar Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Congress president Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Sardar Bhupendra Singh Mann strongly opposed the bill, sloganeering "Hinduism in danger" and "the modifications proposed (in the bill) were based on the Hindu shastras and smritis"(so won't be accepted), when it was introduced on 5th February 1951 to the Parliament. In Sardar Patel's words "an unmistakable opposition". Protests from more Hindu leaders, women members of the parliament followed shortly. Flamboyant Nehru lost his determination suggesting Dr. Ambedkar to bring compromise in the areas of child marriage, divorce and property inheritance. The second part of the Hindu Code Bill, a separate Marriage and Divorce Bill, was opposed blatantly in the parliament again. This time Nehru asked Dr. Ambedkar to drop the bill! Actually Nehru and his adviser, Gopalswami Ayyangar had the next election in mind. A disappointed Dr. Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet on September 27, 1951.
Why don't you give these accounts Prof. Habib, will it disrupt the smooth flowing story telling format? You also don't mention how this same Nehru-led Congress and Communist Party, jointly conspired during Indian Constituent Assembly in July 1946, ensuring that Dr. Ambedkar and his Schedule Caste Federation was not elected in Bombay. Then a leader from Bengal, Jogendra Nath Mandal, who was nominated from Jassore and Khulna (undivided Bengal) with huge support from the Nama Shudra population, had to offer his seat so that Dr. Ambedkar becomes part of the 296-member constituent Assembly. Thus we have a dynamic modernist Constitution today, which gives safeguard to all the marginal sections, promise their representation and for us this is where "fight for prosperous India" is.
Any more crookedness in your jhola, Prof. Habib? So what is the idea of India? Lies after lies, tyranny after tyranny, exclusion after exclusion, violence after violence, butchery after butchery, deception after deception, carefully weaved and folded with crafty "disciplined" hands.
The rest of your lecture says various things about how the Idea of India was saved from time to time and preserved in the heart of Indian Democracy during the eras of turmoil, how Zamindari system was abolished, how AMU was saved from getting "dumped in dustbin" etc.
You never talk about the new Zamindar class, created democratically, in every corner of a village/city. You only see the hand of RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and birth of BJP etc. for everything that went wrong. You complain, these narrow-minded fanatics never joined the national movement for freedom, are cowards, wrote letters apologizing to the British, praised Hitler and Nazis, followed Nazi policy for Jews towards Muslims etc. Actually, RSS didn't run behind Hitler, Hitler and team Nazi galloped behind RSS's and Brahmanism's mother literature, the Bhagavad Gita, and justified killing of the Jews and advancing the war worldwide, by just carrying one pocket size copy of Geeta everywhere.
Though "poor haven't fared very well", things were still going fine with all records and statistics, only after 1991, after the birth of BJP, puppet of RSS, things went worse, their exploitation (communalization, capitalism, class discrimination, fallacious policies!) made the statistics fall equal of British era (you give the example of per capita calorie intake)! As if there was no misery caused to the people by Gandhian Nehruvian policies of the Indian State! As if there was no communal racial discrimination before the rise of BJP! There were no atrocities against the Dalit Bahujan Minority and Adivasis. Pandemic atrocities like Kolata riots of 1964, Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Tsundur, massive killings of Dalits during the Namantar Movement in Marathwada, Nellie massacre, Sikh Riots and thousands of other reported and unreported acts of terror were just fairy tales. As if there was complete tolerance and peace prevailing, milk, butter and honey of state policies were flowing from every public hand pump at the corner of every street and everyone was beneficiary of that!
Let's take the case of Green Revolution, which was intended to increase food grain production and maintain sustainable nutrition, what has it done to the Dalits, who ended up having only 0.40% of landholdings in Punjab by 1991? Wasn't Land Reform a pre-condition of Green Revolution? Hasn't it created a geographical imbalance and promoted unequal terms of trade, resulting severe impacts on the lives of Dalit land owners and agricultural labour?
"While the landless dalits gained little from the green revolution, it further strengthened their immediate adversary, the landowning dominant castes. It was not only at the village level that the new agrarian technology made them stronger, the jats emerged as the most powerful community at the regional level too. Punjab, over the years, came to be identified with agriculture, which was not just an occupation of the dominant community but also came to be seen as a way of life. When looked at from the standpoint of power relations, the triumph of agrarianism was evidence of the growing hegemony of the dominant land owning community of the jats and, in a way, further weakened the dalit in the agrarian setting of Punjab." (Caste in the periphery, Surinder S Jodhka)
And don't you think per capita calorie intake has nothing to do with caste? 50% of Indian population is below poverty line, if the calorie intake criterion is taken into consideration. And there has been a steady decline in the calorie intake, especially cereal consumption, among the poor between 1972-73 and 1999-2000 for several reasons like unaffordability of cooking fuel, Consumption-Expenditure equations, unequal growth, flawed public distribution system etc. Do you think poverty in India has nothing to do with caste, Prof. Habib? If you are so concerned about this why don't you ask the Govt. to release the Socio Economic and Caste Census Data, which will inclusively expose all the origins and cause of deprivation and misery?
You might be well equipped with more such statistics to continue a misleading debate, but isn't it also the same time (early 90s) when recommendations of Mandal Commission were to be implemented (that is representation of SC, ST and OBCs in education institutions, govt. services), and rise of BJP and Babri demolition, nation wide carnage, was part of the larger design to reestablish Brahmanism's supremacy and hegemony? Yes, these are the same years when cultural discourses, secular activism, progressive institutions, free press and media were assigned to create a good hygienic image of Brahmanism, manufacturing an always available extremist opponent, who is strictly parochial, meticulously conventional, openly intolerant, haven't updated his/her primitive version of Manusmriti Language, not so cunningly cosmopolitan, publicly hates minorities and other marginalized, blatantly imposes code and conducts of "Hindi- Hindu- Hindustan", not smart enough to conceal the "red teeth and claws" of Brahmanism, explicitly presents Cow to be politically potential and profitable animal, openly aspires for Ram Rajya etc. The colossal problem for the nation became a narrow regressive form of Hinduism and its fringe elements, called Hindutva, which is far different than the original version of old and authentic spirit of Hinduism, which can't be distorted or malformed. You created a readymade condemnable subject, who can be blamed for anything that is wrong in the society. So you cleverly proved that there exists something called Hinduism, and it is clean and incorruptible.
Thus, you hijacked the moment from becoming a confrontation between Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Minorities' Assertion vs. Brahminical Domination to a pseudo debate of Good Brahmin vs. Bad Brahmins, clean Hinduism vs. Hindutva, Secularism vs, Communalism, reestablishing your supremacy. Thus being casteist, you can still secure a honorable, heroic, intellectual, radical, scholarly, cosmopolitan and "casteless" disciplined career without ever criticizing/questioning your caste privileges, your ownership of moveable or immovable properties, your name, fame, recognition, and its successful maintenance and reproduction (both by inheritance and state/non state awarded).
The word "caste" appears causally 7 times in your whole lecture, and at the end of it you attempt to dissolve caste into class,"Not only upper castes but upper classes support the BJP (in context of Bihar election)." Why, because upper castes have become casteless, caste is a matter of past, in the millennium of multiplexes and e-commerce, caste can't survive, so the only critique can come from the angle of class and secularism in your Idea of India.
One should appreciate the mastery of such secular intellectuals of endlessly discovering and supplying conflicting narratives, conflicting figures and conflicting icons. On one pedestal they put Rabindranath Tagore, on another Guru Gowalkar, then there is Gandhi fighting Godse (most famous and the highest selling one). And from time-to-time, more avatars in such binaries come and go according to the kind of crisis faced by Brahmanism, such as Sarder Patel vs. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Subhas Chandra Bose vs. V. Savarkar, Nehru vs. Deendayal Upadhaya. Their contemporary avatars are paired again, almost by default as a process, with an ailing "rising intolerance" theory, which accompanies spicy binaries like Arundhati Roy vs Chetan Bhagat, Girish Karnad/Shyam Benegal vs. Gajendra Chuhan/Pahlaj Nihalani, Rajdeep Sardeshai/ Ravish Kumar vs. Arnab Goshwami/Rahul Kanwal, Kavita Krishnan vs. Kiran Bedi, Anand Patwardhan vs. Anupam Kher, Prof Irfan Habib vs. Lokesh Chandra, etc.
As if they have completely different roots, separate origins of making, contrasting contributions to the society, inverse aims and ambitions. As if all the battle for democratic inclusiveness, egalitarian values are inscribed in these two idolatry bodies, fighting from two opposite ends. Isn't it a process of sanctification, helping each other gain their shaken grounds, exempted from all the guilt, Prof. Habib? Isn't it a process to appropriate the signs, symbols and methods of subaltern assertion for dignity, equality, fraternity and liberty by becoming sole custodians of freedom of speech, tolerance, equality, egalitarianism, progressiveness, human rights etc., without ever questioning your birth based caste privileges? Isn't it a deliberate method to recuperate and seize recognition of actual democratic progressive spaces and voices, built by Dalit Bahujans at the expense of their sweat and blood, by hijacking all the limelight for your everyday revolutions in your agraharams? By your patronizing contemptuous efforts, aren't you trying to sustain Brahmanism and concealing its tyrannical mechanisms? Isn't it also true that practicing freedom of speech, having basic human rights, living a life of dignity and making revolutions everyday etc., are privileges of only the upper castes in India?
Dr. Ambedkar had recognized this fact long time back, in "Annihilation Of Caste", he says, "Is it reasonable to expect the secular Brahmins to take part in a movement directed against the priestly Brahmins? In my judgment, it is useless to make a distinction between the secular Brahmins and priestly Brahmins. Both are kith and kin. They are two arms of the same body and one bound to fight for the existence of the other."
*The usage of "you" here is not only addressed to Prof. Irfan Habib, but to anyone and everyone, who takes pride in the misconception of "The Idea of India" and making a "Do or Die" effort to save it.