Of Caste Massacres and Judicial Impunity: Bloodstains in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe...

 

Anand Teltumbde

(Text of the Third Comrade Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture, delivered by Anand Teltumbde) 

At the outset let me thank DSU for giving me this opportunity to pay my homage to comrade Yalavarthi Naveen Babu, who was martyred at the young age of 35 in Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew Naveen as a young man bubbling with revolutionary zeal and energy as an editor of Kalam, the organ of the AIRSF formed in 1990 and an organizer of the International Seminar on Nationality Struggles in Delhi in February 1996, which I attended. The last I met with him was in Chennai just a few months before his martyrdom. I complement DSU for instituting this memorial lecture, which would help young students in JNU to see how one of their own had lived and died for the cause of Indian revolution.

If Naveen had been living today, he would have been in forefront in protesting against the obnoxious pattern of judgements coming from Patna High Court in the cases of massacre of Dalits taken place in 1990s. As such, the topic decided for this memorial lecture is quite in tune with the memory of this revolutionary.

All of you know Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, the small obscure hamlets in Bhojpur and Arwal districts of Bihar respectively, which were catapulted to the world map in mid 1990s for their infamous massacres of Dalits. About Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had expressed his indignation saying it was a 'national shame'. Unfortunately, Laxmanpur-Bathe was not to be the lone such shame; there were scores of them before and after Laxmanpur. A quarter century since, the process of law has reached to put a lid on these cases, reminding Dalits of the laws of Manu after 86 years they had burnt Manusmriti in Mahad and after 63 years the country had installed Bhimsmriti in its place. It only wakes them up to the hollowness of such rhetoric which unfortunately informed the Dalit movement after Babasaheb Ambedkar, during the last 56 years. It verily tells us that nothing has changed; if at all, it has changed only for worse. Worse, because in Ambedkar's time Dalits, approximately were a homogenous mass, appeared like a giant getting up from his deep sleep of millenniums; now it is a hopelessly fragmented mass, splintered into classes and subcastes, pretending to be awake but actually in self imposed stupor to the reality around.

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Going backward

 

Surinder S. Jodhka

surinder jodhkaThe Jats, without doubt, have been the most important and powerful caste community in the rural landscapes of northwest India. The sources of their dominance have typically been their control over agricultural lands, their demographics and their networks beyond the village. However, unlike the other "dominant castes", such as the Marathas of Maharashtra, the Patels of Gujarat, the Reddys and Kammas of Andhra Pradesh or the Lingayats of Karnataka, the Jats of northwest India have also been the "superior-most" community in terms of their status in the local rural caste hierarchies. Even though the institution of caste is pretty strong in the region, the hold of Brahmanical ideology has always been rather weak. The values of khudkasht (self-cultivation) that have dominated this region for long also provide the frame of reference for social hierarchies of caste in the region. No one was as good as a zamindar, and the category did not imply an absentee landlord here, as it did in Bengal, Bihar or eastern UP. Anyone who cultivated his own land and did not have to work for others as a farm labourer could qualify to be a zamindar, provided he belonged to the right caste community.

Even a Brahmin in rural Haryana would choose to identify himself as a zamindar if he owned agricultural land. However, given the social, cultural and economic significance of land, only the most valued could own it. Landownership and social status have been synonymous in the region. During my fieldwork in Haryana, I found rural Brahmins easily conceding to the status superiority of Jats and other landowning dominant caste communities. No wonder Dalits in the agrarian landscapes there have been almost completely landless. It is their landlessness, and not their "ritual status", that accounts for their vulnerability in rural areas. Caste in the region has always operated within the framework of land relations. The Banias, Brahmins or Punjabi Khatris/ Aroras could claim superior status in urban centres but never in the rural areas.

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Elephant Corridors

 

Vivek Kumar

Why walking alone will always work for the BSP

Canard, controversy, condemnation, criticism, caricature, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayawati, has seen it all in her long and tortuous journey to the top. But the fact is, as the 2014 Lok Sabha polls near, she poses the most formidable challenge to BJP icon Narendra Modi's prime ministerial ambitions. Shrewdly, she's also staying away from the media glare, bent more on quietly consolidating her core constituency of Dalits with additional bolstering layers—minorities, chosen OBC gro­ups (she banks heavily now on Most Backward Castes), with a cushion of the savarna jatis, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. This silence is deliberate, for she feels that as soon as the BSP begins to look formidable to the eyes of the opposition, their casteist mindset sets in and they unite, cutting across ideologies, to try and defeat the party. To substantiate her point, she cites data from the 2012 UP assembly elections.

However, she's confident that if any state can put the brakes on Modi's caravan to Delhi, it's UP—and within UP, she sees the BSP as the prime actor in this project. It's no empty boast. On the turf of ideology, organisational strength and mass perception (as a tough administrator), Mayawati's party will be the one to beat in UP. Especially if her pitch of 'Jai Bhim' (against the bjp's 'Jai Shri Ram') wins the confidence of the Muslim minorities.

Indeed, her savdhan rally in Lucknow was a clarion call for this. On January 15—in the wake of the winter deaths in the Muzaffarnagar camps—she drove home the point that, during her regime (2007-2012), there had been alm­ost no riots. This despite the opposition trying to create such situations. She also highlighted instances of how the Muslims and Dalits helped each other during the recent riots in western UP. In a fervent appeal, she called for the Dalit-Muslim brotherhood to be maintained at any cost, especially in the current atmosphere where communal forces were creating havoc freely in a Samajwadi Party- ruled Uttar Pradesh. In a frontal attack on Modi, she reminded supporters how BJP regi­mes—whether in UP or Gujarat—are prone to orchestrating communal violence. Modi, as CM of a small state with just a six crore population, could not check the 2002 carnage, so how will he manage one billion Indians of different castes and religions at the national level, she wanted to know.

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Great Britain under the Spreading Fangs of Caste

 

A K Biswas

Part-I

Caste in New Home

In the voyage of caste to the Western hemi-sphere, the first port of call was Britain. The Hindus take pride that they did not conquer any nation with sword. But they exported caste to sabotage England internally. The cancer has gone deep and assumed so critical a dimension that Queen Elizabeth assented to an amend-ment in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in April 2013 when the House of Commons bowed to reassure from the House of Lords to include caste as an aspect of race as part of the Equality Act 2010.1 This is the first country outside India where caste discrimination has been put on the statute book to contain, if not crush, the exploding malignancy.

The 2011 census returned 816,633 Hindus, including 450,000 untouchables referred as Dalits, in England and Wales while the figures for Scotland are yet to be released. Dalits account for 55 per cent of the Hindus. They face the same caste discrimination and atrocities their brethren have to contend with in India. A realisation is yet to dawn on the Hindus in their overseas homes that their conduct and behaviour, practices and peculiarities are anathema to civilised society or congenial human environment. "I shall be satisfied," said Ambedkar, "if I make the Hindus realise that they are the sick men of India and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians." The British Hindus have proved his apprehension infallible. The caste malignancy is not confined within the four walls of India; it spilled over as a "danger to the health and happiness" and infected others, forcing the hands of the rulers to act for its suppression. Ambedkar foresaw this: "As Hindus migrate to other regions of the earth, Indian caste would become a world problem." Caste has become a global nuisance, threatening the delicate fabric of social peace, happiness and unity wherever the plague visited.

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किसकी चाय बेचता है तू (Whose Tea Do You Sell)

 

Braj Ranjan Mani

किसकी चाय बेचता है तू

~ ब्रजरंजन मणि

अपने को चाय वाला क्यूँ कहता है तू

बात-बात पे नाटक क्यूँ करता है तू

चाय वालों को क्यों बदनाम करता है तू

साफ़ साफ़ बता दे किसकी चाय बेचता है तू !

 

खून लगाकर अंगूठे पे शहीद कहलाता है

और कॉर्पोरेट माफिया में मसीहा देखता है

अंबानी-अदानी की दलाली से 'विकास' करता है

अरे बदमाश, बता दे, किसकी चाय बेचता है तू !

 

खंड-खंड हिन्दू पाखंड करता है

वर्णाश्रम और जाति पर घमंड करता है

फुले-अंबेडकर-पेरियार से दूर भागता है

अरे ओबीसी शिखंडी, किसकी चाय बेचता है तू !

 

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The Crisis and Challenge of Dalit-bahujans

 

Braj Ranjan Mani

There is no competing cultural vision from below for the mind and heart of India. Dalit-bahujans are still absent in the contest of ideas, policies and visions—the fundamentals on which democratic competition takes place.This paralysis of the mind is linked totheir systemic cultural, intellectual and spiritual destruction. Without reference to history one cannot find even poor answers to the complex problems that keep them divided and demoralized, but the corruption and capitulation of the current dalit-OBC leadership has also aggravated the crisis. There is a burning need to renew and reconstruct an ideology—attempted in the past by Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar—that can pave the way to a broad-based unity for social reconstruction.

Constancy of change is the basic principle of life. Heraclitus made the illusion of permanence clear in the sixth century BCE, and a little later Buddha articulated the same in his theory of dependent origin. As 'everything changes but change itself', it is not surprising that social change is the central tendency in human societies. But the direction of change is largely determined by aspirations and visions of change agents. This implies that things can change a great deal, and yet the social order can remain more or less the same, since the people in the vanguard of change have a vested interest to retain the established hierarchy. Thus, there is a crucial difference between change and social change, development and social development.

Development and Social Development Are Not the Same Thing

While development is a necessary condition of social development, the latter involves the specific direction of development that can ensure larger social justice. Symbolically speaking, development can take a handful of people to the moon—it can produce billionaires like the Ambanis and Mittals with their private planes and palaces while the many remain hungry and homeless—but social development takes place through active participation and conscious choice of majority of citizens. Based on people's voice and choice,social development isco-terminus with uplifting the society as a whole, especially the disadvantaged who have been left behind or kept suppressed, historically and culturally. 

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